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Embracing the Cross

Anne Murchison

And whosoever doth not bear his cross,
and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

(Luke 14:27 KJV)

Garland (c) 1998 AngelicArtistry Cross (c) New Creation Web Design

When you are on the top
of the truth of propitiation
[the cross],
you can see the entire Bible
in perspective.

J. I. Packer

There seems to be a squeamishness, almost an aversion, today in much of the church regarding the cross. The crucifixion took place almost 2,000 years ago, and that's where it seems to belong in the minds of many Christians.

Many of us no longer value the cross except for what it did FOR us, past tense. We are grateful Jesus died for our sins but we don't want to die to ourselves. The cross, however, is essential everyday for what it does IN us. We cannot avoid it even when we want to.

Yes, we celebrate correctly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Had he not risen from the dead he would have been no different from many men who claimed to be God. His resurrection, however, in no way takes away from the glory of the cross.

Charles Spurgeon wrote of the cross, "What did the apostle Paul glory in above all else in his life and ministry? It wasn't the incarnation of Christ, though he rejoiced in it deeply. Nor was it the parables and teachings of Christ, though he obeyed His teachings implicitly. He didn't glory in the miracles of Christ, though he experienced miracles in his ministry. It wasn't the resurrection of Christ, though he believed in it fervently. Nor was it in the second coming of Christ, though he looked forward to it eagerly Above all, this man who was the greatest missionary and preacher of Jesus Christ who ever lived, gloried in the work of Christ on the Cross. The Cross of was his highest vision, his motivating passion, the supreme glory in his life."

Paul was adamant about the cross. He wrote in I Corinthians 2:2,

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified".

Not resurrected. Crucified.

Paul affirmed his position again in his letter to the Galatians, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).

For I determined not to know
any thing among you,
save Jesus Christ,
and him crucified.

(1 Corinthians 2:2)

Why do I believe many Christians do not think of the cross in terms of personal application? Because I've seen and heard many of them over the years express such ideas, in their words, and in the way they live their lives. For example, one evening a friend joined me for dinner before my Bible class. She asked me what I was going to teach. When I told her I was going to teach on the cross, her response sent shivers down my spine. "I'm sick of the cross! I want to get on with living!" she said.

The hue and cry of many in the church today is for the power of God. Yet Paul said the power of God is in the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is the power source of the gospel "unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16). Jesus's death on the cross unleashed the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, giving believers the power to be witnesses for the Lord (Acts 1:8). This verse does not say the Holy Spirit gives us power to witness. It says it gives us power to BE witnesses—to manifest the resurrected life of Jesus in us.

The word "witness" actually means "martyr" in the Greek. The cross brings death to self. And the Holy Spirit gives us the power to die to self! Paul wrote a powerful testimony to this truth in 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you".

The same power of the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon Christians from that day to this to the measure that we allow the cross to crucify us.

Always bearing about in the body
the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus
might be manifest in our body.

(2 Corinthians 4:10)

So much focus is placed on the resurrection in the contemporary church. For the man God ordained to pen most of the New Testament, the crucifixion took precedence. God hasn't changed. We have.

A passion for the cross burns within me. Sin is crucified there. Self is laid to rest there. The law is blotted out and nailed there. Satan is defeated there. Peace is there. Forgiveness for sin is there. Reconciliation is there. Resurrection is there. Grace and glory are there.

Tribulation and The Cross

Jesus said we would have tribulation in this life.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16: 33).

Jesus also said the narrow way was the only path to life. The word "narrow" in the Greek also means "affliction, pressure and suffering tribulation". Throughout the Bible words like "strait" and "narrow" were used to express affliction, oppression, sorrow, and trouble.

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew  7:13-14).

It's no wonder that few find the narrow way and the strait gate. None of us wants suffering. The truth is that we suffer whether we want to or not. Most of us are confused by it. It is only made worse when we deny it and resist it. When we surrender to God in the midst of our trials, He will squeeze us through the narrow way. In the process, we will leave the old man behind and find ourselves brand new on the other side. Death to self will work in us so that the life of Jesus may work in others (2 Corinthians 4:12). Then we will truly be His witnesses.

Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except a corn of wheat
fall into the ground and die,
it abideth alone: but if it die,
it bringeth forth much fruit.

