Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
(ESV, Matthew 16:24)
We often come across this verse in our daily Bible readings and at church, and yet, applying it in daily life is easier said than done.
I had recently dropped my husband off to start his sentence in jail.
The last year of court appearances and other difficulties has been something else.
While some people proved supportive, others were cruel, and also my children.
Do we really believe what we claim when things get tough?
Do we follow our Lord when everything crumbles around us?
What my husband did is not as important as that he repented, turned to Jesus, and became a new creation in Christ Jesus.
When the going gets tough, do we take up our cross and follow Him?
Or do we say, “Jesus doesn’t expect me to do this much or forgive that..” and bail.
Do we really know what it is like to deny the self, or do we think that denying the self only applies to avoiding that second chocolate bar? 😉
What if Jesus actually meant everything He said?
Think about it.
Running in the faith is similar to a marathon.
You need to train for the trials and difficulties ahead of time.
You need to gather strength and purpose for when things get hard.
Like training for a run, our daily prayers and communion with Jesus and God’s word builds us up in preparation for trials and challenges.
Take, for instance, that you have a 10-mile run in your training.
You have disciplined yourself to follow your training schedule even though you woke up feeling like an easy 5k.
Regardless, you grab your fuel, you hydrate, stretch, lace up and take off.
By mile 3, you might think that you want to quit!
Most people don’t even run 3 miles in a day, but you keep going because you have trained yourself not to give up just because you feel like you want to.
At the 4th Mile, you spot your neighbour’s new dog and wonder if it is tied up?
Would it chase or bite you?
It’s already barking.
Maybe it is better to just turn around and call 8 miles good.
No way, you have come this far, ignore the dog….oh dear, its chasing you, do a sprint!
It went home, yay!
Shoot, you forgot about that big hill on mile 6!
You could cut a mile out of your run and avoid that hill, but you know it will make you stronger, and so you tackle it.
Mile 8 comes along and you have muscle cramps, or is that an injury incurred?
Should you call for someone to pick you up or run another half mile and see if it loosens up?
An arduous mile later, you find that the cramps stopped, and you finished up the last mile in victory!
So it is in the faith.
Do we stay in the word daily, learning and growing in understanding and faith as diligently as we train for a long run?
Do we often pray, spend time with Jesus, and actively build up a relationship that we can draw strength, peace and joy from?
Do we know our purpose in Him for His Kingdom?
Do we seek this more than we train for a medal that will someday rust?
Do we believe all He says and stand on Him as our rock, foundation, redeemer and King?
Will we cling to Him and not be shaken when the torrential floods come in?
Cling to Jesus, even when the world around us calls us odd, strange and peculiar for going against the normal reactions of society.
Following Jesus, won’t be easy. He promises trials:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(ESV, John 16:33)
Rest assured that we have just as many promises for when we stay steadfast in Him during those trials:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
(ESV, James 1:12)
Jesus promised that when we are born again, we are a new creation in Him – Jesus forgives.
So then, If I believe His word, why wouldn’t I stand beside my husband during this vexing time?
Jesus forgave me of my sins; How can I not forgive my husband?
So I stand, with Jesus and beside my husband.
We will face the storm together.
A rope of three strands is not easily broken.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
(ESV, Hebrews 12:1)
In the same conviction, I encourage you to take up your cross daily and follow Him, no matter what hill or vicious dog comes in your path.
His words ring true.
Jesus will never leave nor forsake you when you are in Him.
Reflection and Prayer:
- What is the Lord impressing upon your heart today about taking up your cross and following Him?
- Are you truly obeying God because you truly believe in EVERYTHING He says?
Ponder and pray.
- How will you face the world when then whole world turns against you?
Mediate upon the verses above!