In Matthew 16:24 it says this; Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
A lot of folks think this means that you must live a tortured existence filled with self denial in order to follow Christ. I'm pretty sure that's not what He meant.
We can look at this statement by Jesus both literally and figuratively. And as I read many of the statements made by those who had written commentaries on this verse, I was surprised to see that the majority had looked at this verse only in the literal sense, which means that Jesus was saying that, “if you follow me you will more than likely will be killed because of it.”
Now although it may be true that there are certainly many people who have been killed because they were Christians, I don’t think that Jesus meant that most or all of those (look at the word ANYONE) who would follow Him would die a tortured death. But I do believe that Jesus was trying to get across to us the point that to follow Him meant that there must, and I don’t mean should, but there must be a lifestyle change. A follower of Christ must have a heart that thinks more highly of others than himself, a heart that is more prone to giving than taking. A heart that is passionate about loving his neighbor. That’s the denying himself part.
Now the take up your cross part: I have heard many people say that to take up your cross is to bear patiently those trials we are given and so it is, but there is so much more than that. If all we did was to endure the trials laid upon us, then we are like bridges that many people pass over yet the bridge gains nothing from the experience. I don’t think that is what God intends for us through trials.
When Jesus said that His followers would “take” up their cross, it implies that there is an action involved. That we would rush to the cross and I am certain that the cross of which he spoke is merely one’s duty. You see, the cross of Christ was His duty. It was that thing for which He had come to earth. It was only through this implement of death, this implement of torture that He would be able to accomplish the mission for which He had come. He had heard the voice of His Father and He knew He must obey that voice with all He had. He was to embrace His cross. He was to run toward His cross and secure salvation for all mankind by that one act.
For each of us, our cross will be different. But it is important that we embrace it and hold it close to our hearts every day of our life, for in that embrace, in that closeness we will discover the fullness of what it means to bring God into our life. Perhaps your particular cross is to become a missionary. Perhaps your cross is to work in the arena of social services. And perhaps your cross is to become a doctor. Whatever it is, it is your mission as a Christian. And it has been put in your life or will be put in your life in order to accomplish two things. And I promise you that your cross, your mission, the goal that God has set for you will always do two things.
Your cross will always help you to show that you love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. You see, that's what the cross of Christ showed us. That He loved His Father with all His heart, because He obeyed Him and He loved us because He died and rose again to open a door that no man could close. Without His cross we could not enter into rest and without our cross we can not show someone else that kingdom.
So run over and pick up that cross. If you're a mom, be the best mom you can. If you're a janitor, be the best at it that is possible. No matter what you do, do it as unto the Lord and it wil show up that you love your cross. Doesn't matter if it's a trial, tribulation, your job, your mission or just something you do. Hold it close and enjoy it so that one day you will be able to hear Him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant".