David Livingstone was born in Scotland to poor parents. The family was so poor that he went to work in a cotton factory when he was only ten years old. Despite his poverty, he managed to get an education and eventually become a doctor.
At that point Livingstone could have gone into practice in Scotland and made an easy life for himself. But that’s not what he did. He chose, instead, to go to Africa and become a preacher-doctor.
Livingstone’s work took him deep into the heart of Africa, to places where no white man had ever been. He poured his life into the people of that continent, and in so doing became a living legend among missionaries. Even though he died penniless, he was honored by being buried in London’s famous Westminster Abbey.
A missionary society in West Africa once wrote to Livingstone and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If not, we want to know how to send other men to join you.” Livingstone wrote back, “I don’t know what you mean by ‘other’ men joining me when none have come as yet. If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road.”
Christian, the tasks which are set before us in life aren’t always easy. Some of them can be downright brutal. The Bible makes no apologies for this. To the contrary, it says we enter the kingdom of God “through many tribulations” (Acts 14:22). It’s not the tribulations that save us or merit our entrance into the kingdom. Our salvation and kingdom citizenship rest solely upon our belief in Christ as Savior. The point is that we Christians needn’t expect easy lives just because we are God’s people. Yes, we’ll all make it into heaven in the end, but the road that takes us there will be marked by many tribulations.
And the word used is “many.” The tribulations will be numerous and they will come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. The famous preacher J. Wilber Chapman said that heaven was never so near to him as on the night when his firstborn child lay dead.
So, Christian, do you have some situation in your life right now that you would classify as a tribulation? Are you having to endure something that isn’t pleasant? Are you having to live with a circumstance that is very trying? Well, take heart in two things. First, your experience makes you “normal.” When the Bible says we enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations, it means exactly that. You won’t be the exception. Second, never forget that you are headed to a better place. You aren’t just going around in some sadistic circle; you are on your way to heaven.
There was a Christian woman who grumbled all the time about her life. Her prayers were dominated by complaints and her thoughts were consumed by exaggerated ideas of how bad her situation was. Whenever someone asked her how she was doing, they soon regretted asking when she started whining about all her problems.
One night this woman dreamed that she went to heaven and met Jesus. When she saw Him, she didn’t fall down before Him in praise, adoration, and thankfulness. Instead, she said, “Jesus, I’m so glad to get this chance to talk to you face to face. I just want you to know that my cross is too big for me to bear.”
To that, Jesus asked, “Would you like to trade it for another one?” The woman excitedly answered, “Yes, I’d like that very much!” Jesus then took her to a special room in heaven and said, “This is a room for crosses. Look around in here until you find one you like.”
In her looking around, the woman saw tall crosses, heavy crosses, ugly crosses, and twisted crosses. None of them looked appealing to her. Finally she looked over in a corner and saw a small, easy-looking cross. She said, “That’s it. I’ll take that one.” Jesus said, “Fine, that’s the one you brought in.”