The Cost Of Taking Up Your Cross – Christianity Is Not A Fairytale
Take off your mask
Have you ever felt like you are walking barefoot on glass? Every step is ripping you to shreds and your life seems to be going in a direction that doesn’t make sense. I am in that place at the moment. Every attack has been personal in nature, deep and painful to endure. Situations, circumstances, people, budgets, responsibilities, doubt, fear and anxiety have been tying me up in a straight jacket, unable to move or walk in peace. Recently I heard a wonderful man of God preach about the power of removing your mask. You see, Us churchy people are so great at wearing masks! You’ll’ve had the worst week of your life, and you walk into church and the mask goes on and the hands go up! On your way out the door you bump into a friend who asks “How are you?” and you lie and say something stupid like “Yeah i’m fine, thanks for asking!” When in reality things aren’t always okay and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s just not okay to dwell in that place.
Christianity is not a Disney movie
I was never a mad Disney person growing up, I liked the movies but I wasn’t as obsessed as most kids. I was much more into eating muck and collecting frogs than I was princesses and perfect endings. From a young age I learnt that life was not a fairy tale and things don’t always work out the way we want them too. I think sometimes we can approach Christianity and our walk with Jesus like a Disney story, when the reality of the Bible is quite the opposite. The danger with the Disney theology is that the goodness of God is dependant on circumstances being just right. You see, our happy ending is not in this world, it’s in the next! Thats not to say that God won’t work things out for good in the land of the living, it means that we need to have a reality check sometimes and not live in a continual fantasy of a picture perfect ending. Walking with Jesus does not mean your life is going to be perfect, quite the opposite actually! Jesus faced opposition every, single, day.
The Cost Of Following Jesus
What God is doing in Manna Cards is absolutely incredible, but it comes with a great cost. A wise man once told me “Danielle, if you want to walk on the highway to holiness, you have to be prepared to pay the toll.” I didn’t fully comprehend the weight of those words until I stepped out of work in January and into full time Manna. Ever since ‘stepping out of the boat’ I have felt a bit like Peter sinking in the water, more aware of the winds and the waves around me than the God that is standing before me.
“So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-32 ESV
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we can all a little bit like Peter at times, because guess what? We aren’t perfect, and that’s okay! In fact, the knowledge of that should be relieving to us, because it releases us from perfection performance and striving. I have noticed a cycle of doubt, fear and anxiety that keeps coming round and round as I lift one foot in front of the other and I can feel myself starting to sink. The absolute certainty that was with me when I started walking on the water seems to waver and weaken the further away I get from the safety of the boat. The funny thing about it is, Jesus hasn’t moved but my perspective and focus has. The very faith that beckoned me to “Come” to Jesus is engaged in a battle with doubt and unbelief.
Walking on the shoreline of the invisible
I want to share a quote with you from a book i’m reading called ‘Benedictus by John O’Donohue’
“Before time began, the invisible world rested in the eternal… Our eyes cannot see this world. Our hearts are usually to encumbered to navigate it, our minds too darkened to decipher it. As the Bible says ‘we see through a glass dimly,’ yet it is exactly on this threshold between the visible and the invisible that our most creative conflicts and challenges come alive. Each new beginning, each new difficulty always finds us on that frontier.”
Walking in faith is not a fairytale. I have learnt more about myself in the past five months than I have in the past five years of knowing Jesus. You see, to grow in faith you have to stand when you are sinking. Faith is lovely in theory, but in practise it stirs up parts of you that you didn’t even know where there in the first place. When a toddler is learning to walk, they look straight ahead at the person encouraging them with open arms. The moment they are aware of their surroundings, they stumble and fall. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that we are to walk by faith, not by sight. Walking in faith is to walk in the invisible, to walk in the assurance of the things that we hope for, the evidence of what is not yet seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Every time I start sinking, is in that threshold of battling the invisible with the visible. I start to look at the wind and the waves and start tormenting myself with things like, “I can’t do this” “God did you really say that?” “Am I going mad?” “Is this all in my head?” “I give up God, I can’t do this anymore.” “Am I even hearing you?”
The walk to calvary – Obedience costs everything.
Jesus knew the cost of obedience. He only did what His Father told Him to do, every word, every minute of His time here was carefully positioned and aligned with purpose and power. That didn’t exempt Him from suffering or becoming overwhelmed with sorrow at what He was asked to do, gethsemane teaches us that. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). I woke up on Sunday in darkness. My heart was sick, it felt like it had gave up hope in everything God had set before me. I cried out, “Lord what am I supposed to do? Nothing makes any sense” and He simply said, “Follow me.”
Have you ever stopped and pondered on that walk to calvary? Have you ever actually pictured Jesus, the darling of creation, getting up after being flogged, mocked, and beaten and carrying a heavy cross full of splinters up a hill to die. I mean, seriously, Isaiah 52:14 writes that “his appearance was so disfigured that he did not look like a man, and his form did not resemble a human being.” Can you actually imagine the pain He was in? They reckon a full cross weighed around 300lbs which is around 21 stone! Can you imagine carrying something that heavy up a hill? Never mind the fact he was beaten beyond recognition and was facing a slow and agonising death.
