Christians well know the Biblical account of Jesus’ betrayal, abandonment, rejection, death, and resurrection (Luke 22-24).
Scripture tells us that a disciple, one He had chosen, betrayed Him; He agonized in prayer shortly before being arrested — finally surrendered His soul so that He could say to the Father, "…nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42); was then arrested, and abandoned by His other disciples.
According to Jewish law, His trial was illegal and death sentence unjust. Yet, He knew He had been born to do His Father’s will — dying on the cross; this was the cup He had been given to drink (John 6:38). As the spotless, sacrificial Lamb of God, He knew His purpose for coming to earth was to suffer, die, and be raised again to redeem mankind from sin and the penalty of eternal death (Mark 8:31; Isaiah 53:12).
During this season the focus is rightfully on Jesus and His atoning death. We know Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could live. However, as followers of Jesus we are told that we, too, must live sacrificial lives — taking up our crosses daily (denying ourselves) and following Him (Luke 9:23).
The cross, a symbol of one of the slowest, cruelest, most torturous, horrific, and humiliating forms of execution ever devised by man, is something no one ever wanted to endure. And neither do we. Honestly, we don't. Yet, Scripture tells us that if we are to rule and reign with Jesus, then we must also participate in His sufferings (2 Timothy 2:12).
Now, while the “self-denial and suffering” pathway is undeniably painful, it always inevitably leads us to that place of total surrender where we say, “Nevertheless, not my will, O Lord, but thine be done” — in all things. God is going to get us to be where He wants us — and this includes by way of our personal, painful crosses so that one day we can receive the crown of righteousness He has for us.
Even though we know this, we often resist that path and determine we are going to get to our divine destinations by some other means. For example, take a look at the seemingly never-ending pursuit of the larger and grander churches/ministries, titles, positions, and lavish lifestyles of many ministry leaders. The focus is no longer on living sacrificially, being a partaker of Christ’s sufferings, or taking up a cross daily. Indeed, the very idea of taking up a cross and suffering seems to be anathema to most Christians — whether leader or lay person.
I know the Lord blesses us with good things and many of them are material. However, my point is that too often today the focus is on material “blessings” rather than spiritual. While we are seeking after Christian fame and fortune (“blessings”), the lost are seeing very little of Jesus and His resurrection power in our lives or churches, and the people of God are being ill-prepared for a life of true Christian discipleship — one with trials, pain, and sorrows.
I do not know why the Lord chooses such paths to achieve His purposes — but He does. And if He did not exclude His only begotten Son or the prophets before and after Him from such paths, He certainly is not going to provide less arduous pathways for us because…He changes not (Hebrews 13:8). And we have a responsibility to present all the Word of God — that which is pleasing to hear and obey, and that which may not be as palatable.
So as we celebrate this holy season, let us purpose within our hearts that we will faithfully take up our crosses daily.
Let us not get so “caught up” in the things of this world and the pursuit of its deceitful riches that we corrupt our crowns of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8).
Let us be mindful that if we plan to reign with Jesus, we must also be partakers in His sufferings.
Let us ask the Lord to clothe us with power from on high and then set us on fire for His service (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-4). For when we are filled with Holy Ghost fire and power, a lost and dying world shall see Jesus in us, and they shall become insatiably hungry for the Bread of Life, and unquenchably thirsty for the Living Water. And we won’t have to promote “our worship services,” Christian conferences, or seminars either because…fire and rivers of living
water do not need to be advertised (Acts 2; John 7:37-39). But of course, such a life comes with a price.
As the 17th century Quaker preacher William Penn so nicely summed it up while in a London prison: “No cross, no crown.” May we learn to seek after only that which is most important — despite any temporary sufferings we may have to endure in this life.
Grace, peace, and multiplied blessings to you as we worship, praise, and honor our Risen Lord during this Holy Season!
And Father God...
We thank You for Your precious gift of righteousness through Jesus
Christ and His willing sacrifice. Thank You for His resurrection!
Thank You, Lord, for the good work that You have begun
and are performing in each of us as You transform us into His likeness
— in spite of ourselves. And as we take up our crosses daily,
thank You for getting us to, “Yes, Lord, not my will but thine be done”
to Your glory and praise!