Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
At the end of this life, we will have to give an account for all the decisions we have ever made. This is quite sobering when you think about it. None of us make the right decisions all the time because all of us are weak in one area or another. Thank God for His grace for all our mistakes and poor decisions. The most important decision we can make in this life is not who we marry, what house we buy or what country will we live in, but rather, the most important decision we will ever make is who will we follow and will we be authentic in our struggles?
Without further questioning we know that following Jesus is the most important decision anyone can ever make and with that decision comes many challenges. One of those challenges is counting the cost for following Jesus. Everything Jesus did for us was a gift of love but that doesn’t mean there is nothing required on our part. Our part in this relationship requires truth in the inner man. It requires us to carry our own crosses throughout this lifetime and those crosses are heavy to carry. I have had to carry many crosses in my life and most over time have been resolved in my walk with the Lord but as of recent a particularly heavy cross has been the source of much sorrow for me. I have walked through this life desiring a certain something in my life that I could never previously find. I have searched high and low looking for this final missing piece to the broken puzzle of my soul. After years of searching, I have found that missing puzzle piece. Filled with extreme joy and satisfaction I ran to Jesus and thanked Him for giving me what I have longed for my entire life.” I have found what completes me! No need for anything else, I found it, I shouted!! I found it!”
Just after bringing my complete joyful self to the Lord to thank Him, He speaks to me and says, “Michael, this is your gift but there is a limit on it. There are things in life that I give to you for your joy and sense of wholeness but those things need to be experienced within limits” Let me put it this way, we have been given the gift of fire by God. Fire in a fireplace brings warmth and beauty as well as romance to a room and to people. That fire can be enjoyed and whenever it is desired it can be lit for one’s pleasure. The same goes for the fire of a candle which brings intimacy to a beautiful table setting or warmth to a room, but at anytime the fire of the fireplace or candle can be misused and it can bring great destruction and burn the house down. It is the same when God gives us the desires of our heart. Those very desires bring warmth, love, relationship, security and hope but those very same desires when unbridled, can bring destruction and loss.
This is where taking up our cross comes in. Every one of us have desires in our lives that meet certain emotional needs. There are times when God holds these desires back from us because He knows we are not mature enough to know how to properly handle those desires and gifts. Then there are times when God decides to shower us with the very thing we have been longing for our whole life and when that happens we need to be careful to apply that gift properly and not burn the whole house down. In a sense we have to take up our cross and deny ourselves the passions that would burn our spiritual houses down. It is not that we can’t have those things that we have desired, we just need to learn to have boundaries with them. It is ok to have a piece of chocolate cake every now and then, that is a desire, but to eat a whole cake every day would eventually bring havoc to us. Instead of looking at everything as good or bad, look at everything through having boundaries. Boundaries protect us from letting things inside that are not wanted and boundaries also allow us to let things out that are no longer wanted.
Part of taking up our cross is giving up things that God says are not permitted and part of taking up our cross is allowing things in our lives and learning how to properly administer them.
No matter what it is that may be your cross, know that the reward that is laid in the future for us is much greater than the things that God is asking from us now. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him– 1 Corinthians 2:19
Serving God is not for the faint of heart. Serving God takes courage, strength and many times great loss. Great loss because of the crosses we all have to carry. But the reward for knowing Him outweighs anything we could ever place at His feet. Follow Jesus even though there is a heavy cost!
Pastor Michael Cannatello