“Do you love the Lord’s work?” is a question we’d all do well to ask ourselves from time to time. Several years ago I heard a guest speaker comment on this very thought. He said that he was conducting a meeting in Kentucky and an old retired man in attendance talked to him each night about fishing on the Kentucky Lake. Finally, the last night of the meeting he asked him if he would like to go fishing in the morning. The preacher said, “That sounds like a wonderful idea. I love to fish!” The old man said, “Great. I’ll pick you up at 5:00 am.” The preacher thought, “Wow, five o’clock is early! What have I gotten myself into?” Pushing through his inner reluctance, he agreed to go. That evening he went home and complained to his wife about his early morning commitment. They went to bed and about 4:00 am the phone rang; it was the old man: “I’ve been watching the weather,” he said, “things are looking really good. We better go on and get out there on the water.” So the preacher dragged himself out of bed and mustered up the resolve to go. In telling the story, he said, “It was awful: crazy early and brutal cold. I was tired, freezing and hungry. All day we beat that lake with our lures, stayed until dark and never got a single bite, let alone a fish.” Reflecting upon that day, he said, “I changed my mind. I don’t love to fish. I like to fish. I like to fish: if it’s not too early, not too cold, and not too long and if they’re biting. It’s only when things are just right that I love to fish.”
In applying such he asked, “Do you love the Lord’s work or do you like it? Do you love worship and Bible Study or do you simply endure it? Do you tolerate things as long as it isn’t too early, doesn’t go too long, doesn’t require too much money and/or time, etc.?” The Christian walk isn’t about you and I – it’s about God!
The Disciples were called to suffer. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk. 9:23-24 ESV) Friends, Christianity is all about crosses: the Lord’s Cross, my Cross and your Cross. No Cross = No Christianity
When Jesus spoke of our carrying our own cross, what was He saying? What is that “cross”? Whatever it is, it’s safe to say that the “cross of Jesus Christ” is not necessarily the frustrations of this life. We live in a fallen world and we all (Christians, unbelievers, etc.) are subject to health problems, relational conflict, social frustrations, economic concerns, etc. So what then is the “cross”? I’d say, at least outwardly, it differs with each individual person. Each of the things listed may or may not necessarily be part of the “cross of Christ.”
Here’s the point. Is the suffering you’re encountering and enduring a consequence of your allegiance to Jesus? For instance, if you lose your home because you’re a Christian – that’s the cross of Jesus. If you lose your job because of your convictions – that’s the cross of Jesus. Here’s a good litmus test: would the problem go away if you were to compromise your faith? If upon your denying Jesus everything would be fine again, you can rest assured that what you’re experiencing is part of price of following Jesus. At the core of following Jesus and carrying our cross is our need to “die to self.” I love the poem by an unknown author entitled “Dying To Self.”
- When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to SELF.
- When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence, that is dying to SELF.
- When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any unpunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility – and endure it as Jesus endured, that is dying to SELF.
- When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any raiment, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to SELF.
- When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good words, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to SELF.
- When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, that is dying to SELF.
- When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, that is dying to SELF.
May God help us all set aside ourselves and to truly love the things of God. When we have so done, we are well on the way to loving the Cross of Jesus.
You are loved,