(John 12:24)

It is "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Going through tribulation to its finale is overcoming. And "He that endureth (stays under or through suffering) to the end shall be saved (healed, delivered, made whole)" (Matthew 10:22).

There are seasons we think of as "negative" and seasons we think of as "positive" in the Christian walk. The seasons we call "negative" are a necessary part of the process for our growth.
I place the words negative in quotes, because there really is nothing negative about God's ways. It is in part our own lack of understanding that causes us to perceive them to be good or bad times. They may be difficult or tragic, but they are not bad.

I've had my share of both and know full well the deep pain and sorrow of heartache, disappointments and broken dreams. I thank God for both. They are in truth both times of great blessing.

Spring and Summer are seasons of birthing, planting, healing, building, laughter, dancing, gathering stones together, embracing, getting, keeping, sewing, speaking, loving and peace. It is warm and sunny in the spring and summer. These are resurrection times. Everyone loves these times (Ecclesiastes 3:2-9).

It is cold, dark and rainy in late Fall and Winter. Even so, the stark leafless trees have a beauty all their own. These are my favorite times of the year.

There are things I can only
learn about myself
in the dark seasons of my life.

I live far from any city. I drive the narrow, winding roads of my area almost every day. I discover things in Fall and Winter that I would not otherwise see. Through the naked trunks and branches I see quaint homes and stately homes and great old barns nestled comfortably into gently sloping sequestered knolls.

Vacant, ramshackle skeletons of what used to be the homes of families long forgotten are clearly visible to my inquisitive eye. The shattered windows, the fallen shutters, the rotted porches with their decaying steps are but mere specters of a better day. They are now the haunts of varmints. Rusty, broken down cars, tractors and refrigerators that haven't run for years lay scattered about the yards in disarray. I can only see these things in Fall and Winter.

The short cold days and long dark nights of these seasons in our lives help us see things in ourselves we never knew were there. We see things we don't like about ourselves. We also see things lovely about ourselves (surprise!). More importantly we learn things about the Lord we can learn no other way. Our old formulas don't work at these times. As we squint into the darkness of despair, we behold the ever waxing light of His countenance and we are transformed into His image from glory to glory by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

God loves us just the way we are.
And He loves us too much
to leave us that way.

These are times of dying, plucking up what is planted, killing, breaking down, weeping, mourning, casting away stones, refraining from embracing, losing, casting away, rending, keeping silent, hating and war (Ecclesiastes 3:2-9). These are the times of the cross. These times are not easy for any of us. If we allow the Lord to prune and break us, they are, however, very fruitful times.

The Way of the Cross—
The Process of Grace at Work in Sanctification

There is no grace for anyone without the cross of Jesus Christ. Without taking up our cross everyday we are doomed to live by the letter of the law, which also brings death. This death turns us into robots. Cookie-cutter Christians. What could be worse? Pharisees.

There is no claim in Scripture that grace and mercy always feel good. In God's grace He is committed to our well being. He came to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, the recovering of sight to the blind and to set those who are bruised free (Luke 4:18).

Yeah! Jesus came to set us free from suffering, not cause more of it. Right? Then why would God require us to take up our crosses? Why do we have to suffer to be healed? I have to say according to my natural understanding, I don't know. I can only understand and explain it from a biblical, thus eternal perspective. Jesus said in each of the gospels that we must lose our lives to gain His life.

Every branch in Me
that does not bear fruit,
He takes away;
and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes [purges] it,
that it may bear more fruit.

(John 15:2)

There are many examples in scripture and in nature as well that illustrate this truth. Jesus Himself said that the vine must be pruned (John 15). The unfruitful branches must be cut away. Even the fruitful branches must be pruned so they will bear more fruit
in the coming years.

For a few years I lived near the wine country in Northern California. I've seen the full, leafy green vines weighted down with luscious ripe, juicy grapes at harvest time. I've also seen the vineyards after the grapes have been gathered. The vines are nothing but bare twisted stalks stretched out over row after row, acre after acre of wire. To those who understand the words of Jesus, it is a breathtaking sight. Each plant actually resembles a withered cross.

Hebrews 12:6 tells us God chastens and scourges every son He loves, whether we think we need it or not.