What was it that stopped Jesus from calling angels down from Heaven and saving Himself? What was it that motivated Him all the way to His final breath?
The answer is simple: Obedience.
Opportunity often disguises itself as a barrier.
To everyone watching that horrendous walk to calvary, all was lost. They seen everything! The miracles, signs and wonders! They marvelled at His teachings, they trembled at His words! Everywhere Jesus went people were healed and set free. Can you imagine how they felt as they watched this nightmare unfold in front of them? Nothing would have made sense! But what they viewed as a barrier, Jesus saw as an opportunity to rectify the imperfections of the world by laying down His life for the sake of mankind so that we could become reconciled to our Father in Heaven.
Pick up your cross and follow me
Have you ever thought about the timing and placement of this scripture?
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:24-26 ESV
Jesus was crucified way after He said this to the disciples. You see, the cross was always in His sight. I’m sure His followers viewed him with the same Disney theology we do today; ‘Jesus is going to fix everything and make it perfect!’ While that is true, it is not in the way we perceive it to be.
The cross was the point at which the invisible, unseen Kingdom of Heaven became the visible door to eternal perfection. The moment the stone rolled away from the tomb, the doors to eternity opened wide for all to come in and the invisible world became tangibly visible.
Where is your dwelling place?
What situation are you facing today? Do you feel like you are carrying a cross of despair and desolation or are you seeing the goal at the end? Are you dwelling in darkness or are you dwelling in hope? How is your perception of the path laid before you? Jesus made is poignantly clear that to follow Him we have to walk a narrow path. There will be many challenges along that path, some will knock you to the ground, but just like Jesus, we must rise with Him in His strength and overcome every single stumble, every single fall. We must get back up again, stop dwelling in the darkness and look for the tiny concealed door of hope in the valley of Achor [meaning valley of darkness, tears, trouble and despair] (Hosea 2:15).
Every so often, I start sinking into the sea of my own humanity. My heart, once infused with hope starts to darken and my flesh starts to fail. My mind, will and emotions all start to spiral into a downward motion of doubt and unbelief instead of realising i’m already walking on the water, anchored in hope! “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) When we are walking out towards Him, we must inspect the fruit growing on our own branches. Are we bearing fruit of deception, pride, doubt, fear, anxiety or worse yet, are we trying to control the outcome of the walk? Last time I checked, human beings don’t naturally walk on water! So what was it that kept Peter afloat?
Fear is the opposite of faith. Wherever fear resides, faith subsides. When we come into agreement with fear, our flesh (mind, will and emotions) goes into overdrive and our heart becomes immobilised. Suddenly our walk becomes about our own abilities and inadequacies instead of responding to the Holy Spirit that is at work within us. We start trying to work everything out and second guess Gods next move and then end up disappointed, let down and hopeless.
I remember pleading with God, “Lord please, I will do anything for you, I will never say no to your will but I can’t do it in this broken body!” It was in this season of absolute desolation, complete darkness, agony and suffering that God birthed Manna Cards. Six months later I was miraculously healed of four incurable diseases and the journey of Manna Cards began. It has not been easy. It has stretched me right to the very brink of what I thought I could bear. My heart has been battered, the battle has been fierce and there have been times I didn’t think I would get back up again. People look at Manna Cards and are in awe of the mountain top experiences, the abundant fruit and success but they don’t see the weight of the cross.
See, the thing about us is we want the promise, we want the mountain tops and we oversee the process and the valleys. We don’t realise that our character must match up to the gift that God wants to give us.
The true treasure
The last five months have taught me that I am nothing without Jesus. I mean, seriously. Im not talking about sitting in church or listening to a podcast about how we all rely on Jesus to get us through the day. I’m talking about faith that is forged in a furnace where your only option is Jesus actually stepping in and doing something because there was no feasible alternative. It is in this furnace that you truly learn the value of how you view Jesus in your life.“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 ESV) I came to the conclusion where I said “Father, I withhold nothing from you, you can have it all, my life is of no value without you. You are my true treasure.” My perspective changed immensely. I started to see that everything in my life, even the breath in my lungs, was a gift from God and suddenly my heart started beating again.
Dwell in hope
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:9-11)
The definition of dwelling place is a place of habitation, it is where you take residence and abide in. So let me ask you one final time, What is your dwelling place? Are you dwelling in darkness? Do you need to be reanchored in hope? Have you lost sight of the invisible in the visible?
Be encouraged dear brothers and sisters, you aren’t on your own.
But do not dwell in that place. Pick up your cross and follow Jesus.
He alone knows the door of hope concealed within the darkness immobilising your heart. Find the true treasure in your darkness, give it all to Him and watch your heart start to beat again.