What does it mean to ‘Carry the Cross of Jesus’?

On Amazon you can find over 280,000 entries for cross necklace. The most expensive is an 18K gold 10 carat pink sapphire diamond cross pendant necklace that costs $17,000. It’s beautiful!

Many like to wear a cross as jewelry. But when Jesus told His disciples to ‘take up his cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34), it was not a popular choice. A cross was a symbol of crime, punishment and death.

The first person to literally obey this command was Simon of Cyrene.  He was probably visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. As Jesus was on His way to Calvary, He was too weak to carry His own cross. So they forced Simon to carry it the rest of the way. You can read this event in Mark 15:21.

We, too, must carry Jesus’ cross in the world we live in. That’s why we were saved! We can’t repeat the atonement. That was something only Jesus could do – die for the sins of all mankind. But we are to carry the cross.

What does it mean to carry the cross of Jesus? It means to be so identified with Jesus, that we suffer what He suffered. People begin to treat us like they treated Jesus. People see Jesus in us and we feel honored.

There’s something unique about carrying a cross:

1- Carrying a cross is noticeable. You can’t hide a cross. It’s too big. And when you really follow Jesus in your daily life, people will see it. Some will appreciate your conviction and passion. Others will mock and hate you. But all will notice.

2- Carrying a cross is uncomfortable. Jesus’ cross was heavy and rough. The longer Simon carried it, the heavier it seemed to get. If we ‘yes’ to the cross, we say ‘yes’ to some uncomfortable situations – changes will need to be made in our conversations, decisions and lifestyles.

3- Carrying a cross is personal. This isn’t a group decision that might have personal implications. It’s a personal decision that leads to a difference in our relationships, friends and families. You can’t depend on your parents or friends – you’ve got to do it yourself.

4- Carrying a cross is public. The biggest decisions you make are made in public. The biggest decision you can make is following Jesus – to decide to carry His cross and all that it means to be identified with Him. It will impact your family, change the way you pursue your career, treat other people and even spend your time and money.

Jesus did not die to make this life easy for us or prosperous. He died to remove every obstacle to our everlasting joy. And He calls us to follow him in His sufferings because this life of joyful suffering for Jesus’ sake (Matt. 5:12) shows that He is more valuable than all earthly rewards that the world lives for (Matt. 13:44; 6:19-20).

If you follow Jesus only because He makes life easy for now, it will look to the world as though you really love what they love, and Jesus just happens to provide it for you. But if you suffer with Jesus in the pathway of love because He is your supreme treasure, then it will be apparent to the world that your heart is set on a different fortune than theirs. This is why Jesus demands that we deny ourselves and take up His cross and follow him.

How does the cross feel?

You can read some of my other articles about the words of Jesus on the cross: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross

The cross of Jesus Christ is the central theme of Christianity. This is because all believers depend on the cross for all the blessings of eternal life. As Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, He communicated separate seven times.

I used these seven sayings as a meditation before we conducted our communion service. Arthur Pink has some wonderful insights into these words. I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed his ideas.

These words of Jesus while on the cross reveal the character and heart of the suffering Jesus. These words inform us of the purpose, meaning, sufferings and sufficiency of His death.

Below you will find a link to each of my pre-communion meditations…

It Hurts To Be Jesus

“Follow Jesus and you will be happy!” Really? Sometimes following Jesus hurts, because it hurts to be Jesus.

As we follow the life of Jesus, we discover that He often suffered, especially in His last days. If you choose to follow Jesus, it is inevitable that you will suffer some of the same hurts.

Let’s look at Mark 15:16-20 and uncover some of the hurts that Jesus suffered…

Jesus suffered Pain.

Following the scourging (Mark 15:15), Jesus continued to be brought physical pain from the Roman soldiers. They put together a ‘crown of thorns’ in mockery of his kingship and smashed it onto his head. And then they hit Him on the head with a stick, driving the thorns deeper into his skull.

For many followers of Jesus in our world, physical pain is a reality. It literally hurts to be like Jesus. According to CNN, Christian persecution reached a record high in 2015. It is estimated 100,000 Christians are killed every year because of their faith, which amounts to 273 per day, or 11 every hour. This does not take into account those who are being tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened, excluded, attacked and discriminated.

