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The Cross of Blessing
by Judy Webb
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me, will find it. What good would it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
To place these verses into context, the scene just before this finds Jesus predicting his death to the disciples and Peter taking Jesus aside and saying, “this shall never happen to you!” Jesus then tells Peter to “get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God but only human concerns.” (Verse 23)
Jesus uses similar words when he sends out the twelve: Matthew 10:38 "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Sometimes we run across folks who believe that as a Christian we have it made. There will be no hardships or troubles, sickness, or sadness. They may even go so far as to believe that if Christians do experience these challenges, perhaps they are not really Believers.
I view these verses to mean just the opposite. I believe Jesus is warning or teaching his followers not to expect smooth sailing. No, indeed, we need to be prepared to hunker down and weather the storms of life. We need to follow Jesus’ example and pick up that cross and carry it right on into eternity. As we learn from Jesus' examples, the people we know and love can learn from ours. A sickness-free life, a world without trouble, an existence where there is not a single cloudy sky is not reality. It is not part of God’s plan for redemption since the sin of Adam and Eve.
Taking up our cross is what we do, it is part of following Jesus. It is part of our testimony of God's faithfulness. It is how we grow our own faith. The words from Rick Warren's, The Purpose Driven Life echo this sentiment for me. "God never wastes a hurt." Indeed, He encourages us to take up that cross of hurt and climb the hill in front of us, visible for all to see.
Let's embrace each cross that comes our way as part of God's plan for us. Jesus, help us boldly proclaim your love and grace until the day we meet - face to face.