Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23
Taking up one's cross can be tough duty. What does it mean for you to "take up" your cross daily? How does a person pursue this "work"?
The work we have been given to do is greater than the job at which we work. We must honor God with our labor in the marketplace; but we must also seek to bring glory to Him in the stewardship we exercise over His good and perfect gifts and the work we do seeking to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. The biggest struggle that we are going to encounter in seeking to pursue our work across all its many and varied fronts is the temptation to want to live for ourselves rather than for others. Remember, Jesus glorified God with the work He accomplished, and that work was, above all else, a work of serving others. In taking up the work assigned to Him by the Father, Jesus denied Himself, became a servant to all, and in that role obeyed whatever God gave Him to do, even to the point of death. And Jesus said that, as the Father had sent Him into the world, so He was sending us. We have been sent to serve others, to set our own selfish interests aside and to work day by day at discovering and meeting the needs of others.
READ: John 13:1-15 (p.1066).
How did Jesus model the work of a servant in his actions here?
In what ways do these apply to your work of cross-bearing?
READ: Philippians 2:3-4 (p. 1162).
How does this passage description compare to the attitude of many in the world today?
What are the essential attitudes of a Christ-like attitude? (see also vss. 5-11)
We might think, if I am devoting myself all the time to looking out for others' needs, who is going to be looking out for mine? The Lord, of course, because He knows what you need even before you ask Him, and He has ways of meeting your needs that are more wonderful than you in your cleverness or strength could ever provide. We are to be like Jesus, in that upper room with His disciples, willing to take up the work that no one else seems willing to do if it will meet the needs of those around us. This is the work of the cross – the work of dying to self, laying down your life for others, paying attention to their needs, and doing what you can to help.
What does it mean to "die to self"? Why do people find this so hard to do? What does it mean to die to yourself daily?
The work of the servant begins with being a good listener, paying attention to the words, feelings, body language, and obvious needs of others. It means learning how to use our tongues to build others up in affirming ways. The work of the cross means looking for little ways to aid, encourage, and edify others, and it means being consistent at all times by such means. The work of the cross requires ongoing preparation, conversation, and willingness to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the people we meet each day.
The work we do on our jobs, together with our work of stewardship and spiritual formation, will issue in the kind of serving, caring, nurturing outreach to others that puts them first, exhibits our faith and hope in the Lord, and brings glory to Him in the everyday details of our lives. Following Jesus means taking up the work of the cross. This is where we will find an abundant life in Him.
READ: Matthew 16:24-25 (p. 973).
DISCUSS: What do you think it means to "find your life by losing it"?
What are some of the things that keep us from "taking up our cross" day by day, in each situation of our lives? Is it possible to anticipate these obstacles? How would that help us to overcome them?
How do you think the people in your life will respond to you as you become more consistent in listening, paying attention, edifying, helping, and otherwise serving them as part of the work we have been given to do? In what ways might this give us more opportunities to glorify God and boast about Him?
We've discussed a number of facets of work we have been given to do (i.e. our job; the care of our bodies, our family, our possessions; the stewardship of our time, money, talents; our sanctification). How would you diagram these—express as a drawing the relationship between the various facets of your "work"? Try your hand at a diagram in the space below, and then be prepared to explain it to others.
This lesson is adapted from a ViewPoint Study prepared by T.M.Moore, "Work Matters: The Work We've Been Given to Do", The Wilberforce Press, 2009.