By Pastor Dave Holland
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.” Luke 9:23
A young Christian who was experiencing a traumatic trial begged the Lord in prayer to remove his terrible cross. The heavens seemed hardened, so he went to bed with a burdened heart.
The man tossed through the night, but he dreamed deeply. He saw himself strolling in a green meadow with Christ walking beside him. As they ascended a hill, the man poured out his difficulties. Cresting the hill revealed a panoramic view of a vast valley of white crosses.
Christ broke their silence, “Everyone who follows Me will have a cross to bear, and all who enter My kingdom will suffer trials.”
“My cross is so difficult, and it’s not fair, let me have another cross to bear,” the young man intoned.
“Pick the one you want,” and Christ waved his arm towards an endless sea of crosses of every size displayed in random variety.
They walked silently until the man lighted upon a tiny cross, and he decided, “I’ll take this one.”
Jesus stepped forward and pulled the little cross up from its base and examined it carefully. There, at the bottom, a name was written. Jesus smiled, looked up from the cross, and said, “Why this is your name. This is the cross you have been bearing all along.” And with that, the dream ended.
A cross-less Christianity is the hidden temptation of our faith. Too many people look at Christianity as the means to a happier life. They want a tranquil family, more money and better health. But real Christianity is a relationship to Christ, and with Jesus comes the cross. Not a pretty silver piece of jewelry you hang on your neck or your wall but a rugged, death-inducing cross. The Christ-like life begins when we put to death our self-will and yield to Jesus as King.
What are our crosses? They are not just trials, or hardships, or even sickness. A cross is sometimes the persecution that comes from following in Christ’s steps. At times, it is bearing the disdain that accompanies those who walk in the narrow way of Jesus. Believers who choose to sacrifice their time, emotions and money for others serve our Savior well.
The cross of Christ is not only an instrument of death to self, but it is the entrance into His resurrection life. You will experience the vitality of Christ’s present life as you identify with His death and all that it accomplished for us. The cross shapes you into the image of Christ, a sacrificial demonstration of the love of God.
Local pastor Steve Vaggalis of Destiny Worship Center recently said in a men’s meeting, “God gave us free will so we could love freely. When you offer up your will, you are surrendering your life to the cross Christ would have you to bear. When you submit your life, you are offering your love. Whenever I’m losing in my life, I’m learning to fight the impulse to strive. Instead, I am learning to ask, “Lord, where do I need to surrender fully?”
The cross of Jesus was indeed an instrument of death, but it was also the tool of God to accomplish a great work that still operates today. The blood of Jesus still works for us, and it even grants us access to the throne room of God.
We have victory in this life and that which is to come through Jesus’ work. By the cross, forgiveness, salvation, healing, and hope flow to us. It gives us ultimate triumph over our final enemy death, and we have peace with God and acceptance into His Family. Our recovery, redemption and reconciliation were paid for by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
Hallelujah, the cross is not merely a past accomplishment; it is the present activity of God in our lives.
The challenge now is before us is to submit our desires to the will and plan of God. Will you allow God to shape you with the cross he gives you to bear?
Dave Holland pastored churches for over thirty-eight years before retiring in Destin, Florida. He recently released his new devotional-Bible study based on the Gospel of Luke called “Every Day Jesus: Experience the Jesus Who Ignites Your Soul.” You can get a copy of his book from his website, DaveHolland.org, or by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastor Dave is available to preach in churches and conferences or to serve as an interim pastor.