How many there are who have declined Christ's gracious invitation because they have not wanted to bear the cross.

Someone may have made his living by dishonest business dealings. He understands that as a Christian he could no longer deceive people, but would have to return his ill?gotten gains. If he did this, people would know what type of a person he had been, his standard of living would decline, he would have to give up many luxuries as well as many friends. For this reason he rejects Christ and the cross. But the fact remains that even though he is successful and respected in the eyes of men, he will one day lose everything and his destiny will be everlasting shame, if he will not repent and believe in Christ.

Others reject Christ because they do not want to bear the cross that results from the opposition of family members. The approval of their family means more to them than Christ. Nevertheless in pursuing this course they actually hate those who are dear to them. By their words and their life they refuse to testify of Him, who is able to save body and soul from everlasting death.

Some forsake Christ because they do not want to take up the cross that results from abiding in God's Word and living according to it. When one becomes convinced of the truth but does not obey it, but rather compromises it, the joy of salvation slowly fades away, the flame of faith begans to flicker and finally dies. His only gain is a bad conscience.

Should we avoid bearing the cross? Most assuredly not. For in so doing we would plunge ourselves and others into destruction. Jesus says: "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:37,38).

Let us make sure that we do not stop following Christ and began following the world. Remember Lot's wife, who turned to take one last look at Sodom and Gommorah, which were already aflame with the fire of judgement. When you follow Christ, do not seek the opinion of your flesh which will be put to death. Do not seek the opinion of the world, for it will be destroyed. Do not seek riches, for this world is reserved for fire. Do not listen to the temptations of the devil, for he has been a murderer from the beginning. Follow Christ alone. He has redeemed you and earned everlasting life for you.

Why then would you want to avoid bearing the cross? The cross of Christ is a cross of blessing. True, "many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Ps. 34:19). Every Christian has his cross, but to everyone Jesus says: "My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matt. 11:30). If your cross seems heavy, the Bible urges you to rejoice: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Pet. 4:12?14).

In all situations we can trust in the Lord, even when we bear the cross. We do not have to fear the cross or the strife. They are only blessings for us. They lead us deeper into God's Word, cause us to pray more ardently and to turn to God for help all the more. But let us fear one thing: "By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer or thief, or evil?doer, or a troublesome meddler" (1 Pet. 4:15).

As Christians we have been called to follow Christ and to carry His cross. Therefore if any of us "suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God" (1 Pet. 4:16).