“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”
-D. Elton Trueblood
Years ago, I was young and free. I had my whole life before me and I thought I had the right to myself. As a young follower of Jesus, I thought that living my life for Him would mean getting to do what I wanted, all of my life. I felt entitled…even justified to the life I wanted.
To top it all off, it wasn’t a bad life I wanted. I wanted to be a pastor. What could be more redeeming than that? Rescuing people from the darkness of life. Pulling people out of spiritual burning buildings. Teaching people the truth about God found in the Bible. It made sense. It should have happened.
But that didn’t. And then despair entered. Dissatisfaction began to fill my mind. Depression resulted. I believed that God had the best of intentions for me. But I hadn’t entrusted myself to the process He was bringing me through.
For years I fought against this nagging feeling of entitlement in my mind. I deserved a better job. I deserved recognition. I deserved a better life. I had earned a better life through my pain, our suffering, the obstacles. But Jesus didn’t budge.
And then I stumbled upon a truth about following Jesus that baffled me… even unnerved me. I heard the dialogue going on in America about rights. Gay rights, women’s rights, men’s rights, religious rights…rights, rights, rights. We are a nation of entitled people. We have our rights.
But the Jesus way is not about wearing your rights as a badge of honor. His way is about laying down your rights as a symbol of faith in Him. Identifying with Jesus is what following Jesus is all about. Jesus said, “If anyone would be my disciple, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?“
Jesus means what He says. Identify yourself with Me by bearing your cross, not simply wearing one. Three truths about cross bearing for you today.
- Everybody has a cross to bear.
- That person you won’t forgive? That’s your cross to bear. Forgive them. There is a world of darkness trying to put up a wall between them and God. You must live above your own natural responses.
- That chip on your shoulder? That’s your cross to bear. It’s a cross waiting to be fashioned. Take it off your shoulder, make it into a cross, and bear it in the name of Jesus.
- That sexual sin you wear as a badge of honor, as a part of your identity? That’s your cross to bear, your struggle to die to. Jesus never said following him would be easy. He demands a life of sacrifice. Put to death the sinful nature that inhabits you. He will replace your heart.
- That spouse or child that died and left you alone? That’s your cross to bear. Your life is not your own. You were bought with a price. Now go live your life and embrace the reality that you are not alone. This is about the Kingdom of God, not your comfort. You honor their absence by bearing the cross of their death. It is not easy, but your savior walks with you. And your loved one is in the stands cheering you on.
- That death that haunts you, that cancer that exists in you? That’s your cross to bear. The suffering you endure will shape the destiny of many who do not yet know Christ. Your life doesn’t go un-watched. Bear that cross, endure the shame, identity with Jesus. He is your life now. That old life wasn’t worth the price of knowing Him.
- That life you wanted but never got? That’s your cross to bear. Lose your rights to the life you want and let Jesus replace it with the life He gives. I promise, His life is better than any you could ever build on your own.
- Everybody’s cross is unique to them. Whether it be a small cross, a medium one, or a large one… the cross Jesus asks you to bear is not one He hasn’t endured in some way shape or form. Your cross will look different from your neighbor’s. It will feel different to you because it’s yours to bear. It seems harsh because it just is. Death isn’t convenient. Crosses aren’t a luxury item, they are devices of death. Until we realize this, we won’t know how to follow Him.
- Everybody has a choice: wear it or bear it. In a world where there exists a great deal of comfortable people, a great deal of security bought by money and power, and a great deal of desire for celebrity status (being noticed), the temptation is great to simply wear your cross on display to let people know you are a “Christian”. But the real followers of Jesus aren’t the ones who stand on the street corners, displaying their crosses for all the world to see how great they are. The real followers are the ones who bear their crosses, often behind closed doors… asking God for deliverance, but waiting patiently through the suffering, receiving something better than God’s deliverance… Jesus Himself.
You see, the promise of bearing the cross isn’t the recognition you’ll receive… it is the presence of your Savior. You’ll get to know God personally through the ordeal you have to go through, because the reward for bearing a cross isn’t a spot on a morning talk show. The reward for bearing your cross is you get to do it side by side with Jesus. You get to know Him deeper, you get to hear Him encourage you to stick with it, you get to learn Christ, and you get to intimately be with Jesus.
For some this may not sound like a great reward, you’d prefer a mansion and a nice car…the good life. But Jesus doesn’t promise that. He promises Himself.
It’s your choice. Wear your cross… or bear it. There really is not a middle ground.
What is the cross you bear? Are you ashamed of it? Are you aware of it? Have you identified it? Once you know what it is… embrace it, fashion it, and carry it well. This is the mark of the true apprentice of Jesus… that we do life the way He did it… even the part about carrying the cross.