It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to follow Jesus! Jesus tells us [Mark 8:34]: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” It doesn’t sound very enticing or inviting does it?
What does it mean?
Certainly there is an element of acceptance of the burdens of daily life, but “taking up your cross” means more than that. It refers to giving your whole life to God, just as Jesus gave his life for us. This involves carrying burdens, but it is even deeper than that. It is a total dedication of life. Our whole life is given to his service in anything He says. This leads us to willingly deny self. Following Him requires that we live our lives as he lived his.
Why? Because we have a special relationship with him – a relationship of love; because of his promises; because of our faith in him and his Father; because he told us that “anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” [Mark 8:35]
When we follow Jesus in the race of life, it’s about endurance, perseverance and even more – it’s about faith, hope and trust. In our hearts, we know that his path is truly the right path; his path leads to the way of truth, justice and love. And we know that he keeps His promises.
There have certainly been a number of times in my life when I have felt totally alone and there were two specific times I vividly recall feeling helpless, deserted and even abandoned by God. Despite the feelings of abandonment I prayed – prayed hard and happily God heard and answered my prayers. Those incidents were a turning point in my life and started me on a spiritual journey that has been fulfilling and wondrous. There are silver linings even in times of adversity – if only we take the time to look for them and give our full trust to God.
Of course, I was never alone, nor are you, at any time, because another of the promises of Jesus is “I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.” [Matthew 28:20]
Busy lifestyles often interfere with communication with Jesus. The hustle and bustle of daily life, the need to get so much done during the course of the day and the pressure that there is simply never enough time to get it all done. How I wish I could manage my time better! The fact is you can’t manage time. The challenge is how you spend your time; it is basically a matter of priorities and values.
You could consider setting aside an amount of time each and every day for communication with Jesus. Quiet time, I call it – a few moments when you quietly commune with God. Your spiritual development, your personal growth depends on it. It is not just important time, it is vital time. Just as we should allocate time for exercise for the benefit of our health and well-being, so too do we need to allocate time for our spiritual health and well-being.
Perhaps you can allocate 30 minutes a day for a quiet time with God. If you find that difficult, allocate 5 or 10 minutes a day and gradually extend that time as you develop the habit.
A Quiet Time, a period of solitude, can increase your capacity for experiencing the presence of God. When you listen to your heart in rich moments of solitude, you are drawn to significant activity. Solitude enriches your spiritual resources. It is purposeful and productive.
Jesus extends his invitation to each and every one of us: “Follow me!” What is your response to Jesus?