Jesus suffered Isolation.

Once Pilate gave the order to be crucified, the soldiers took Jesus away and gathered the a whole group together. A ‘cohort’ consisted of 600 men. However, because of the festival days and the fact that Pilate probably had been accompanied by a large contingent of soldiers from Caesarea, the number could have been far greater. Jesus was surrounded by a crowd but felt all alone.

Christians often suffer in isolation. At school, at work, in the neighborhood, even in many homes, Christians are surrounded by those who do not want to obey God’s Word. Maybe you feel like you’re the only one in your environment. But remember, Elijah felt this way too. But God reminded him that there were hundreds just like him. You are not alone. For one thing, you have Jesus. And I am sure there are others that only need a little encouragement to be strong. Stand up for right, righteousness & Jesus and you’ll often find others who will stand with you.

Jesus suffered Mocking.

This is the second time Jesus is humiliated and mocked. The first took place before the Jews. The Jews made fun of Him because for claiming to be their Messiah. The Romans made fun of Him as the king of the Jews.

They put a purple robe on him (royalty), placed a crown of thorns on his head, gave him a stick for a scepter, and bowed their knee in worship. And they spit on him.

Has someone ever made fun of you because of your relationship with Jesus? It hurts, especially when it is someone you love or respect. Some people just don’t understand us. But take note of what Jesus did… actually what He didn’t do. Jesus did not retaliate or mock back. It’s easy to get angry or run from people.

I love David’s attitude when Shimei cursed him. He said, “Leave him alone; let him curse…. perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” (2 Samuel 15:11-12).

Sometimes it hurts to be like Jesus. But just as Jesus rose from the dead and lives in Heaven for ever, so will all who follow Jesus. Follow Jesus!

You can read some of my other articles about the hurts of life: What not to do when bad things happen, Looking for the ‘perfect’ church? Try the persecuted church.

5 Reasons Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

 

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Well, one day some really bad things happened to a really good person – Jesus. As a matter of fact, the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the world happened to the best Person who ever walked on the earth.

We can learn five reasons why bad things happen to good people from the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.

You can read this story in Mark 15:1-15.

1. People Say Bad Things.

The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy, but to die at the hands of the Romans, they needed to find a political reason. According to Luke 23:1-2 they made three accusations: 1- encouraging people not to pay their taxes. 2- claiming he was a king (of the Jews), 3- causing riots. These were false, but they were determined to have Jesus killed.

Why did they hate Him so much? 1- He was a threat to their power. 2- He did not fit the expectations of their system. 3- Jesus showed them up for what they were, exposing their sin.

Sometimes bad things happen because bad people say bad things about good people. Gossip, slander, and lies have destroyed many reputations and lives. Don’t blame God if other people do bad things. Just don’t be that kind of person.

2. People Don’t Want To Decide.

Pilate was amazed that Jesus, facing the death penalty, didn’t try to defend himself. It appears that he really wanted to free Jesus. Even after freeing Barabbas, he asked what to do with Jesus. This does not mean that he believed who Jesus was. He was not trying to do what was right. He was simply trying to do what was expedient.

One of the saddest comments ever made is said about Pilate, who knowing that Jesus was innocent and worthy of release, chose rather ‘to satisfy the multitude.’ Pilate did not ask, ‘Is it right?’ Instead, he asked ‘Is it safe? Is it popular?’ Politics won out over justice that day and sadly, often does so today.

In Pilate we see a man not unlike many of us – unable to discern the right and do it. Sometimes bad things happen because people can’t decide. Always make the right decision.

3. People Do Nothing.

On Palm Sunday the crowds chose Jesus. But on Good Friday they chose Barabbas.

Why did they choose Barabbas? The answer seems they were disappointed with Jesus. This crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem – eyes were opened, deaf were made to hear, and the lame to walk. I imagine they hoped He would free them from Roman bondage. But as they saw him standing helpless before a Roman governor, saw His apparent unwillingness to make any defense, or get out of this by any means, or do anything against the Romans, all loyalty collapsed. They chose Barabbas.

