Jesus called the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul and eternal life [in God’s kingdom]?
Two years ago, I had met an older man on the college campus at work at, who had invited me out to church. It was his church’s annual “Bring Your Neighbor” day service and he had invited a bunch us on campus. After attending the church’s service, I decided to connect with some women there to see how I could learn more about Jesus Christ. Three women decided to help me. They drove long distances to meet with me and they sat with me for hours. After studying a while, I wanted to become a disciple of Jesus Christ but when I was faced with the scriptures on sin, I struggled. I struggled especially with Mark 8:34-35. So much so that I quit studying the Bible. Initially, I did not know that I would have given up things in my life to follow Jesus before studying the Bible. At that point, I felt that once again God was trying to snatch my life from me. The very life that I had worked very hard to build back up again…
See, I grew up in one the most dangerous cities in America and so I grew up a fighter. I am a fighter by nature. I would fight my family, myself and I would even fight God. In high school I had everything planned. Being an elected president of my class, being nominated as most likely to succeed from my peers, being a part of my school’s debate team, ignited a great passion for law. My 7-year plan was fully in effect, the day I received my acceptance letter to the only college that I had applied to. I was set to start during the summer but due to a financial issue, my entry was delayed a few months. Super impatient yet highly determined to keep my 7-year plan on track, I found myself in an interview at a random university. Shortly after, I was living on campus and already in great standing with many of my professors. A month later, I was asked to leave the campus. I grew bitter at watching my friends graduate before me. I felt like my life was snatched away from me. I became rebellious and angry. Attacking those who offended and/or attacked me. I would argue with those who argued with me.
As soon as began studying the Bible, I believe that same attitude from my youth came with me. I stopped studying the bible with those three women and decided to take a break. I was finished with God but little did I know God was not finished with me. In the 6 months apart from my God and my studies, God began showing things. I became a foster mother of my two younger cousins and my life started to make sense. The experience of caring for my two beautiful younger cousins, along with much more, shifted my perspective on God. I began to read my bible and to pray. I remember going to one of the women that were in my studies and asking her if she could study the bible with me and she agreed with open arms without hesitation. As I studied for the second, I began to notice this woman’s behavior with me. I would come to her loud, irate and in an aggressive tone, venting of my day. The woman would sit calm and patient right beside me. When I had stopped talking she would show me scripture that would help me with whichever crisis I had at the time. I would get flustered at her response. But I quickly, fell in love with the fact that she did not react the way that I wanted her to. See, what I was looking for was someone to be mad with. In the world (outside of the body of believers), when a member of my family or a friend does not like a person but some unwritten rule, you should not like the person either. That was how I would fight for my family. But my mentor was different. She did fight for me but in a way that was foreign for me. She wrestled in prayer for me. She loved (and still loves) me. She showed me scripture. She showed what Jesus would have done.
When she moved away to another city, I had started searching for scriptures on my own. I started fighting for my relationship with Jesus Christ. Little by little, I began to release my grasp on my old life and things that mattered to me like losing my identity and being called and seen as weak.
I found hope in losing my life. For every friend I lost in the world, I gained more. For the family I lost, in following Christ I gained a family of believers in their place! My life could not have been made new until surrendered my attitude and my life over to Christ Jesus.
My encouragement for you, reading, that there is hope at CROSS. What will you have to give up to receive your blessing?