FIRST-PERSON: Carrying your cross
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- There are Christians who say, "What a cross to bear! How long am I going to suffer?" They might think that carrying their cross means surviving a long-standing difficult situation, enduring abuse by another person or suffering from a long-term disease.
Carrying your cross, however, is not enduring an abusive mate, putting up with a partying neighbor who doesn't let you sleep on weekends, dealing with a coworker who makes your life miserable or suffering a prodigal son who does not follow after God.
For the Christian, it goes much further.
To carry the Christian cross means dying to your own desires, suffering persecution because of your faith, even to the point of losing your life for following Jesus Christ.
Although carrying one's own cross is unique to every Christian, we all have the same goal of sharing the Gospel. Although it can prove dangerous in many countries, Christians can suffer persecution anywhere in the world. Carrying the Christian cross is not easy because it requires sacrifice. As our Lord Jesus, the one who suffered the ultimate persecution, said to His disciples, "If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24, CSB).
To prepare to carry his cross and follow Christ, the Christian needs to:
Turn from selfishness, start seeking holiness.
Deny yourself and put Christ first (Romans 12:3, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Hebrews 12:14). The self-centered person cannot love, follow or obey God properly and pursue holiness. The Christian cannot think of me, myself and I. The selfish person only cares for himself, puts his desires and needs first, and even hurts others to fulfill his goals because he does not have "ambition for the mission"(1). The mission is to love and obey God while sharing the Gospel regardless of the circumstances.
Learn to serve with a clean heart and no personal agenda.
Serving is a sacrifice of worship and a way to imitate Christ who said, "… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:18). The Lord knows our heart and the reason behind all we do (Psalm 51:10, Psalm 27:8).
Offer his/her time to God.
The Christian must spend time in prayer, reading and meditating in His Word, trusting and waiting on God in order to discern His will. As the psalmist wrote, "I have asked one thing from the LORD; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the LORD and seeking him in his temple" (Psalm 27:4).
Wait and trust in God.
If the Christian does not wait by faith (Proverbs 3:5-7, Hebrews 11:1), how can he discern where God is sending him and carry his cross? He who wants to follow Christ and carry his cross cannot rely on his own understanding.
Obey and not complain.
Obeying without complaining (Philippians 2:14) shows love toward God and His Son. Carrying your cross does not include amenities. Follow the apostle Paul's example: If you are going to serve God and carry your cross, do not complain about lodging, weather conditions, the food you are given to eat, etc.
Love God wholeheartedly and above all things
God's love for us (John 3:16) and Christ's genuine love for the Father (John 17:1-3) is why the Christian exists (Deuteronomy 6:5). He who is a Christian will not be able to bear the weight of the cross when the weight of his sins is greater.
Share his/her faith confident in the Holy Spirit's help
Christians who carry their cross share with others the One who died on the cross for them (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 10:9-10). As Christians, we need to share our faith without fear of what to say, knowing that Jesus said, "For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said" (Luke 12:12).
I once read the following, "Decide what you are going to believe and believe what you decided." If you decided to follow Christ, deny yourself, carry your cross, believe what you decided, and stay close to your God who guides you.
(1) Pruitt, Shane, Evangelism Takes Heart: A 9-Week Journey to Cultivating a Heart for Evangelism, (Southern Baptist of Texas Convention: Grapevine, 2017) p. 94.