Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
I have preached on this verse many times, but it still hits me every time I read it. Sometimes we think we want to follow Jesus, but when push comes to shove, we follow our own comfort or convenience or whatever. We can’t wait for a crisis to learn to follow Jesus, it needs to be ingrained in us through our daily choices. We hear of martyrs who choose death rather than denying Jesus and either wonder how they could do it, or else think, “I could do that,” without any track record to back it up. I often remember James and John, the sons of Zebedee who were among the original 12 apostles. When, in their desire for glory, they brashly said that they could drink the same cup Jesus was going to drink (not knowing He was talking about crucifixion), Jesus said they would indeed do that. (Matthew 20:22) James was the first of the 12 to be martyred, but tradition tells us that John was the only one of the 12 to die a “natural” death. The thing is, both of them gave their lives for Christ; James just did it all at once, while John did it one day at a time. I think James had the easier course! Our problem is that we look at everything from a physical, temporal perspective, when we were created for eternity with God. The better we remember that, the better we can get through whatever trials we experience here (John 16:33) and the more joy we have in the process.
I am once again reminded of the story line in Silence, the book by Shusaku Endo that came out as a movie this past year. The saddest thing about it was how the priests (reflecting Endo’s own faith, or lack of it) discarded Christianity in order to save people from physical torture and death. Had that been the attitude of the early believers, Christianity would never have made it into the 2nd Century! It was believers who lived by this verse who amazed the Romans, who grudgingly said, “These people really know how to love each other, and they really know how to die.” That’s how I want to live! I doubt that I will be called to martyrdom the way James was, but I must accept martyrdom the way John did, one day at a time. It can be much harder to die to myself than to have someone else do the job for me! I am not to draw back, however long or narrow the road might seem, but remember that the glory that awaits me far outweighs anything I could experience here. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Father, I’ve certainly had my moments of complaining, but I feel You have been so gentle and gracious toward me. Thank You. Thank You for the assurance that You will get me through anything You will bring me to. Help me live in consistent obedience, always available for however You want to use me, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!