by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
"...take up his cross daily..." (Luke 9:23).
The cross is not only "once and for all," because we need morning by morning to wake up venturing toward Jesus.
The genius of the cross is that it presses us into a closer relationship with Jesus. The cross is terrifying at times; it can be full of pain. As He tore apart His life for us; at times we will have our lives torn apart for the gospel cross. Yet the conclusion of all the hurt is to bring us into such absorbing communion with Jesus that we have no other primary focus.
The trifles of life get in the way of simplicity. Daily debris tends to crowd Jesus out. It does not take much of the cares of this world-whether of pleasure or of pain-to detour our attention away from our Lord. Very little confusion can send us on paths that were never meant for our soul's good.
Therefore, Jesus directs His own to clutch the cross anew with each new dawn. It is a kind gesture on His part. He does not want us to lose our ways; therefore, He sets the schedule. He orders the agenda.
As you wake up to new hours, they may hold suffering; they may be laden with surprises; or they may be weighted with much monotony. In any case, you do not want to miss out on what Jesus has to say to you in the suffering, the surprise, or the boredom. He is always there as mentor. You may miss His teaching if you are caught up wholly in the experience.
Each day is meant to deal out its own maturing. And that can only be done when you take anew your cross, venturing closer and closer to Jesus afresh. Grow more mature as you increase in yoke-companionship. Never tire of Him, though you begin to tire of "religion" and its programmed niceties.
Jesus is waiting. The cross is waiting at each morning's gate. Then take it and come alive in Jesus-anew.
See that your walk with Jesus is simple. If you must slow down to walk simply, then slow down. If you must analyze your worship component to rid yourself of needless impedimenta, then see to it. If you must clip short some of your running about for church work in order to get closer to Jesus, take it to task in the morning.
Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field..." Consider the nub of their being. They are simply there for the plain enjoyment of the Creator God who formed them. Are you simply there for the enjoyment of your Creator God who redeemed you?
The cross is not pleasant to contemplate. Our flesh will wonder if it is not too cruel. Indeed, the Place of the Skull witnessed extreme cruelty. Therefore, when we, too, carry the cross, it will at times slash us through and through. At such "out seasons" in our lives, we may be tempted to forfeit the Calvary journey.
It is then that the disciple must most precisely discern the spirits. If they would destroy your loyalty to the cross, they are of hell. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him."
If on the battlefield of surgical tables, death strikes suddenly and snatches away the one closest, when your existence is threatened by the medical report-it is then that you cling to Christ all the more closely. You do not figure out what is occurring. You simply consecrate to the cross your all, more than you have ever before. You lift up the name of Jesus. You put down impish taunts. Give to Jesus your anguish. Fling it upon the eternal shoulders. Let the Almighty carry you.
Do you sense being blocked in on every side, with hardly space to breathe? Every disciple has been there, every cross-bearer has been there. It is a time for holding on. Eventually, the demons will cower, and you will come into the resurrection presence, tested and strengthened. It has to be, for it is His will.