The word "scourge" means to flog . It is from a root word that indicates physical contact. Though scourging is not literal as used here, the consequences of sin can actually be physical. For example, if I commit a crime, I may go to prison. However, far more often scourging takes place in hidden recesses of our hearts.

"The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly" (Proverbs 20:30 ).

There is a chastening for sins of attitude and demeanor as well. We are usually blind to these sins. Pride, vain imaginations, deception and lying, especially to ourselves, are but a few of these sins.

Most of us experience scourging regularly. It comes through disappointing or difficult circumstances. It also comes through our interactions with others in the conflicts of daily living. God desires to use these times of chastening and testing as a blessing, if we will allow Him.

"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law; That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked" (Psalm 94:12-13).

Blessed is the man whom
Thou dost chasten, O Lord.

(Psalm 94:12 NAS)

Judgment, suffering and chastening never seem like grace when we are in the middle of them. However these painful times are the fertile environment of God's transforming grace.

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11).

Many of us Suffer for Righteousness

Many Christians are not suffering because of sin but because of righteousness. Suffering for righteousness is not only suffering persecution for our faith. Doing the right thing when we desper- ately do not want to will also cause us to suffer for righteousness. When an addict is in dire need of a fix and tells himself "no", he suffers greatly. Suffering without bitterness for the sins of others is also righteous suffering.

There are also a few mysterious verses about righteous suffering. They were probably no mystery at all to those who were inspired to write them. They are certainly lost to most of us living in the twenty-first century.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Colossians 1:24).

If we cut out of the Bible
the things we don't accept
as God's Word for today,
most of us would have
a holey Bible instead of
a holy Bible.

"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:13).

I don't believe Paul and Peter are speaking merely of persecution. I believe they are also addressing the principle of death to our flesh, our personal strengths, will power, achievements, talents and abilities. Paul called these things dung—rubbish "in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:8-9). Until death works in us, life cannot (2 Corinthians 4:11-12).

Our culture is accustomed to "instant" everything. Technology has removed the "labor" factor (as in childbirth) from much of our everyday living. We have instant food which requires little prep-
aration on our part. Microwave ovens cook it rapidly. Many of us have computers, fax machines and telephones in our homes and automobiles to communicate half way around the world in a moment. This "instant" mind set has greatly affected the church. We want the promises of God "Right now!" We want the character of Christ without the fires of transformation.

Whether it's for righteousness, judgment, chastening, reaping
what we sow, the consequences of rebellion, heartaches, disappointments, broken dreams or plain stupidity, the cross
works in us through them all. When we embrace it in faith and prayer for God's intervention and help we are made more like Jesus.

There is much confusion in the Body of Christ regarding Scriptures on suffering.  They are for the most part ignored. They are certainly considered negative and undesirable. Instead, suffering is blamed on the devil or sin. These viewpoints are only true in part. If we ignore the truths about suffering we are ignoring an important part of the truth of God. We are ignoring the truth of the cross . . . Jesus' cross . . . our cross.

We tend to select truth
like we select
fruit and vegetables
at the super market.
Then we build a religion
around our choices.

Cross Scriptures

The Scriptures on suffering I call Cross Scriptures. They are as important as the Scriptures on victory, maybe more. Without the cross, there would be no real victory. We need to embrace both, otherwise we will be walking in only half of the truth.

God's Word says He hates a false balance (Proverbs 11:1). As Christians, we tend to select truth like we select fruit and vegetables at the super market. Then we build a religion around our choices. It becomes law that binds rather than truth that sets us free. If many of us cut out of the Bible the things we don't accept as God's Word for us today, we would have a holey Bible instead of holy Bible. The truth is that too many of us have chosen a holey Bible. The key to true overcoming is to see suffering as positively as we see victory for without the one we cannot have the authentic other.

God's Word is a Just Balance

Legalism creates an either/or, all or nothing mentality. In the case of suffering, it presses many of us to believe if we suffer we cannot prosper or that prosperity precludes any suffering. It is not either/ or. It is both.

In God's realm, truth is continually unfolding, ultimately bringing everything into balance.

"But would that God might speak, And open His lips against you, And show you the secrets of wisdom! For sound wisdom has two sides . . . " (Job 11:5-6 NAS).

