Have you ever gotten to wondering if anything you are doing for Christ is of any use? You pray. You share your faith. You read. You do. But when you look around, nothing seems to be happening as you would expect for all your work.
I’ve wondered those things from time to time over the last 34 years. And those same doubts lingered in my mind even as recently as last evening before I went to bed. I was struggling – quite significantly -- with that very question. What’s the use of writing, of praying, of teaching, of sharing my heart? Why am I wasting my time?
It was in that frame of mind that I showered, dressed for bed, and opened my Bible to the place I’d left off the night before. And a moment later I read these words of Christ: If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me (Luke 9:23).
Sometimes it surprises me – although I know such things shouldn’t surprise me at all – that, with such great love and compassion, God is able to orchestrate tens of thousands of minute details of my life, even over the course of years, to arrive at a specific moment in time to meet a specific need. Why was I reading through St. Luke’s gospel last evening, and not Romans, or 1 Corinthians, or Ephesians? Why was I on chapter 9, and not 2, or 15, or 20? Why had I decided months ago to read the Old Testament in the morning and the New in the evening? And why did those particular words ring so true to my heart, when I could have just as easily glazed over them?
If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself.
In that clause, I found one answer to my soul-searching. If I want to follow the Master, I must remind myself my life and activities are not about me. They are all about Him. In denying myself, I am to put aside my expectations and desires in deference to His. If I don’t care for that equation, then I’m the one at fault. Not Him.
And take up his cross daily and follow Me.
And there was the second answer to my soul-searching. Carrying His cross of humility, of sacrifice, of utter commitment to the will and purpose of God is not a one-time decision. It is a daily commitment. And it doesn’t matter if I understand His will and purpose. I am only required to carry my cross in the same way He carried His.
My confession to you is difficult for me to make. No one likes to bare his soul before strangers. But just in case some of you have entertained thoughts like mine, I reasoned it might be helpful to remind you, as the Holy Spirit reminded me last evening, we are not our own. We are bought with a price (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).