Many people believe that that verse is hard to take. It doesn’t sound pleasant. When we hear it, many of us envision Jesus lugging a heavy, oak cross on his beaten, bloody back up the hill of Calvary only to be mocked and slowly killed.
But is that really what we need to envision when we think about “taking up our cross, daily?”
As a disclaimer, I do believe that we should be ready to confess our faith in Jesus Christ even in the face of execution if we have to. And, in other countries, even today, some believers are facing that very situation.
But let’s take a look at the verse in a different way. Jesus is asking us to deny ourselves, sure, but is he really asking us to live painful, miserable lives where we have to deny the good things of this earth simply to make a statement about God? No, that’s not what Jesus is saying. And that’s obvious especially since the second part of the message goes like this:
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Any one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if any one gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. (Matthew 10:39-42)
What is the main point of the above message? Is it that we must lose things? Or is it that we will receive things? Guess what, the point of the message is that when we choose Jesus, we will receive things!
Yes, it does say that “we have to lose our life to Jesus in order to find our lives.” But what is it that we are losing? If we understand what God’s word wants us to lose, then we will understand that God want us to lose the things in our lives that hurt us, like anger, judgmental attitudes, depression, hate, anxiety, selfish revenge, arrogance, bad relationships, enemies . . . .
How does it all work? Well, when we give our lives to Jesus—when we tell Jesus that we want him to lead us—we are allowing God to come in and begin shaping our lives, our minds, and our spirits. And when God comes in and begins shaping us, we can be sure that the things he takes from us are the things that cause us trouble. And, be sure of this as well, the things that he gives us are the qualities that will produce peace, joy, and self control.
Walking to the cross and laying down our lives should not be a negative experience. Everybody should be jumping at the opportunity to give themselves to Jesus, because with Jesus, we will begin to learn how to improve, satisfy, and empower our lives.