One day as Stan and I were finishing our time together, I asked him, “You have anything for me to do to prepare for our next get-together?”
“Well, yes,” he replied. “Spend as much time as you can praying and hearing from God as to what He has in mind for you.”
“One other thing I would like you to do is to read Matthew 16:24. Read it as many times as necessary so you get to the point of thinking you understand what it says.”
I wrote down “Matt 16:24.”
“See you tomorrow, Stan.”
“Lord willing,” he replied.
All the way back to my place I kept thinking about Stan and how thankful I was about being able to spend time with him. He seemed to be so far along in his relationship with God. I was careful not to think of him as a “mature” Christian, but as a “maturing” one! And I wondered about how he got to where he seems to be. I decided to see if I could get him on that subject when we meet on Thursday.
I was also thinking about Matthew 16:24. I did not know what it said, but I was wondering about it and if I was going to be able to have any sort of intelligent answer for Stan about what I thought it meant.
The first thing I did when I got home was to take my Bible off the shelf and find Matthew 16:24. I found it: “If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
The first thing I noticed is that what Jesus said is optional. He used “if,” not something like “you must.” But if I am to choose to “come after” Him, there are two requirements: take up my cross and follow Him. I could get a grasp on the “follow Him” part, but I was not so sure about the “take up my cross” part. Did that mean that I had to be physically crucified? “Wow”, I thought, “that would hurt.” Or did He mean something else? What is my “cross”? This was something I was going to have to ask Stan to see what he would say.
I then noticed that my Bible for the Matthew verse referred to a similar verse in Luke’s gospel where it said I am to take up my cross “daily.” Obviously, this meant something that is to be an ongoing part of my life. Every single day. A lifestyle. Be crucified every single day? What did this mean? I sure hoped Stan could help me with this! But what was it that he had suggested that I do? He said to pray.
So pray I did. I got on my knees and asked God to help me with understanding His word. What did He want me to know and to understand? I prayed to be open to seeing, understanding, receiving, and embracing all He had for me — in eternity and on this side of eternity. A peace overflowed me and I had the sense that taking up my cross meant that I was to deliberately choose every day to be who He intended and to do what He intended. If that is what He wants of me, am I capable to doing and being that?
Sure a lot to think about! Sure a lot to plan on asking Stan about. I was thinking about the fact I was clearly on a journey with God that this was all new to me. I wondered where He was taking me, what it meant, and how was I going to get there.
And He said to them, “Follow Me.” Matthew 4:19.
Prayer: Lord, you want me to follow you, and I thank you for that. However, you know that I am too often reluctant to follow you when I cannot see where we are going. Please help me to overcome that reluctance and to follow you wherever you want to lead. Amen.