When we begin to join Christ on His mission and become intentional about making reproducing disciple makers, we can rest assured that we will run into times of trials and tribulations! Difficult times is something we can guarantee will happen and is something we will need to learn to deal with.
In Luke 9:23 we hear Jesus telling people what is expected of anyone who wishes to be one of his disciples,
"Then he said to them all, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily, and follow me."
According to Jesus there are three things that are essential if someone truly wants to become one of His disciples.
They Must Deny Themselves: A life of a disciple of Christ is a life of self-denial. To be His disciples means to no longer have your own ambitions, your own goals or your own desires. Instead, your life is for Christ and Him alone. You surrender your will for the will of Christ and your desire is to accomplish God's will.
- They Must Pick Up Their Cross Daily: The cross in Jesus' day was a painful instrument of death. Joining Christ on His mission quite often will be a very painful experience. Many have suffered greatly and even died for their commitment to Christ and His mission.
- They Must Follow Him: It is Christ who sets the place for our missional assignment - not us! He's the one who tells us where to go - not us telling him where we are willing to go. Quite often Christ's followers found themselves in the most darkest of places, led their by Christ, for the purpose of sharing with those who live in those troubled areas the Gospel.
The suffering and difficult times we may experience are part of God's will for us and in accomplishing the mission set before us!
Jesus Understood Clearly The Pain Associated With Carrying A Cross
As we all clearly know Jesus knew what it meant to pick up a cross and carry it! It meant to suffer and then die to accomplish the work set before Him. Even Jesus didn't relish the thought of going to the cross and would have preferred a different solution if possible. In Matthew 26:39 we get the rare opportunity to listen in on a prayer by Jesus to His Heavenly Father. It was a prayer concerning the cross. Listen to what Jesus asks:
"Going a little farther, He felled with His face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will."
Jesus didn't like the idea of going to the cross. He understood clearly the pain and suffering that was going to come with it. He referenced it as a "cup". This was an Old Testament imagery that was a reference to the Cup of "God's Wrath" being poured out as judgement. Jesus understood that going to the cross meant that he would be experiencing the full unbridled wrath of His Father. This was not a pleasant thought at all.
There's no written record of the Father's answer but we do know what it was by the actions of Jesus and His resolve to go to the cross and die. The Father's answer was simple,
"Son, you must go to the cross if people's sins are to be forgiven."
And out of love for us Jesus endured the cross.
Just like Jesus was to take up His cross, Jesus tells us that we are to pickup our cross daily and follow him. He is telling us that on a day by day basis we are to have a heart willing to suffer and possibly die in order to join Him on his mission of redeeming the world. We must be willing to deny our self interests and desires in order that others, still lost in sin, can hear the Good News and be saved. We must be willing to die, if need be, so others can be born again.
But how do you do that? How do we endure the pain and suffering that comes with being on mission with Christ so others can be saved? Again, we find our answer in the example of Jesus.
Jesus Refocused & Looked Past The Suffering.
In Hebrews 12:2 we find our answer through Jesus' example.
" ... For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the Thrown of God."
How did Jesus endure the cross? Not by focusing on the cross but look past it and focusing on the joy that would come after the cross.
- The joy of knowing that everything that needed to be done for the salvation of men had been accomplished.
- The joy that He was obedient to His father even to the point of death on a cross.
- The joy of all those men, women, boys and girls dressed in white robes standing around the Thrown of God singing Holy, Holy, Holy. Jesus was focusing on the End-vision.
That's how we endure daily picking up our cross with all the pain associated with it! We focus, not on the trial or tribulation but on all those who will receive Jesus by faith because of our faithfulness; by focusing on hearing Jesus words spoken to us, "Well done good and faithful servant"; by focusing on the "JOY" that will come when Christ returns and finds us faithful to the call.
THAT'S HOW YOU ENDURE!