"It is good that you grasp one thing, and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them" (Ecclesiaastes 7:18 NAS).

Sound wisdom
has two sides.

(Job 11:6)

The Two-Edged Sword

The word of God is a two-edged sword. A few examples of this two-edged sword, the two sides of wisdom, are seen in the following scriptures.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

         A time to be born, and
              a time to die;

          A time to plant, and
              a time to pluck up
              that which is planted;

        A time to kill, and
              a time to heal;

          A time to break down, and
             a time to build up;

          A time to weep, and
             a time to laugh;

          A time to mourn, and
             a time to dance;

          A time to cast away stones, and
             a time to gather stones together;

          A time to embrace, and
             a time to refrain from embracing;

          A time to get, and
             a time to lose;

          A time to keep, and
             a time to cast away;

          A time to rend, and
             a time to sew;

          A time to keep silence, and
             a time to speak;

          A time to love, and
             a time to hate;

          A time of war, and
             a time of peace"
                                       (Ecc. 3:1-8).

God appointed Jeremiah to " . . . root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant" (Jeremiah 1:10).

" . . . whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).

"So the last shall be first, and the first last  . . . " (Matthew 20:16).

" . . . he that is least among you all, the same shall be great" (Luke 9:46).

" . . . he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in the world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise"
(1 Corinthians 3:18).

"For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

When I am weak,
then am I strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:10)

" . . . when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him . . . " (2 Timothy 2:12).

"And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the Lord, and He will respond to them and will heal them" (Isaiah 19:22).

The two sides of wisdom can also be found in the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible. Let's look at a few.

As Rachel died giving birth to her second son, she named him Benoni. Benoni means Son of my Sorrow. Jacob, who sorrowed greatly over the death of his most beloved wife, later named this same son Benjamin. Benjamin means The Son of the Right Hand. The right hand is the place of stability (Psalm 16:8); pleasures (Psalm 16:11); deliverance (Psalm 17:7); support (Psalm 18:35); righteousness (Psalm 48:10); overcoming (Psalm 98:1); and exaltation (Psalm 118:16). After His resurrection, Jesus sat at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3). What can be learned from this? Promotion to the Right Hand of the Father is birthed out of death (to self) and sorrow.

The principles in the previous references can also be seen in many other Hebrew and Greek word studies. Grief and glory are definitions for the same Hebrew word. Likewise, to bemoan and confess also mean to give thanks and praise. Praise is a result of bemoaning and confessing our sins. Virtue, power and wealth are from the same root word, meaning to writhe in the pain of childbirth, to grieve, sorrow and travail. Again we see the same principle at work. Virtue, power and wealth are birthed out of grief, sorrow and travail. The root word also means hope, rest, trust and to wait patiently.

To inherit or possess also means (to be) consumed and destroyed. Do I need to clarify? When we are consumed and destroyed we inherit and possess.

Forgiveness, mercy, atonement, purging and cleansing are all definitions for the same word.

To be prepared is from a root that means to consume, fail, waste and complete. To be merciful is in the same word as to put to shame. Sin and trespass are in the same word as repent, cleanse, purge, purify and make reconciliation. Each of God's paradoxes are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have one side without the other. This principle is evident in His Word and in His words.

There was no lack
of understanding
of suffering
in the early church.

There was no lack of understanding of suffering in the early church. They suffered persecution for their faith. They embraced the purifying fires of a holy God. They clung to the cross, allowing it to work patience in them. They understood patience would have its perfect result, making them whole, with no weak spots, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4). They knew the cross brought death before it brought resurrection. Today, we want the result without the process.

Joseph—An Old Testament Example of Dying to the Self

Joseph suffered at the hands of his brothers, Potiphar and his wife and in the forgotten years in prison. Psalm 105:18, says, "They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons". The margin of my New American Standard Bible says of this verse, "His soul came into irons". The Amplified Bible actually reads, "His soul entered into the iron".

It was an excruciatingly painful time for the man who would one day rule Egypt.

Psalm 105:19 says, "Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tried him" (NAS). This scripture says the promise tested him until it was fulfilled! Ouch! We don't want that! We don't want our souls to enter into the iron. Like spoiled two-year olds, we stomp our foot and demand our promise! Now! Or we pout and believe God doesn't love us. Yet Joseph trusted the faithful- ness of God to His word. He grew to understand the transforming power of God's grace spoken of in Romans 8:28-29.