Sometimes bad things happen because of the crowd. Majority rule is not always a good rule. Don’t put trust in your popularity with others. People are fickle. Put trust in Christ.

4. People Run.

Barabbas was guilty of the crime for which Jesus was accused. He was a desperate criminal, leader in a riot, revolution against Rome. He is what many wanted Jesus to be. So, they chose Barabbas to be released.

Jesus and Barabbas traded places. Jesus, the innocent Son of God, took the penalty for the sins of Barabbas and was crucified, probably on his cross.

In Barabbas we come to the heart of the meaning of the cross for us. If we have a hard time identifying with the Jewish leaders who accused Jesus, or Pilate who negotiated with right and wrong, we sure see in Barabbas our own situation when it comes to the cross. We can feel with him what it must have been like to have someone go to death for us. Jesus died instead of Barabbas. Jesus instead of us.

Sometimes bad things happen because guilty people appear to escape. Good people are left holding the bag. I’ve met many single parents who find themselves in bad situations because someone abandoned them.

5. God has a bigger plan.

Jesus remained silent and took all the accusations and abuse. The flogging was a painful experience. Why did Jesus endure this? Because God had a bigger plan – to provide salvation for anyone who would receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Sometimes bad things happen because God has a bigger plan. I love Romans 8:28 – “All things work together….” Just give it a while and see what happens. Patiently trust for God’s plan to unfold.

You can read my other articles about going through troubles: When Bad Things Happen To Good PeopleFour Responses to a Life Trial, 3 Phrases When You Want To Quit,

A True Story About Overcoming Failure

Once upon a time, there was a little boy the other children called “Sparky,” after a comic strip horse named Sparkplug. Even though the boy hated that nickname, he could never shake it.

School was difficult for Sparky. He failed every subject in the eighth grade. He flunked physics in high school. In fact, he still holds the school record for being the worst physics student in the school’s history. He also flunked Latin, algebra, and English.

He didn’t do much better in sports. He made the school’s golf team, but his poor play ended up costing his team the championship.

Throughout his youth, Sparky was a loser socially. Not that he was actively disliked by other kids—it’s just that nobody paid much attention to him. He was astonished if a classmate even said hello outside of school. He never dated or even asked a girl out. He was afraid of being turned down.

Sparky didn’t let being a loser bother him that much; he just decided to make it through life the best he could and not worry about what other people thought of him.

Sparky did, however, have a hobby. He loved cartoons, and he liked drawing his own cartoons. No one else thought they were any good, however. When he was a senior in high school, he submitted some cartoons to the school yearbook and they were rejected. Sparky kept drawing anyway. Sparky dreamed about being an artist for Walt Disney.

After graduating from high school, he wrote a letter to Walt Disney inquiring about job opportunities. He received a form letter requesting samples of his artwork. The form letter asked him to draw a funny cartoon of “a man repairing a clock by shoveling the springs and gears back inside it.” Sparky drew the cartoon and mailed it off with some of his other work to Disney studios. He waited and waited for a reply.

Finally the reply came—another form letter telling him that there was no job for him. Sparky was disappointed but not surprised. He had always been a loser, and this was just one more loss. In a weird way, he thought, his life was kind of funny. He tried telling his own life story in cartoons—a childhood full of the misadventures of a little boy loser, a chronic underachiever.

This cartoon character has now become known by the whole world. The boy who failed the eighth grade, the young artist whose work was rejected not only by Walt Disney studios but by his own high school yearbook, was Charles Monroe “Sparky” Schultz—creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip and the little boy loser whose kite never flies: Charlie Brown.

You can also read my article: Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown – 10 Life Lessons, Why ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ Almost Didn’t Happen.

Because You Fail Doesn’t Mean You’re A Failure

If I were to ask, “Name a great baseball player,” Who would you name? You might say Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, or you might say Babe Ruth. Most of know Babe Ruth as the guy who hit 714 home runs, the home run king. For many years Babe Ruth held the record until Hank Aaron broke it several years ago. Most of us would say that Babe Ruth is a great baseball player. Do you realize that Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times? Babe Ruth failed many times, but Babe Ruth was not a failure!

