If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.Luke 9:23 (NLT)
Deep and authentic faith is what God desires for each of us. Deep and authentic faith is meaningful; but can be costly, challenging, even frightening.
Jesus understands our difficulty. He never said it would be easy to follow him; in fact he warned us about the challenges when he described what it takes to be his follower—putting aside selfish ambition and shouldering our cross.
Rather than inviting us to something shallow, Jesus invites us to experience real, authentic faith – meaningful faith – by following, not at a distance, but by his side. He carries his cross, and we carry ours. How do you understand Jesus’ words that we must shoulder our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23)? How would you describe the crosses you feel you are bearing?
For many of us, Jesus’ words about shouldering our cross have come to represent the bad things in our lives. We see the bad things that we feel to be unique to our lives as the crosses that we have to bear. To be sure, there is an element of truth in this concept of shouldering our cross. Jesus does not want us to run from suffering. We must deal with it head on and look to God for strength as we persevere.
That truth, however, is only part of what Jesus means when he tells us that to be his followers we have to shoulder our cross. A deeper meaning lies in how we follow. We are to follow in the same way that Jesus leads. We abandon selfish ambition in favor of service in the Jesus way. As Jesus gave himself, we give ourselves. We reach out to others just as he reached out to others. As Jesus loved, so we love. As Jesus sacrificed himself for us, so we sacrifice ourselves for others. We follow by picking up the cross. Jesus’ cross becomes our cross; his love becomes our love; his sacrifice becomes our sacrifice.
As much as Peter fumbled and bumbled in following Jesus, when he finally realized that real faith required that he follow Jesus side by side rather than at a distance, his life was transformed. It wasn’t that difficulty suddenly disappeared; it was that power suddenly appeared.
Jesus promised the disciples the Holy Spirit. While Jesus’ followers were gathered together the Holy Spirit appeared and came upon them. Peter preached boldly and many people believed in Jesus as a result.
It can be challenging to carry the cross of Jesus. Yet when we take that risk and pick up that cross, we are promised the power necessary to meet the challenge. The power of the Spirit of Jesus enervates us, giving us not only the strength we need to carry the crosses that we encounter in our lives, but the boldness we need to live our lives fully, recognizable by all as followers of Jesus Christ.
What is your experience of power as you follow Jesus? Ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit upon you as you seek to shoulder the cross of discipleship.