If anyone wishes
to come after Me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross
and follow me.

(Matthew 16:24)

Over twenty years after the dreams of his family bowing at his feet, the Lord completed the vision given to Joseph when his brothers bowed at his feet (Genesis 42:7). God also unfolded a far grander fulfillment of His promise than Joseph had ever "dreamed". God used Joseph to consummate the promise made over 400 years earlier to Abraham to bring Israel out of Egypt (Genesis 15:18-21, Galatians 3:7). Before God could do that He had to bring them INTO Egypt. He used Joseph's trials to accomplish that. He also used Joseph to keep the remnant of Israel alive through the famine (Genesis 45:7). But until it came to pass, the promise tested him severely.

The pathway to this moment of fulfilment was the narrow way, the path of suffering. Yet Joseph completely understood. These are the words he spoke to his brothers after years of betrayal, separation and tribulation.

"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life . . . And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt" (Genesis 45:5,7-8).

It's a good thing Joseph was able to press beyond his desire for instant gratification. His life encourages me to press on toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Will the Lord find this kind of faith in you and me?

And what about Romans 8:28? Isn't that in the New Testament? Well, Joseph did not quote it verbatim, but he understood the principle.

"And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive" (Genesis 50:20).

The remainder of this article is about understanding suffering and allowing it to accomplish what it's designed to accomplish . . . brokenness. The Biblical provisions may be surprising to some. They will be supportive and confirming to others. They will bring freedom to all who embrace them.

A Final Word about Suffering

Many Christians in the free world consider the cross history. Or they view it as something to get beyond. Others of us speak of the cross in reverent tones. We regard the suffering of the cross of Jesus with awe and gratitude. When it comes to our own suffering we do it with stoicism, secrecy or outright denial. Yet many of us wallow in hopeless misery. This is not the suffering of the cross. It is the suffering of the flesh. Those of us who suffer for the cross are at the same time pouring out our hearts before the Father as Jesus did with loud crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7), applying our faith to His promises and believing He is using our trials to heal, deliver, transform and deliver us.

Because of the shame and secrecy
surrounding suffering,
most of us think we are the only one with a problem.

Almost all of us feel shame when we suffer, because we view
it as punishment for doing something wrong. Or we believe it is unnatural. Because of the shame and secrecy surrounding suffering, most of us think we are the "only one with a problem".

Many of us do not understand that suffering is the cross at work in our lives.

Whether we view the cross as history or not, whether we resent
it or not, whether we resist it or not, whether we hide from it or not, it is ever present in our lives. Once we embrace His cross, we embrace ours. If we are the children of God, we will not escape the cross, we can only delay its marvelous results. Without the cross there would be no personal resurrection in this life and He desires this for His children. He does not give up on His purposes for His church.

Whether we view
the cross as history or not,
Whether we resent it or not,
Whether we resist it or not,
Whether we hide from it or not,
it is ever present in our lives.
Many do not understand
that suffering IS
the cross at work.
Once we embrace His cross,
We embrace ours.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

"[I assure you] by the pride which I have in you in (your fellowship and union with) Christ Jesus our Lord, that I die daily—that is, that I face death every day and die to self" (1 Corinthians 15:31 AMP).

Though Paul wrote that he was crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), he understood he also needed to die daily as long as he lived in his flesh and blood body. Just as we die a little at a time, we also have resurrection a little at a time. We don't have to wait unto we're dead! This is good news not bad news!

When we read in the scriptures that Jesus was tried/tempted, we have little indication of the suffering He endured in the midst of those trials. Hebrews 2:18 tells us that he suffered just as you and I do through every trial.

"For in that he himself hath suffered (experienced pain) being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted/tried by the devil. When that trial was over, Matthew wrote that angels came to minister to Him (Matthew 4:11) Jesus suffered so intensely through that trial that He needed angels to minister to Him! Jesus was no stoic.

"In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety"
(Hebrews 5:8)

Jesus seemed to have at least two ways to handle His own temptations/trials. One, He spoke the word of God to the devil and the Pharisees, and, two, ". . . in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:8).

