The Scripture tells us we are all carrying a cross, or at least we are meant to be. Jesus said that in order to go after him properly we are to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him” (Matthew 16:24ESV). Of course, the picture now is more complete, since it is nearly impossible to exist, especially in the western world, and not see, at least once in your lifetime, a cross. But he said these words before he ever was on it. Before his following grew and became so notorious the entire Roman Empire decided to adopt his way as the official religion. He was foretelling an unfortunate event, seen by those around him, especially Peter, as the end. But the very point he was trying to make is that it wasn’t the end. So much so that his invitation includes the same illustration to all of us. In fact, he says that the end comes to those who opt out of the cross-bearing kind of life. Those who live in such fear, all they can work to do with their life is protect it, guard it, and keep it so safe and undisturbed, it ends up being witnessed by none and achieving nothing. Jesus paints the picture of a tragic ending for those who opt-out of the cross.
Have you thought about the cross? Not Jesus’ cross, but your cross. I think there are several ways the cross can present itself these days. I remember being told by Sunday school teachers as a teenager that the cross is our battle against our sinful nature, and that we were to deny ourselves by denying that nature. For a while I thought the cross was this self-involved battle I had to fight in my head. But if He who knew no sin kept truth alive in his heart by surrendering his flesh to death, the cross then, is not simply about the things I’m not suppose to be and do, but it is mainly about who I truly am. Sure, to pick up the cross is to deny self, but the paradox of Jesus’ statement is that it affirms we have to be willing to go past ourselves to find ourselves.
When you follow Jesus you find life. True life. Purposeful life. Life that is truly abundant. Life that holds greater value and it is stronger than any outside pressure. You find confidence, because in Jesus you find yourself. When this life begins to grow in you, it is inevitable to get push-back. Your cross will drop right in front of you. The ultimatum of death will rise and try to stop you. The sight of the cross will activate your desire for safety. Your survival instinct will kick in and you will start reevaluating your decisions. Should you stay the course, will Jesus’ way see guide you through?
Having God’s favor is not entering a cross-free life, but a cross-fit life. In this convenience-driven culture we are programmed to think the path of least resistance is the right path to take. But strength is not developed without resistance, and favor is not found where favor is not needed. God’s grace is never detached from Him, and God is never aloof. Nothing is given to be lost. His word will never return void.
The cross that waits for you everyday will save you from your pitfalls, it will help you deal with your weaknesses, and will dethrone the part of you who was never meant to take charge – the part of you that makes you feel like a lesser version of your true self. Jesus wants to lead you to your true self, and his daily call begins with the cross. Your cross is in plain sight. Don’t avoid it. Pick it up each day and keep moving.