Tag Archives: cross

Shouldering Your Cross

God desires to be in relationship with you, a relationship that is more than a weekly ritual or something you do at a distance. God wants all of you. God wants the kind of commitment that compels you to be in the thick of things, to do whatever it takes in order that God might work in you and through you. That’s the kind of dedication that accepts no excuses—a whole-life commitment.  

The Via Dolorosa, which means “the way of the cross,” is in the old city of Jerusalem. It is basically unchanged since the day Jesus walked it, carrying his cross to the place of his execution. The Via Dolorosa is made up of winding narrow streets and is filled with vendors who hawk their wares just as they did in Jesus’ time.  

When I was thirteen, I visited Jerusalem, and we followed the Way of the Cross. It was a surreal experience for me. I noticed all the signs along the way proclaiming that this was the way that Jesus took to the cross; yet people were going about their business, carrying groceries, kids playing in the street. At the time of my visit, the execution site itself overlooked a bus station. It was loud and smelly. As I walked, I thought, Does anybody really get it? Does anyone really understand what it means to walk the way of the cross?” 

That question is as real for me now as it was thirty years ago, because that’s Jesus’ invitation to each of us. “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). Following Jesus involves sacrifice; it can be painful, because the kingdom of Jesus is ruled not from a throne but from a cross. So many people hear this message, but so few act on it. Those who do act change the world.  

The apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:19). It’s not about following at a distance; it’s about a whole life commitment. Paul said, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  

I will do whatever it takes so that God can work in me and through me. I will do anything, even when there’s pain, even when it feels as though God is nowhere to be found, even when the diagnosis is not good, even when my spouse walks out, even when . . . I will walk side by side; I will give everything I have, because Jesus gave me everything he is. In his letter to the Roman church, Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Moving into the light takes passion. It’s about blood, sweat, and tears. The fire can be hot and the journey long. But it is the journey to which our Lord Jesus calls us; and it is a journey that provides immense rewards, both now and into eternity.  

I pray that you would continue to follow Jesus, up close and in the thick of thingsWill you single-mindedly give your all to God and experience the victory of God’s whole life commitment for you?  

In her famous play-cycle, The Man Born to Be King, written for the BBC, Dorothy Sayers wrote: 

[The disciples] had seen the strong hands of God twist the crown of thorns into a crown of glory, and in hands as strong as that they knew themselves safe. They had misunderstood practically everything Christ had ever said to them, but no matter: the thing made sense at last, and the meaning was far beyond anything they had dreamed. They had expected a walkover, and they beheld a victory; they had expected an earthly Messiah, and they beheld the Soul of Eternity (from The Man Born to Be King, in “The Triumph of Easter,” by Dorothy L. Sayers, as cited in Christianity Today, Vol. 41, No. 4). 

I pray that in following Jesus, you will come to know the joy of his victory; that in carrying your cross as he did, you will experience new life as he did; that in standing close, you will behold the Soul of Eternity. 

Learning to Suffer with Christ

Image removed due to copyright infringement.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]In Philippians the Apostle Paul described what the Jesus way is all about — really knowing Christ and experiencing the mighty power that raised him from the dead (Philippians 3:10). That message may sound appealing, but what Paul says next throws us off: “I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:10-11).  

When we read this passage, our reaction may be, “Who signed me up for this team?” But that is what being on Jesus’ team is all about, sharing in his death so that we can experience resurrection life. If we want to experience the power of God’s resurrection, we must first be willing to accept suffering. Embracing the pain of the crucifixion in order to experience the power of the resurrection involves right living, not easy living.  

Jesus prayed the same way we all pray when we’re faced with something bad in our lives, whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, job loss, suddenly finding ourselves a single parent. We all pray, “Please, if there’s any way, take this cup—this burden—away from me.” But life doesn’t come from removing cups. When he was praying, Jesus added the biggest “but” of all time: “But God, it’s not what I want, it’s what you want.”  

That’s the key question: What do you want? I know what I want, God, but what do you want? We all know what we want: health and happiness for our family, good, strong, marriages, comfortable income, meaningfully belonging to community. But Jesus shows us passionate living: a God who becomes human and then gets crucified—for each one of us. That’s an everything-I’ve-got kind of commitment.  

The amazing thing for me is that Jesus didn’t bail out. It would have been a huge temptation for me to drop the whole project, especially when everyone else did. It’s easy to do something when you’re surrounded by a group doing the same thing, but when you’re on your own—the way Jesus was—that’s another thing altogether. He didn’t quit; he didn’t run; he stuck with the future God had laid before him.  

We all have times when our lives are filled with frustration, heartache, despair. Jesus understands all of that because he experienced it. But he didn’t allow those experiences to stop him. He stayed focused on who he was and the reason he was here. He was deeply tapped into the source of his life and energy—“My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” (John 4:34). Even at his most desperate moment, when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), even then, Jesus kept his direction.  

We have all experienced God’s absence, when we felt as though God was nowhere to be found. Jesus, in the midst of such doubt, kept his direction. Rev. Mike Slaughter once described the amazing truth of Jesus’ passion, saying, “God would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.” Because we are made in God’s image, we’ve got a propensity for passion as well. God didn’t make us for tepid living, lukewarm or in the middle; we were made for total commitment.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]