It is very true that Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). But Jesus fell under the load of his cross, weary, exhausted, and unable to carry it another step. John said, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called … Golgotha” (John 19:17). The Bible does not tell us how far Jesus carried his cross, but we do know that Simon, the Cyrene, was compelled to pick it up and carry it to the place of crucifixion (see Matthew 27:32).
Jesus had reached the end of his endurance; after all, there is only so much one person can take before they come to a breaking point and Jesus’ cross had become too heavy to bear. So, what does this mean to us? Would our Lord make us do something he could not do?
Jesus knows exactly what he is saying when he calls us to “take up our cross and follow him.” He understands the agony, the helplessness, the burden that crosses create. He remembers his own cross and he knows we cannot carry our cross all the way in our own strength.
There is a hidden truth here that is so powerful and edifying, it could change the way we look at all our troubles and hurts. And even though it sounds almost sacrilegious to suggest that Jesus did not carry his own cross, that is the truth. What this means to us today is that Jesus, who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities, experienced what it is to be weak, discouraged and unable to go on without help. He was in all points tempted just as we are.
The temptation for us is not in failing, not in laying down the cross because of weakness; the real temptation is in trying to pick up that cross and carry it in our own strength. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time” (Jonah 3:1). In the familiar account of “Jonah and the whale,” God had instructed Jonah to go to the wicked city Ninevah and preach judgment to them, but Jonah disobeyed and ran away from the voice of the Lord. However, in this verse we see that God’s grace and mercy reached out and gave him a second chance.
What a blessing to know that God is patient, longsuffering, gracious, tender and kind. No matter how often we mess up, or how rebellious and disobedient we may have been in the past, the Word of the Lord comes to us a second time, or a third or fourth. Our Father does not just cast aside his people — and Jonah is a tremendous lesson to us of the covenant power of God in our lives.
Jonah would have had a lot less trouble if he had obeyed the first time God spoke to him. He was clearly gifted and chosen, yet he fled from God’s very presence, cutting off communion with him. It must be noted, though, that as Jonah fled, he heard the voice of the Holy Spirit ringing in his ears every step of the way. And when he repented and humbled himself, the Lord began speaking to him again: “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you” (3:2).
God’s direction can sometimes make us uncomfortable but I encourage you to be faithful to what he has called you to. You will experience different seasons so be faithful in every season. Say to God, “Whatever you have for me, even if is not exactly what I choose, I will fulfill your calling. You choose and I will follow.” When Jonah obeyed God’s call, there were wonderful results. Ninevah experienced a massive revival — an amazing awakening — and, likewise, you can have a powerful, joyous breakthrough in your life when you repent of your disobedience and obey the voice of the Lord!
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Oh, that each of us could have the fervor for living for Christ that filled Paul. Singlehandedly — at the direction of the Holy Spirit — he spread Christianity across the Roman Empire. He did not care if he lived or died, he just wanted to advance the kingdom of God.
Christians today have developed a false faith — a faith without commitment. We are busy running around to Bible conferences and retreats, searching out the most eloquent expositors of the Bible, and racing to weekly Bible studies to fill our heads with more outlines and formulas. Meanwhile, millions of hurting people all over the world are dying without hope. We are called to reach out to them.
What is commitment all about? It simply means to devote ourselves unconditionally to the Lord and his work. We stick with the job before us, despite circumstances. It means teaching a Sunday school class every Sunday — no matter what — and allowing the kids in that class to become the most important youngsters in the world to us. It means interceding for them and taking time during the week to find out what is bothering them.
Commitment does not take into account convenience, or the changing whims of emotion. True commitment remains an enduring thing, that which can be counted on. Sadly, most Christians do not even know how to be fully committed to the Lord. They are too caught up in their own lifestyle. And too many want to be entertained in church — not committed.
We run the risk of becoming like the church at Laodicea mentioned in the book of Revelation — lukewarm, do-nothing Christians. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So, then, because you are lukewarm … I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). Ask the Lord to renew the spirit of commitment within you so that you will be that dedicated servant he wants you to be.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
God has not forgotten you! He knows exactly where you are, what you are going through right now, and he is monitoring every step along your path. Too often in times of crisis, Christians forget that God has them in the palm of his hand. Instead, like the children of Israel, they are afraid they are going to be destroyed by the enemy. God must find it difficult to understand why his children do not trust him when they are down and in need. “Don’t they know I have inscribed them on the palms of My hands? I could no more forget them in their hour of need than a mother could forget her nursing child” (see Isaiah 49:15-16).
Again and again God came to Israel pleading for their confidence and trust in times of crises. “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not” (Isaiah 30:15).
It seems even the New Testament echoes God’s displeasure with unbelief: “Ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8).
Have you ever felt that God has forsaken you and left you to figure things out for yourself? Instead of submitting to the Lord in quiet confidence and rest in his promises, you may have tried to find your own solutions and things have blown up in your face.
Be assured that God wants to meet your every need but, most of all, he wants renewed fellowship with you. Get back to the secret closet of prayer and simple, childlike faith. Do not get so busy working on God that you forget he is trying to work on you, making you into a vessel of glory.
Is it possible for a Christian to stay clean and pure in a world filled with violence, immorality, and corruption? Or is it inevitable that the spirit of this age will wear down the saints of God and vex their souls? It happened to Lot and his family in Sodom, and it is happening to multitudes of Christians all around the world. The overwhelming temptations of this evil generation have already caused numbers of Christians to compromise and indulge in ungodly practices.
Truly honest Christians must take inventory and ask of themselves these important questions, “Are my moral values changing? Is the wickedness of this age seeping into my life? Am I being affected by the barrage of sensuality I see all around me? Am I developing an appetite for worldly things?”
Evil has always been present. The devil tried to tempt and deceive David, Isaiah, Paul, and the people of God in every generation just as forcefully as he seeks to devour God’s people today. In spite of it all, God has always had a remnant, people who remained true to the end. The spirit of the age did not overwhelm them. In fact, they grew strong and holy in the midst of persecution and evil.
This generation is becoming wicked and vile because it is losing its faith in God — and that faith is dissipating because the Bible is no longer consumed as a life-giving force. Do not blame the devil — our backslidings are the result of one thing: lack of prayer and Bible reading.
We need to be praying, “Oh, God, cause me to see how cold I have become. Cause me to know how weak I am and put in me a new hunger for spiritual things.” Here is God’s desire to all who live in the midst of wickedness: “That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Let your light shine!