"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."
- Luke 14:27
The cross has always been a powerful reminder of the suffering of Christ and a symbol of true discipleship for those who would follow Jesus.
It is also a reference point for the things that Christians must suffer in order to continue faithfully serving the Lord.
But "carrying our cross" refers not only to the trials and hardships we experience as believers, it also describes the way we are to respond to these things:
1. It is the cross of Christ only if we choose to carry it as He carried His.
We have no choice for much of the suffering we experience in our lives. However, if we choose to bear our sufferings in the Spirit of Christ and to His glory and with home in Him, this is something we control (we cannot control the suffering but we can control our reaction to it). And if we choose to suffer in this way, this transforms our suffering into the cross of Christ.
2. It is the cross of Christ if others see it as the cross of Christ in us.
Jesus openly carried the instrument of His death on His back, He was not ashamed to die for us in a very public way.
Jesus confessed our name through His suffering on the cross and we must not be ashamed to confess His name with our sufferings as well (not just our songs and prayers).
If others know that our faith in Him is firm, despite our suffering, then our cross glorifies God just like the cross of Jesus glorified Him as well.
3. It is the cross of Christ if we resurrect from it like He resurrected from His.
You see, suffering all by itself will not redeem the soul. Pain can make a person grow and mature, obstacles can develop patience and wisdom. However, only sufferings and trials as a Christian will have eternal consequences on our souls. Suffering without Christ, regardless of how we react only brings an acceptance of death. But suffering as the cross of Christ brings life after death.
Without the cross of Christ in this life, there is no life after this life. For the cross to be the cross of Jesus we do not just wear it (like jewelry), it wears us, like the cross wore Jesus.
Have you taken up the cross of Christ yet?
- You take it up at first in the waters of baptism as you confess His name and repent of your sins.
- You carry it every day by persevering in faith.
- You put it down when Jesus comes for you in death or resurrection.
Whoever you are, wherever you are at, Jesus calls you to pick up the cross and follow Him.
So I encourage us all to work hard and get as much as possible out of the course in ministry training.
But remember that what God calls us to and what inspires the church, and what impresses non-believers is the cross that we carry for Him, not how well organized we are in ministry.