The truth is we were never promised a reward in proportion to or in relation to any difficulty or challenges that we face in our lives. We were never told that the road would be easy. Here is a small sample of the truth to what we already know, and for those who don't yet know, will learn today.
Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Self, independent of God, must be denied and slain. That includes my will and everything that I am. I must first loose my life in order to gain it back. We must never be self-contained nor are we to be self-centered. What? Loose my life to gain it? Is that really possible? The answer you will soon find out.
If I cling to my life - if I hold on to my old ways, my old way of thinking, my old attitude, I will not live but I will still die a spiritual death which is the punishment for my sin of refusing to let go of those things that are not good in exchange for something far better and different. I will find a new life if I lay it down for the sake of following Christ.
Here's the real test as it came for me about two weeks ago. I was having such a hard time trying to make a decision about a friend. I struggled for hours within myself, and I mean struggled. After a while in that state of denial, (not self denial, but in denial of the truth) I asked a simple question of my facebook friends and subscribers. The question asked was this: "Is it just enough to say, "I love you" and no actions to prove those words you've said to be truth?" Well here is a sampling of some of the answers that I received:
[["No its not enough - Love - is an action word. I would much rather feel it than hear it."]]
[["Just like FAITH is deed without works LOVE is empty without action....God is loved ! the world He GAVE ( operative WORD) His only begotten SON now that ACTION...amen"]]
[["FLAT OUT...NO IT IS NOT!!!"]]
[["Lip service anyone can give however moving on it means it is from the heart."]]
[["Absolutely NOT!..love is an ACTION word...(verb)"]]
[["Love must be shown"]]
[["It has to have actions"]]
[["1 Cor 13 gives us a blueprint of what love should look like from a friend, love one or spouse but we have gotten trapped in words. I have learnt to simply start crossing the street if there is no action to back up the words. This has become my general rule with people. Love does not hurt you, it is not rude, it is not self seeking, it does not bring you shame, or carry evil or contempt for you. It is open, it embraces and it perseveres."]]
Certainly while I am in agreement to this day about all these answers, upon doing further introspection the questions I now ask myself as I am documenting this column:
Does God just abandon us, "drop us like it's hot" as His children or His friends and stop loving us even if we do not reciprocate and demonstrate love in return by our actions through worship, prayer, praise?
Was I really being fair to the other individual for that just one time when I did not get it going my way? What about the many other times that my friend demonstrated love by simple actions such as calling me to find out how I was doing when I did not even call to find out how my friend was doing? Did I stop to think about what my friend may have been going through at that moment?
The scale was certainly tipping in the balance on that day but to say the least, further self-examination showed me in my asking the question of my facebook friends, that I was acting more selfish, self seeking, self-centered and self-contained on that day because love also means not the person dying but me dying in their place and getting rid of my old ways, my old way of thinking, my old attitude so that I could find my life again filled with joy, peace and hope for brighter and better days..
Self-gratification or instant gratification are not in line with God's divnine nature. Further, we hold back the hands of God, hold back our blessings, as well as the blessings of others when we act in disobedience and are not willing to deny self. We must be willing always to carry our cross, and even help someone else carry their own, no matter how heavy it may be and be ready to die to self. The problem is not always with the other person, but with ourselves. The Spirit of God moved within me, He took out the heart of stone and has given me a heart of flesh that is brand new and therefore, the reward of joy is far greater today that the pain of the cross that I felt on that September day.
It is truth therefore no cross, no crown, no crown, no cross because they both go hand in hand!!