Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you.”
II Corinthians 9: 8
“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to be My disciple, let (her) deny (herself)…and take up (her) cross.”
Matthew 16: 24
“Take Up Your Cross”
“Believer, Christ Jesus presents you with crosses, and they are no trivial gifts.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
When I hear the words, “Take up your cross,” what visual image comes to my mind?
Have I ever felt that the “cross” I was asked to bear was too heavy for me?
“There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
“And they took Jesus and led Him away; so He went out, bearing His own cross, to the spot called The Place of the Skull – in Hebrew it is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him.”
John 19: 17, 18
He was called John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. Just imagine how you would feel having Jesus call you, “My beloved.” And yet, indeed, this is what we are called, too. It was John, himself, who reminds us of this fact when he penned these beautiful words, “See what an incredible quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should be permitted to be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are…Beloved, we are even here and now God’s children” (I John 3: 1, 2, Amplified Bible).
There it is – that endearing word, “Beloved!” And like John, you and I are called to be pupils and disciples, sitting at the feet of Jesus, walking the path He walked.
As Jesus calls us though, and when we choose to come and deny ourselves, Jesus also asks us to take up our cross and follow Him.
It was the beloved John, an eyewitness to all the scenes surrounding the arrest, trial and eventual crucifixion of Jesus who tells us, in John 19: 17, that they took Jesus away, “carrying His own cross.” What a sight. The Son of God, with rough-hewn beams of wood laid upon His back, trembling under the weight of His cross, pulling this instrument of torture up to Golgotha’s crest. Just imagine if you had been in John’s place – watching your Lord and Master struggle and suffer under a burden so heavy and a weight so unbearable. And never forget, Jesus walked this path alone for you and me.
Yes, we have the blessed joy of knowing that the end result of this painful moment in time was followed by Resurrection morning and a return of God’s Son to the courts of heaven. But, as so many times becomes easy for me to overlook, before the coronation, came the crucifixion.
�� I don’t know about you, but I’d rather celebrate on Easter morning than agonize on Thursday night, deep in the Garden of Gethsemane. I’d even rather rest in the tomb on the Sabbath than drag a cross through the streets of Jerusalem and up the rocky path called Golgotha. To be perfectly honest, I would much rather have a crown without a cross. In fact, I find John Cairol’s words in a sermon he gave on October 14, 1855, really convey the truth about cross-bearing: “It is a great thing to love Christ so dearly as to be ‘ready to be bound and to die’ for Him; but it is often a thing not less great to be ready to take up our daily cross, and to live for Him.” And this is where the rubber meets the road. When Jesus calls out to each of us to, “Come to Me,” and He tells us that when we come, we will have to leave ourselves behind, then He also asks us to do something else – to shoulder “our” cross. And this is where things can get rather complicated if you ask me.
In a book entitled, Glimpses Through Life’s Windows, the story is told, in a poem called “The Changed Cross, about a woman who, when she picked up her own cross, felt it was too heavy for her to bear, especially as she looked around at the crosses others were carrying. As the author continues this story:
“She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. ‘Ah, this I can wear with comfort,’ she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.
Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.
At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.
God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own.”
The thoughts expressed by “The Changed Cross” are beautifully conveyed in an old-time hymn, written in 1693, by Thomas Shepherd.
“Most Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.”
It was in the book called Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan when he was in prison, that we find this touching passage which should provide tremendous encouragement to you today, no matter what cross you are carrying:
“I saw that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from his shoulders and fell of his back and landed in the sepulcher. Then was Christian glad and lightsome and said with a mercy heart, ‘He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.’”
"I came alone to my Calvary,
And the load I bore was too great for me;
The stones were sharp and pierced my feet,
And my temples throbbed with the withering heat.
But my heart was faint with the toil that day,
So I sat down to think of an easy way;
Loomed sharply before me that tortuous trail -
No use to try - I would only fail.
I turned back in sorrow, clothed with defeat,
For my load was too heavy, I would retreat
to easier highways, with scenery more fair-
Yet a moment I lingered watching there.
As I held my gaze on the flinty site,
A Man came up to be crucified;
He toiled all the way up that painful road,
And the cross that He bore far surpassed my load;
His brow with thorns was pierced and torn;
His face had a look of pain and was worn;
He stopped for a moment and looked on me -
And I followed in rapture to Calvary."
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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