During your life’s journey, have you been able to identify a cross Our Father, God, has intended you bear? I understand you are upset, depressed, and distressed about a situation? Under your breath or aloud, you’re still cursing, screaming, and walking around in a huff over a predicament you’re in. But have you ever stopped to consider, this may be a cross Christ is asking you to bear for His glory?
Sometimes, cross-bearing is brief. An illness has landed you a stay in the hospital for surgery or treatment of some kind. For this brief period, you’re in tumultuous pain, stagnant, and unable to work to pay the bills; everything halts. Other times, it’s a similar scenario or personality type you don’t like but continuously encounter. “This again,” you think, “I hate these people!” Lastly, some crosses leave a life-long painful imprint on us, and we carry its scars every day. No prayer, life activity, or changes we’ve made erases the memory. The Apostle Paul experienced this. It is not identified as a cross but as a thorn that he was given. “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul had scars to live with. He tells us, they were given to keep him from becoming conceited. Hmmm! Do crosses, thorns, and pain help with this human malady?
We find in Matthew 16:21-26 dialogue specifically about cross-bearing. What is it? And, who’s it for? According to this text, those who ascribe to being a Christ-follower must take and bear a cross; it’s a part of being united with Christ and sharing in His suffering. I remember having this discussion with an old friend of mine. He completely rejected this idea. Any notion of suffering was a result of negative thinking on others’ part. When discussing various unpleasant experiences he faced, I would offer him a cross-bearing perspective to help him try to recognize possibly a lesson God was teaching him or character development He was building in him. His response was always the same, “Look, that was Jesus; I’m not Jesus.”
In our text this month, we find Peter also rejecting such negative ideas about suffering. Jesus foretells His suffering and death to his disciples. The text states, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Doesn’t Peter sound like us? During tough times and in challenging conversations, we tell our loved ones, “Stop being so negative. I rebuke that depressing spirit off you.” Peter was possibly trying to console the Lord, lift Him out of despair, or maybe change His perspective. In a sidebar conversation, I imagine Peter saying, “Come on, Lord, you’re the Messiah. You’re a great man doing all these wonderful things for people. And, we’ve been waiting for you all these years, you finally appear, and now you’re going to tell us this? Look, nothing like this is going to happen to you, especially while I’m here. Trust me!” Society tells us to stop being so negative and focus on the positive. We tell family and friends, “You’ll be fine; don’t worry about it!” Satan is usually the culprit for our negative feelings. Not always so, as we see here. Despite Peter’s well-meaning intentions, he was wrong. Jesus rebukes him. “But he (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Ha! Now, how about that? Peter’s kind words are coming straight from hell, and Jesus recognized this because He knew He had to bear a cross.
I don’t think it is happening this way today in our “name it, claim it” prophetic Christian subculture. We actually are accused of and rebuked for “speaking it into existence.” Have you received one of those “just claim it” words during your Christian journey that did not happen as it was proclaimed? Unfortunately, this ideology is running rampant now. People are disheartening individuals by telling them untruths to appease them.
Jesus’ somber, troublesome news to His followers was necessary and true. The disciples would later see it happened just as He said. Jesus uses this blunder by Peter to drive home a point for them and us. “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
- Conforming to Christ’s image
- Denying yourself
- Taking (accepting) the cross while continuously following Him
- Losing one’s life for Christ’s life
Conforming to Christ’s image involves sharing in His suffering too. Cross-bearing will challenge our ideals, worldviews, perspectives, dreams, hopes, and desires. It will involve taking actions, making decisions, and/or expressing views, etc. that are counterintuitive to who we are. As we take up our cross and continue to follow Christ, at some point, any ill feelings, ill will, dislike, anger, resentment, and/or grumbling, complaining, and blaming should end. It’s an exchange Christ has called us to make for Himself. We can, however, choose to reject our cross in order to gain the world.
My fellow believers, from a human perspective, our cross may be difficult, as it was for Jesus Christ. We may want to say at times, “Oh no, not this,” or pray, as Paul did, for a problem to be removed. Don’t, however, discount or not recognize your cross because of erroneous satanic teaching happening in the Church today. Understand that, while bearing a cross, sometimes: it will not be fine. It will hurt. It will be painful. It will drive you to despair. It will cause you to cry. It will involve blood, sweat, and tears. It will baffle your mind. It will make you sad. It will anger and frustrate you. It will be tiresome. It will cost you a lot of money. It will be risky and make you feel uncomfortable. It may require you to take medication or an infusion. It may mean, let it go. It may mean changing your perspective about a race or culture of people. You may have to embrace, live among, or help those you don’t like. It may be, no, it’s not that one; it’s this one over here. It may be, forgive and stay. It may be, forgive and leave. It may be, marry this one, not that one. It may be, not this career, this one. It may be, give that up. It may be growing up poor. It may be, anoint this one for ministry, not that one. You may lose the job, the contest, the award, the beauty pageant, or the business deal. You may be overlooked, rejected repeatedly, unfriended, lied on, and cheated. However, whatever you discover is your cross, don’t despise it. Pick it up and keep “looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).
Happy New Year! 😊