I received an interesting Facebook message recently from a friend. Her message wasn’t really a “message” but it was presented in the format of a question.
This question has been boiling in the crevices of my heart for nearly 3 weeks now and I am not sure that I have been able to answer it yet.
The friend who sent it is a deep thinker, a true disciple and is on a passionate journey to follow Jesus in all seasons of life. Although she is younger than I am, in many ways – I want to be like her.
This is the question that she posed to me –
What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?
To answer questions that seem to me to be humanly unanswerable – I always go to the Bible. I always ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?”
When I go digging for gold in the mines of the Bible, I always find the wisdom and the heart of God. And this time was no different …
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
If my heart’s desire, this side of heaven, is to follow Jesus then there is a price that I must pay.
The price that I must pay is that I must deny myself and take up my cross daily in order to follow Him.
What in the world does that mean?! It doesn’t sound like much “fun” to me.
And – it sounds pretty expensive if you ask me. I am not sure that I can afford the price that Jesus is asking me to pay.
If I choose willingly to deny myself does that mean that I will never go shopping again? That I will never eat another piece of raspberry pie? That I will never get to go to Hawaii?
And if I take up my cross daily does that imply that every day this side of heaven there is some sort of difficulty that I must carry?
What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?!
I don’t believe that the cross that we are called to take up is exactly like the cross of Jesus Christ. His cross was a literal one and ours is perhaps, more figurative … our cross is vividly symbolic of the cross of Christ.
Your cross may not look like my cross but we all have one … you can be sure of that.
I think that if I were to define – in general terms – what a modern day cross is … it might sound like this …
Our cross is that difficult thing that we choose to do simply because we belong to Him.
A cross is a choice and you can choose it or not. It’s up to you.
Your cross may be seen in loving a difficult person … or it may be found in a place that you choose to go even though it is just so hard.
Your cross may be giving up a relationship that is not healthy or holy … or it may be seen in embracing a simpler lifestyle than you would prefer.
Your cross may be found in serving someone or a ministry for which you receive little or no recognition.
Your cross may be discovered in giving generously to Kingdom causes.
What does your cross look like?
Your cross may look like a nation … or a people group … or a lifestyle … or a person.
A cross may be a change in direction … a denial of creature comforts … or a determination to choose joy even in dark circumstances.
As you can imagine, ever since my friend sent me that simple yet profound question, it has been stirring around in the depths of my soul.
And as disturbing as that question has become to me – the follow-up question is even more unsettling …
Am I doing it? Am I following Jesus no matter what?
For me personally, some of the ways that I have taken up my cross have been to live far away from my children and grandchildren. They are pursuing God’s will for their lives and I am pursuing God’s will for my life. We have, as yet, not landed in the same geographical location.
For me personally, it has meant changing my lifestyle in the wake of cancer so that I can live a long time and fulfill my destiny in Christ. The lifestyle changes have been challenging but a joyful discipline, indeed.
For me personally, “taking up my cross” has meant embracing the socio-economic level that serving in full-time ministry requires.
For me, personally, “taking up my cross” has meant encouraging my husband to work full-time in missions and to spend long periods of time apart.
What does your cross look like? Are you doing it?
After my friend asked me that soul-piercing question, she went on to say –
“I was thinking about our mission trip and thought about how many of us had hesitations about going to the other side of the world to serve the people Jesus had called us to serve, and to spread his gospel.
Perhaps out of fear, or being out of our comfort zones, or missing our husbands or children, or taking time off work, or raising the funds to go etc. so many things can discourage the dreams God has given us to complete his purpose in our lives for the kingdom, if we give into the temptation to let discouragement settle upon us and cause us to doubt his plans for us.
However if we pursue him fervently, what blessing follows when we are obedient to his call on our lives.
Will we be obedient to go wherever he calls us to?
Will be willing to leave our comforts, families, and friends for the sake of advancing the kingdom of heaven?
Will we listen to his still small voice as he calls us to get out of our comfort “boats” and watch as he parts the waters of the stormy seas before our eyes and reach out to the people in this broken and hurting world?
To truly follow Christ is a moment-by-moment decision requiring denial of self and of taking up one’s personal cross.
The blessing is found in the knowing that He is with us as we carry our cross … and He is helping us do it every step of the way.
Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!