May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6: 14)
They were people who were living to themselves. Their hopes, promises, and dreams still controlled them, but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for a repentant heart and had surrendered themselves with a willingness to pay any price for it, and He sent them sorrow. They had asked for purity, and He sent them sudden anguish. They had asked for meekness, and He had broken their hearts. They had asked to be dead to the world, and He killed all their living hopes. They had asked to be made like Him, so He placed them in the fire “as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Mal. 3: 3), until they could reflect His image. They had asked to help carry His cross, yet when He held it out to them, it cut and tore their hands.
They had not fully understood what they asked, but He had taken them at their word and granted them all their requests. They had been unsure whether to follow Him such a long distance or whether to come so close to Him. An awe and a fear was upon them, as Jacob at Bethel when he dreamed of “a stairway . . . reaching to heaven” (Gen. 28: 12), or Eliphaz “amid disquieting dreams in the night” (Job 4: 13), or as the disciples when “they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost” (Luke 24: 37), not realizing it was Jesus. The disciples were so filled with awe, they felt like asking Him either to depart from them or to hide His glory.
They found it easier to obey than to suffer, to work than to give up, and to carry the cross than to hang upon it. But now they could not turn back, for they had come too close to the unseen cross of the spiritual life, and its virtues had pierced them too deeply. And the Lord was fulfilling this promise of His to them: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12: 32).
Now at last their opportunity had come. Earlier they had only heard of the mystery, but now they felt it. He had fastened His eyes of love on them, as He had on Mary and Peter, so they could only choose to follow Him. And little by little, from time to time, with quick glimmers of light, the mystery of His cross shone upon them. They saw Him “lifted up from the earth,” and gazed on the glory that radiated from the wounds of His holy suffering. As they looked upon Him, they approached Him and were changed into His likeness. His name then shone out through them, for He lived within them. Their life from that moment on was one of inexpressible fellowship solely with Him above. They were willing to live without possessions that others owned and that they could have had, in order to be unlike others so they would be more like Him.
This is the description of all those throughout the ages who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev. 14: 4). If they had chosen selfishly for themselves or if their friends had chosen for them, they would have made other choices. Their lives would have shone more brightly here on earth but less gloriously in His kingdom. Their legacy would have been that of Lot instead of Abraham. And if they had stopped along the way or if God had removed His hand from them, allowing them to stray, what would they have lost? What would they have forfeited at their resurrection?
Yet God strengthened them and protected them, even from themselves. Often, in His mercy He held them up when they otherwise would have slipped and fallen. And even in this life, they knew that all He did was done well. They knew it was good to suffer in this life so they would reign in the one to come; to bear the cross below, to wear a crown above; and to know that not their will but His was done in them and through them.
Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 393). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.