We are facing a new year, and we need to understand what our limitations are, and what choices that need to be made. I mean, Jesus told his disciples, “Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Wow! That’s pretty challenging. Oh, not just the part where we have to say, “No!” to our personal desires, but then we have to “pick up our own cross!“? Whoa! But wait, what does that really mean?
First of all, it has nothing to do with someone carrying a burden of some sort. You know, a difficult relationship; a rotten job; or maybe some kind of a disability. You know, where you say, “That’s my cross to bear.” Shoot, even I have used that phrase whenever someone asks me why I like to sit in the first row at church. It’s not just that I am more “spiritual” than they are, but I love to sing during worship and I don’t want anyone to be forced “to carry the cross” of hearing me sing. lol.
But here’s the thing we need to remember. When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, even He couldn’t carry his cross the whole way, and my friends, neither can you!
As Jesus was carrying His cross, He became too weak and fell under the weight of it and couldn’t go any further! That’s right, when he reached the end of his strength, His cross was laid on the shoulders of someone else! No, the Bible doesn’t tell us how far Jesus carried his cross but we do know Simon, the Cyrene, was forced to pick it up and carry it the rest of the journey to where Jesus was crucified (see Matthew 27:32).
Okay, what’s the deal? What point am I trying to make? Would our Lord really expect us to do something He couldn’t do? Didn’t he say, “. . . anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27)? It is not enough to say, “His cross was different — our cross is spiritual.” A cross is a cross, whether it is wooden or spiritual.
Nah, personally, it gives me a tremendous amount of hope knowing that Jesus couldn’t take up his own cross. I am encouraged to know that I am not the only one who can’t go on in my own strength.
Jesus knew exactly what he was saying when he called us to “take up our cross” and follow him. He remembered his own cross and that someone else had to carry it for him. But why does He ask us to shoulder a cross, when he knows that it will eventually crush us? He knows all about the agony, the helplessness, and the burden that a cross creates. He knows we can’t carry it all the way in our own strength, so why is He telling us to?
This is a truth we have to grasp, a truth so that is so powerful, it could change the way we look at all if the problems we face. It may sound almost sacrilegious to suggest Jesus didn’t carry his own cross, but it’s the truth.
Look, our Father knows that none of His children can carry the cross they take up when they choose to follow His Son. Sure, we want to be good disciples by denying ourselves and taking up our cross, but we seem to forget that the same cross will one day bring us to the end of our human endurance. Wait a minute, is Jesus purposely asking us to take up a cross that He knows will sap all our human energies and leave us lying helpless, even to the point of giving up? Yep!
That is a reality that scares us, isn’t it? Those of us who confess to be Christians, don’t like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control in our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think we can take certain steps, attitudes we can adopt, or positive confessions we can make that will alleviate our problems and we will be happy.
But Jesus warned us, “apart from me you can do anything!” (John 15:5). He wants us to be dependent on Him! This is why He told us to take up our cross, and struggle with it until we finally learn that lesson! No, it might not be a happy message, but until our cross pushes us down into the dust we are able to learn the lesson that it is not through our might, or wisdom, or power, or strength that we find strength, but rather, through his power!. That is what the Bible means when it says His strength is perfected in our weakness. This next year, are you willing to surrender to that Truth? Or do you insist on continuing under your own strength, wisdom, and power? The choice is yours.
Oh Father, I so desperately want to get to the end of me. I want all my hope and dreams and desires to be inspired by your Spirit and wrapped in your Strength. I can’t carry my cross any further. Will you take my cross and carry it for me? I choose to follow you as you lead me, step-by-step.
Father, all these years I’ve let someone else seek you for me — I am through with that, I need to find you for myself. Your Son and my Savior, my precious Redeemer told me to “Come . . . and never thirst again.’ Somehow, in all my times believing in you, I’ve lost this truth. My Lord, show me your Glory! Let me taste, to touch with my own heart, to see with my own eyes the wonder that you are—this morning let it begin now.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.