Most of us don't know how to let suffering bring brokenness. Brokenness is the path of grace. It is saying, "I cannot do it Lord. You are going to have to do it for me". Brokenness actually begins when we break into loud crying and tears and prayer to the one who is able to save us. We have the same two responses available to us that Jesus did.

We also need to reach out for help from those who have a compassionate, listening ear and a committed prayer life. The problem with many of us is our propensity to jump in and tell those who hurt how to straighten out their lives. Most of the time a listening ear, loving friendship and a praying heart are all that is needed.

I don't know where I would be today without these kinds of friends in my life—women who listen to me when I hurt, who love me when I am unlovely and pray for me regularly.

We are one body. Paul wrote when one hurts we all hurt (1 Corin- thians 12:26). We are to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Remain devoted to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10). Stand in prayer with those in need.

Jesus said to His disciples, that's you and me, " . . . If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). He also said, "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). AND He said, "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38).

And He that taketh not his cross,
and followeth after me,
is not worthy of me.

(Matthew 10:38)

These are heavy-duty admonitions from Jesus. Paul adds in Ephesians 5:1-2, that we should "be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (NAS).

Let's take up our crosses and follow Him. Let's give ourselves up for others, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

How do I pray for God's will in my life?

To God:

Dear Jesus, Your Word says we are to submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee from us. Lord, I fully submit my will to you. I surrender to whatever you choose for my life. I want only your perfect will. I trust in your promise to your faithful servant, Paul. Your grace is sufficient for any circumstance I find myself in. Your power is perfected in weakness. Therefore I boast as Paul did in my weakness that your power may dwell in me. I will be well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties for Your sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. That I may know you, the power of your resurrection, the fellowship of your sufferings, being conformed to your death, that I may attain to the exanastasis (the Greek word for your resurrection from death in this life as well as in the world to come). In Your Name I pray, Jesus.

To Satan:

In the all powerful Name of Jesus, and in obedience to the Word of God, Satan, I stand against you. God has my complete cooperation with anything He desires to do in my life, and, Satan, that includes anything He gives you permission to do. But that's where I draw the line. I hold the Name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, the power of the Holy Ghost and the Word of God against you. You can do nothing God doesn't give you permission to do. And whatever you do, Satan, God will use it for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose. You are a defeated foe. I tread you under my feet as the dust of the earth. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


It is no accident that as I am just finishing this pamphlet on suffering, that I turned on the radio this morning to a
station I rarely listen to. It was 7:00 a.m. I was barely awake.

James Dobson was reading an article from his recent newsletter on the deeply suffering, brutally persecuted Christians around the world. According to a column by Michael Horowitz, a Jew involved in ferreting out religious persecution worldwide, more Christians have been brutally tortured and slaughtered for their faith in this century than in all prior centuries put together. And the free world remains virtually ignorant or silent over this deeply disturbing revelation. It boggles my mind that Jews are more concerned
about the holocaust of Christians than we are.

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world. It has the power to put great pressure on the nations where these brutalities are taking place. Yet nothing is being done in behalf of our brothers and sisters in these desperate circumstances. It makes me ashamed of myself for bemoaning my own sorrows.

Part of our problem is we know little about these persecutions. Another problem is we don't know what to do and how to do it. We all have prayer in our arsenal. We must cry out to God in behalf of those who are suffering these tortures. Pray for divine intervention in their behalf. Pray for the apathy of the church to be broken wide open. Pray for our hearts to be pierced for those who are dying for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can also put pressure on our President and Congressmen to take action against the nations that allow and perpetrate these atrocities. The withholding of "Most Favored Nation" status would be a powerful hammer. We also need to pray for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to come upon their hearts as well as ours for our apathy in this regard.

The Lord has certainly convicted me to include in this article the suffering of our fellow Christians. I am also convicted to pray fervently in their behalf and to do whatever else the Lord shows me to do.

There is no suffering greater than suffering with no one to care. This is what is happening to them. What if it were you?

To obtain a copy of James Dobson's article on the international persecution of Christians or for a copy of his broadcast, call:
Focus on the Family at (719) 531-3400 or (800) 232-6459.

Embracing the Cross  (c)  by Anne Murchison 1997

Not for commercial use.
Please feel free to copy for for personal use.
Please credit the author.

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