A troubled and burdened man prayed and prayed that God would lift his burden. Day after day he prayed that his life would be easier and he begged for God’s intervention. One day, Jesus came to the man and asked, “My child, what troubles you?” The man replied that his life was full of turmoil and it had become too much to bear. He again asked for help stating that he just couldn’t continue to go on. Jesus, feeling the man’s anguish, decided to help him. The man was so happy that his prayers were about to be answered that his burden already felt lighter. Jesus took the man to a room and stopped in front of the door. When he opened the door, what the man saw was amazing. The room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. The man, bewildered, looked at Jesus and asked how this would help him. Jesus explained that each cross represented a burden that people carry; small burdens, big burdens, giant burdens — and every burden in-between. At this point, Jesus offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden. The man, so excited that he was finally able to have some control over his life, looked around the room for just the right cross. He saw a tiny little cross way back in the corner. It was the smallest cross in the room. After a bit of thought, he pointed to the cross and said, “That one, Lord. I want that one.” Jesus asked, “Are you sure, my son?” The man quickly replied, “Oh, yes Lord, most definitely, yes.” Jesus turned to the man and replied, “My child, you have chosen your own cross. It is the burden you already carry.”
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke9:23). These famous words from Jesus appear in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Mark8:34, Mathew16:24, & Luke 9:23). Jesus said to His disciples to carry their cross. What did Jesus mean when He said that? To be His disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and give our lives for Him. I have heard people talk about a problem they have and say it’s a cross they have to bear, but is this what Jesus meant? What did Jesus mean when He said we have to carry our cross daily? Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” I am sure such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said. “Take up your cross and follow me.”What Jesus was telling them is that they needed to put to death their own plans and desires and turn their lives over to Him and do His will every day. Have we put to death our own plans and committed ourselves to His will for our life? Don’t be satisfied with anything less, for there is no greater joy in life than following Christ every day. Commitment to Christ means taking up our cross daily, giving up our hopes, dreams, possessions, even our very life if needed for the cause of Christ. Only if we willingly take up our cross may we be called His disciple. The reward is worth the price.
The above-mentioned words have two different interpretations. One focus suffering as a “witness” to the Lord and the other focuses on the suffering that we face as we “die to ourselves”. We all have crosses. When we look at the call to take up our cross, we tend to think of the way God asks us to accept and embrace sufferings and hardships that come from living in this fallen world. We have a difficult time understanding why a good God allows His people to suffer. This kind of suffering can be physical or spiritual or psychological. It can range from a sickness to the inner wounds caused by someone. Whatever its source, we all have situations in our lives that we could honestly call “crosses” that we have to bear. Yes, Jesus told us to carry our crosses but at the same time He removed the crosses of many people because of love and compassion. Christianity is a life of self-denial; Self-denial is sacrificial and painful.
In Jesus’ time, a cross was the instrument and means of horrific suffering and a slow death by Romans. Taking up our cross is choosing to deny ourselves those things that Christ condemns; choosing to live a life of suffering and death in worldly things; choosing to endure the loss of all things contrary to Christ; choosing to live for the pleasure of Jesus Christ at any cost. So,If your wife or husband is not perfect … in looks … temperament … skills, in romance … wealth … wisdom, take up your cross.If you have a sore back, headaches, failing eyes, or kidney stones, take up your cross. If living simply and moderately means missing position and wealth, take up your cross. If your house is small, your job is hard, your allergies bad, your finances bleak, your children needing braces, your soul being tempted, take up your cross.
Satan wants us to see long time periods forward and backward to defeat us, so instead let us ask what we can do TODAY to deny ourselves and take up our cross. What will you do today to follow Christ, deny yourself, and take up your cross? If we do not take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ every day, we will lose. We are all backsliders by nature, and we will backslide daily without standing for following Christ. Each day we must repent and take up our cross; He is our Leader and our Example in suffering and death; surely, we can suffer a little. He took His cross and gave much more than we give for us as enemies. We must submit ourselves to God’s will, as He did face crucifixion.
I will end with a story, one afternoon; a man saw an ant carrying a big leaf across in his residence’s driveway. At one point, the man observed, the ant came across a crack in the pathway. It paused, analysed the situation, laid the leaf over the crack, walked over the leaf, picked it up on the other side and continued its long journey to its residence.This man was captivated by the cleverness of the ant, one of God’s tiniest creatures. The incident left him in awe over the miracle of creation. In front of his eyes, there was this ant, lacking in size yet equipped with a brain to analyse, contemplate, reason, explore, discover and overcome. Along with all these capabilities, he also noticed that the ant had some human shortcomings.This man noted that about 10 minutes later the ant reached its destination – a tiny hole in the floor, the entrance to its underground dwelling. How could the ant carry the large leaf into the tiny hole that it had managed to carefully bring to the destination? It couldn’t. So, the tiny creature, after all the painstaking and hard work and exercising great skills, overcoming all the difficulties along the way, left behind the leaf and went home empty-handed. The ant had not thought about the end before it began its challenging journey and, in the end, the leaf was nothing more than a burden for it. Isn’t that the truth of our lives too? We worry about our house, car, bank balance, career and so on and so forth and have to abandon it all when we reach our final destination in this world- the funeral ground.But Jesus is asking us to carry our cross daily and follow Him but not to carry our unnecessary burden.