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The Cross Comes Before the Crown

Daily Office Meditations: 6th Week of Easter – Monday

(23) “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (24) “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. (25) “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
Luke 9:23-25
(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4
(2) “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (3) “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. (5) “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 4

Sometimes it might feel like God is allowing you to experience unbearable tragedy or malevolence. Today’s readings cut to the heart of the Christian message and set’s our faith (and the Jewish faith) apart. We are not called to live “happy” and “carefree” lives. Our salvation is not a cozy one. No, our salvation is death to self. This is not so that we can embrace suffering as the meaning of life, but instead so that we can push through the suffering to resurrection. The pattern of Jesus is all-encompassing. We follow God to death, even death on the cross, for the joy that is set before us.
This is the end of control, the end of striving, the end of our own pride and grandeur. God is found in the intersection of surrender and humility. As our Good Father, God allows us to experience the consequence of sin on earth in the form of tragedy and malevolence, while he uses that same suffering to burn away the very aspects of our lives that keep us from walking in the fullness of the resurrection.
It is written that Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered. That is because obedience is only ever learned through suffering. It is not obedience to eat a fresh baked cinnamon roll on a hungry Christmas morning–even if my dad tells me to eat it. Obedience requires a denial, a submission, it requires suffering. A paraphrase of the James passage above: “Practice makes perfect.”
The Deuteronomy rounds out our understanding of God’s goodness. He sees so much farther than us. He leads Israel through the desert for 40 years and allows the chaff in them to be burned away. The amazing thing of the Old Testament is that (eventually) Israel looks to themselves and says, “We must have done something wrong to cause this suffering and we need forgiveness and restored relationship.” Our tendency is to put the blame outward, but Christ has encouraged us to bear our cross. The hope lies in the promised land. This Deuteronomy passage goes on to the land in which the Israelites will experience not only sustenance but abundance. Their desert journey led them to God’s ridiculously abundant provision.
So then, count it all joy when you fall into various trials… God is in control and is creating in you the ability to claim your promised land, to fulfill your destiny, to experience resurrected life. Be encouraged this week, there is no death (situation, dream, hope, promise) that God cannot resurrect.

(One last note, the secret seems to be in the Deuteronomy passage: Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. What are you trying to live on? Success, family relationships, friendships, money, fame, holiness? Turn to His word, ask Him to speak to you in Scripture, in prayer, in journaling, through others… It is possible that you do not even know you are starving.)

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