If I were to ask you to name for me a great football player, a great NFL quarterback, you might say Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, you might even say Terry Bradshaw. Terry Bradshaw led his team to four Super Bowls. Yet, do you realize that Terry Bradshaw threw more incomplete passes than 99.9% of the players who ever played the game? Terry Bradshaw failed, but Terry Bradshaw was not a failure!

If I were to ask you to name for me a great President, you might say George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, you might say Abraham Lincoln. I think most of us would say Abraham Lincoln was a great President. And yet do you realize that he lost eight elections. He failed in business twice and he had a nervous breakdown. Abraham Lincoln failed, but Abraham Lincoln was not a failure!

Most are familiar that Simon Peter failed Jesus. He denied three times that he knew Him. You can read this story in Mark 14:66-72. It is not Peter’s weakness that helps us most. Rather, what happened later becomes our source of hope. Peter’s repentance and the Lord’s restoration of him give us confidence that God can handle our failure.

Your failure doesn’t need to define you. Just because you have failed does not make you a failure. In Peter’s story of failure and restoration I found five principles…

1. Everybody Fails.

We learn something here. Great people fail. Peter was an original disciple of Jesus and He failed. Just because you fail at one thing does not make you a failure. Peter broke down and wept. He realized what he did was wrong and acknowledged it. Great people admit their failures.

2. God is not dependent on your success.

Jesus predicted Peter’s failure. And God knew you would fail before you failed. He still loves you and has a plan for you. No matter what sin you have done, Jesus died for you and still loves you. The story of Christianity is the story of failed people who find new futures. It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus.

3. God gives second chances.

Few of us get repeated opportunities, as Peter did, to profess or reject our allegiance to Christ. But today, God is giving you a second chance. Take advantage of your failure. Don’t waste it. God will go to great lengths to help you, but He will do nothing for you if you just lie there. If you accept your failure as final, then you’re finally a failure. Failing does not make you a failure; quitting does. Get up and try again. Next time, with God’s help, you’ll make it!

4. Failure reveals weakness.

Peter found it easy to be self-dependent. No disciple speaks as often as Peter. No disciple was reproved like Peter was, and he is the only disciple who thought he could reprove the Lord! He was impulsive. He had the great natural disadvantage of being the kind of person who always did it for himself somehow. When he became a follower of Christ, he naturally carried that style right into his service. He had the strength and will. Whatever the cost, Peter would follow Jesus. But no one is successful in following Jesus by His own strength. and Peter had to come face-to-face with his weakness so Christ could work through Him. Your failure will often reveal your weakness. In the long run, that is a wonderful thing.

5. With every failure is a lesson learned.

Learn all you can from your failure. Every bitter experience can teach us something – about ourselves, about our friends, about God. We must never use failure as an excuse for quitting. God was not through with Peter. The best part of Peter’s story is not written (Mark 16:7). After His resurrection, Jesus had a private meeting with Peter (Luke 24:34); then Jesus helped Peter make a public confession when He met the disciples in Galilee (John 21). If you can learn a lesson from your failure, it will be a successful failure.

You can read some of my other articles about failure: Why People FailPower Failure, 4 Lessons Learned in the Temptation of Jesus.

 

Why People Fail

I think most people have an inner desire to be successful. I’m not saying that everyone wants to be prideful or famous… but we want to succeed in the things that are important to us. I want to be a successful father, grandfather and husband. I want to be successful in my health & finances. I want to be successful in my Christian faith.

But while we want success, we often face failure. We don’t measure up to our own definition of success. Sometimes we fail others. Sometimes we fail ourselves. And sometimes we fail God.

I’m not going to be able to list all the reasons why we fail. But I have discovered three in the story of Simon Peter’s failure. He was one of the strongest followers of Jesus Christ. But in a moment of time he failed three times in a row. You can read his embarrassing story in Mark 14:66-72.

I think many of us do the same things that Peter did. And that’s why we fail. So, I hope we learn something and fail less….

