“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Jesus says that if we desire to come after Him we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. A cross is a place of death and dying is not easy. By nature, we have God-given instinct to survive and preserve our lives. However, in Christ, true life is found through a process of dying; not a physical death, but through denial of self. This means that we place our lives completely in His hands, surrendering our hearts and lives fully to His will and purpose.
Am I willing to give up my desires to follow God’s desires for my life? Am I willing to surrender my plan to embrace God’s plan? Am I willing to go wherever God calls me? When everything in me wants to cut and run, am I willing to humble myself and stay where God has called me to stay?
When we surrender our lives to the Lord there may be times we have to make a decision to be faithful to Him in a difficult situation. That difficult situation may not appear to have an immediate resolution. We can fight against it if we like, but God may be forming His character in our lives. He may have us where we are for a purpose. He will move us when He’s ready.
There was nothing easy about Jesus walking the road to Calvary. But after he had offered up his life, he experienced Resurrection. Isaiah 53 (NIV) reads, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied...” In a similar way, when we deny ourselves, we will experience resurrection life in Christ.
God may ask us to give things up, but it is never without reward. In Matthew 19 Peter said to Jesus, “…we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Jesus does not rebuke him for his question and I like that. He promises Peter that he will sit on one of the 12 thrones in Jesus’ glory, with the other disciples. And then he says,
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (vs. 29)
Mark, in Chapter 10, expands upon these words from Jesus:
“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, ” (vs. 29-30)
To truly follow Jesus, with all of our hearts, may involve great sacrifice. Through it all, God blesses us and enriches our lives in many ways. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be blessed or seeking reward. But what kind of reward are we seeking? Are we seeking eternal reward? Are we storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven or selfishly seeking more treasure on this earth?
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against prosperity or blessing. I believe God delights in giving good gifts to His children. Nevertheless, I think sometimes we need to look at our motives for following the Lord. What is the real reward we are seeking? Where does our true treasure lie? If everything were taken from us, would we still follow Him? If every dream we dreamed with the Lord died, would we still love Him? If God called us to lay our Isaac on the altar and surrender it to Him, would we still walk in the obedience of faith?
I believe the greatest reward is Christ Himself, to know Him and be close to Him. Paul prayed, “… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...” (Philippians 3:10) The greatest treasure is His presence. What if this current pathway, which sometimes involves pain, hardship, persecution and/or suffering is storing up for us treasure and glory in heaven that far outweighs any difficulty on this earth?
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
II Corinthians 4:17-18