If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
Do you ever wonder why 90% of the work in a church is done by 10% of the people, who are tired, overworked, and at the point of burnout? Most pastors have plenty of critics, but few volunteers who roll up their sleeves and say, “Put me to work! What needs to be done around here?”
My father-in-law, Dr. Guy Duffield, spent more than 60 years in Christian work, and from the perspective of a lifetime of experience figured it out. Part of the reason, believed Pop, is that people don’t know the difference between burdens and crosses, and not understanding what they are to do with each, they become confused and powerless. Consumed with the burdens they bear, they never have the emotional energy or desire to get involved in the lives of other people.
Do you remember the words of Jesus, found in Luke 9:23, where He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me“? The cross, believed Pop, represents what we willingly do for the cause of Jesus Christ. And what are burdens? Burdens are the cares of life. They are part of the warp and woof of living today, and almost everyone is confronted with a burden of one kind or another possibly your family, perhaps financial, maybe it’s a physical handicap. But we confuse burdens and crosses.
Have you ever heard anyone say, perhaps at a prayer group, “My husband is my cross”? “No,” Pop would say, “He’s not your cross, he’s your burden!” And what does the Bible tell us you are to do with your burdens? Cast them at the feet of Jesus, trusting Him to do what we cannot do! 1 Peter 5:7 is so clear, “Cast all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you,” and to that, add the impact of Psalm 55:22, that says, “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you” (NASB). Not allowing Christ to intercede in bearing the burdens of life, we are effectively punched out, unable to respond to the needs of the world about us, and overwhelmed by the burdens which we bear, many of which are not God’s doing, but ours.
“Take up your cross daily,” said Jesus, “and follow Me.” May I ask you to evaluate your Christian service for just sixty seconds? What are you actually doing for the cause of Christ? What’s your ministry? Not what you are eventually going to do, or would like to do; rather, what you are actually doing? If you were suddenly removed from this world, exactly what would presently go undone, or whose life would no longer be touched because of your absence?
Okay, one more question: What are you going to do about it? I’m not suggesting that you ignore your responsibility to your aged parents. The Jews did that and Jesus rebuked them for it. I’m not asking you to get involved at church and fail to be the mother you should be, but I am asking you to evaluate your life of Christian service. Have you taken up a cross, doing something for the cause of Christ because you have chosen to follow in the steps of Jesus, living for Him and serving someone outside of your immediate circle of responsibility? If not, start looking around you. Like Charlie Brown, who said, “I’m overwhelmed with insurmountable opportunities!” you will soon see a multitude of opportunities to get involved in, and it will be the most rewarding experience of your life. Touching someone’s life as you develop a personal ministry is tremendously rewarding. You make a difference in someone’s world, and as a result you grow in grace and discover fulfillment you will never know when you are overwhelmed with yourself!
Resource reading: Psalm 55:16-23.