1. Ignore Warnings

Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him (Mark 14:30). Had Peter heeded the Lord’s warnings, he would have avoided walking into temptation and denying his Master three times.

But along with the warning of denial from Jesus, came the prophecy of a rooster crowing twice. Now, had I heard the first crow, I think I would have gotten out of there. But Peter ignored the first rooster crow. Then with the second crowing he remembered Jesus’ words.  was not the second crowing that got him, but the remembrance of Jesus’ words. To hear the Word of God and ignore or reject it at any point is to risk the judgment of God. Accept and act on it. Respond to God’s Word immediately. Don’t wait for the second crowing.

How many times have you been warned and you’ve ignored those warnings? Aren’t you drinking too much? You need to lose some weight? Shouldn’t you get back to attending church? Your attitude is changing?

Sometimes the warnings come from God’s Word. Sometimes the warnings come from close friends and family. Sometimes the warnings come from events or tragedies that should straighten us up. Don’t wait for the second warning. Wake up and turn to Christ now!

2. Wrong Company

The last place anyone would have dreamed Peter would go would be the courtyard of the High Priest. Yet that is where he is – with the enemies of Christ. He should have been with the disciples. But he was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

When fellowship with Jesus suffers, we move into the company of the world. With each denial, Peter moved further away from the light and distanced himself from Jesus. First, he denied being with Jesus. Second, he denied being one of Jesus’ followers. Third, he strenuously denied evening knowing Jesus.

The normal response would have left the courtyard after the denial, but he stayed with the enemies. It reminds me of Psalm 1. The blessed man does not walk, or stand, or sit with the ungodly.

Jim Rohn said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’

Spend time with people who will encourage you in the life you want to live. That’s why I spend lots of time in church and with Christians. It’s not because it’s my job. It’s because I’m encouraged to grow in my Christian life and be who I want to be.

3. Unexpected Temptation

Temptation came when Peter least expected it. Peter was not a coward and not afraid to fight. He earlier stood up to the Roman military to defend Jesus (John 18:10).

He was ready to fight with a sword but not to face the accusations of a servant girl. This temptation played into his strength – courage. Of all the disciples, he was the most courageous. But even our best ability, apart from Christ, is actually weakness.

Often we fail in our strength. Possibly because we are less dependent on God in our strength. We can do it by ourself. But, like Peter, we find ourselves in an awkward situation, out of our comfort zone, and fail. Just like the children’s song “Jesus loves me” – ‘little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.’

What are some other reasons people fail?

You can read some of my other articles about failure and temptation: Power Failure, What Voice Do You Listen To In Temptation?, 4 Lessons Learned in the Temptation of Jesus, A Lesson on Temptation from a Monkey.

4 Ways To Curb Criticism

“DON’T JUDGE ME!”

We’ve all heard this and probably used this phrase many times. It is not only based on Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-6), it is also a natural reaction when we receive criticism from others.

So what’s wrong with criticism? I discovered four reasons criticism (judging) should be discouraged.

  1. We never know all the facts.
  2. We are unable to read another’s motive.
  3. We are prejudiced people, never completely objective.
  4. We put ourselves in a position we are not qualified to fill, namely, we play God.

Even Jesus had talked about judging others. Here’s what He said:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:1-6)

Jesus gave two reason why we shouldn’t criticize (judge) others.

  1. The attitude we demonstrate will be the one that returns to us (Luke 6:36-38). Criticism is like a boomerang. It finds its way back to us. Those who judge will be judged by the same standards used to judge others.
  2. Judging is hypocritical.

    Judging tends to magnify our virtues and others’ vice. We even sometimes find our own faults in others, and then judge them anyway.

    We are especially guilty when we do not practice what we ourselves teach and preach (James 3:1). We see our criticism as an act of righteousness, not what it really is (James 1:23-24). Jesus teaches that the sin of pride in the critic is much greater than the sin in the person he is criticizing. This is the only time disciples are called hypocrites in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus teaches a healthy balance between judging and discernment.

Some have used this Bible passage to defend unbiblical behavior. It’s as if we are not to discern a person’s wrong behavior. If this is true, Jesus didn’t listen to His own sermon because He criticized others (example – Matthew 23).

Taken to an extreme not judging would mean we don’t help others with personal struggles or moral failures. It is true we are not to judge others in condemnation. But we are not to ignore their faults. We still have a responsibility to our ‘brother’ (Matt. 18:15).

This same paragraph in the Sermon on the Mount that commands us “Judge not”, also tells us to “remove the speck out of our brother’s eye.” Our Christian duty is to take out the log in our own eye so we can see to take out the speck out of another’s. Jesus is not condemning criticism, but criticism without self-criticism. If we confess our sin, we will see everything clearly. Never put your finger on someone else’s faults unless it’s part of a helping hand.

Some are habitually critical of others. I’ve known people that cannot give a compliment, but are able, willing and enthusiastic to criticize anything they don’t agree with in another. If this is you, please curb this habit.

How can I stop the habit of criticism?

  1. Examine yourself before being tempted to inspect others.
  2. Confess your faults before confronting another.
  3. Try to understand the other person’s struggle. We must be tender and gentle.
  4. Remember, the goal is restoration, not probation. We are dealing with family members.

You can also read some of my other articles about criticism: 3 Ways To Handle Criticism, How to Treat Mean People, How to Resolve Conflicts.

You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.

Four Responses to a Life Trial

Legal shows are very popular. One of my favorite was ‘Matlock’. It was a TV series about a criminal defense lawyer (Andy Griffith) who would visit the crime scene, scope out the clues everyone had missed, and dramatically reveal the real criminal (usually a killer) at the end of the show.

I wish Jesus had Matlock as His attorney. But Jesus had no attorney for He was destined to die. After Jesus was arrested, for the next 12 hours he was tried 6 times. You heard that right – 6 times before being crucified the following noon. Mark 14:53-65 records the trial before the high priest, Caiaphas, and the Jewish leaders.

The trial of Jesus was a mockery of the judicial system. Yet, in this trial we discover four characters and four responses to a trial. You may not be going through a legal trial… but I’m sure you are going through some trial of life. My hope is you will react to your trial the way Jesus did….

Reaction #1 – Assume you know more than you really know.

This reaction was made by the Jewish leaders. Jesus was already considered guilty before the trial began. They had already decided that Jesus must die. The wrong assumption resulted in the wrong conclusions and wrong actions.

Assumptions are dangerous things. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, then we react by sending emotional poison with our words. This creates a whole big drama for nothing. Don’t make assumptions about what you or someone else is going through unless you know the whole story.

Reaction #2 – Lie.

Witnesses lied about Jesus. According to Jewish Law, a death sentence could not be given unless at least two witnesses gave testimony against them (Deuteronomy 17:6). So witnesses were heard to testify against Jesus to find two that agreed. Their testimonies were not only inconsistent, they were false. They lied about Jesus.

When faced with a trial, it is easy to try to take the easy way out and lie. We want so bad to get what we want that we resort to dishonesty. People steal, lie, cheat, or other forms of dishonesty to move from stress to relief. However, the true path to freedom from your trials is truth. To honestly face your situation, tell the truth to others and yourself, is a sure way to expedite any trial. Lying only pushes the trial further down the path.

Reaction #3 – Keep your distance.

Peter continued to follow Jesus, but at a distance. He wanted to know what was going to happen to Jesus. I admire his courage in danger. But I think his best decision would have been to stay with the disciples in safety, just like Jesus warned. But he tried to go alone and that got him in trouble. Rather than the safety of friends, he chose the warmth of enemies. And that led to his denial.

When we face trials it is easy to isolate ourself… or at least feel isolated. We keep our distance from family, friends, and even God. Or we feel isolated and think nobody cares what I’m going through. I want to encourage you to allow your trial to move you closer to people and Jesus. Following Jesus is not easy. It can be difficult and costly. But it is always rewarding. Allow your trial to pull you in closer to Him.

Reactions #4 – Know yourself and Jesus.

This is the best reaction… the reaction of Jesus. Throughout the trial, Jesus said nothing. So the high priest puts Jesus under oath. “Are you the Messiah? Are the Son of the Blessed?” For centuries Jews refused to use the personal name of God. Sometimes they used the term ‘LORD’ or ‘Jehovah/Yahweh’. In the interchange with Moses, God revealed this name as ‘I am’ (Exodus 3:14).

So when Jesus answered, ‘I AM’, He could not be plainer. Not only did He audibly pronounce the name, a name that the Jews had not pronounced for centuries, but He declared that He was God.

Jesus knew that to answer the question was to die, and yet he unhesitatingly made it. And even with the cross a certainty, He still continued to speak with complete confidence of His ultimate triumph. Jesus had courage and confidence because He knew who He was.

You can face your trial with courage and confidence just like Jesus. Allow your trial to help you learn more about yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses, your tendencies. Allow your trial to help you learn more about Jesus. He will be near you in your trials. He’s always there. But sometimes in a trial He feels ever close. But sometimes He feels distance. Each trial you face will reinforce your faith and trust in God’s presence.

The trials of Jesus brought death, but resulted in victory (resurrection). My prayer is your trial will kill all those things that are hurting you (sin, selfishness, etc) and result in your complete victory.

You can read some of my similar posts: How to Handle the Storms of Life, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, What To Do When Tragedy Strikes.

 

How To Stop Worry

Worry. We all do it. It’s been said, ‘Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.”

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he speaks about worry in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus said we worry about life (Matt. 6:25) needs (Matt. 6:31) and tomorrow (Matt. 6:34).

Three reasons we should not worry…

1- It is not productive – “Can worry add anything to your life?”
The word “worry” comes from the German word ‘worgen’ and means ‘to strangle.’ The Greek word is a combination of two words meaning ‘to divide’ and ‘the  mind’. Worry causes a divided mind. It is like a dense fog.

2- It is not necessary – “Won’t God do more for you than the flowers and grass?
God is Master. He knows everything. He owns everything (Ps. 24:1). He controls everything (1 Chron. 29:12). He provides everything (Phil. 4:19). God takes care of His own. He feeds the birds and clothes the plants. These are simply His creation but we are His children. He surely will take care of us.

3- It is not worthy – “Isn’t life more than food and aren’t you worth more than birds?”
People have more significance than just a body to maintain. We are more than the fulfillments of our appetites. Our needs are more than physical. We have a deeper need. Everybody has ambitions. We are not like plankton drifting out at sea. We need something to live for, to give meaning to our existence. Some choose ‘material security.’ Others choose God’s kingdom. That is where it’s at.

How to stop worrying…

1. Put first things first. This has to do with priorities. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Seeking God’s Kingdom means Jesus rules your life. This begins by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is also a call to be involved in bringing people into His kingdom.

Seeking God’s Righteousness is a broader concept. Because God is righteous, He desires it in every human community, not just Christian. We are to make His righteousness attractive so others will desire it. Live it and encourage it.

2. Live one day at a time. This has to do with simplicity. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

This warns us about ‘double worry.’ Tomorrow has enough trouble. Don’t contaminate today by corrupting it with tomorrow’s troubles. If we worry, we double what we worry about. If our fear doesn’t materialize, we worried for nothing. If it does, we worried twice instead of once. In both cases it is foolish.

This encourages us to do it today. Do what needs to be done and do it well. In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was worried and bothered. Jesus told her that one thing was needed. Certain things need to be done. Get them done, and concentrate on God and His Kingdom. And never underestimate the importance of one task.

Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God. Worry shows that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspectives and understanding rather than by God’s Word. Some worry is good. We meet deadlines, prepare for an assignment, get medical check-ups. Jesus was warning against destructive worry, especially about material possessions. Jesus is not discouraging forethought but rather nervous anxiety.

Worry cannot change the future. We simply must leave that in God’s hands. If you are not for sure that you have accepted Christ as Savior, you can do that today and leave all your tomorrows in His hands. If you have accepted Christ as Savior, and yet are worrying about your tomorrows, that’s not your job. Leave your troubles in the hands of the Savior. He will take care of them and you.

You can read my other Sermon on the Mount articles: Life Redefined: Sermons from The Sermon on the Mount.