This is the refrain that answers me when I’m weary and standing in the kitchen again to prepare another meal. Or getting up earlier than my weary body feels it can. Or staring another stack of paperwork in the eye and telling it, “I will conquer you, today!” I love my husband, yes, and I desire to serve him well. But, when the daily grind seems impossible, this refrain reorients my thinking and rebukes my grumbling heart: “Out of love for Jesus . . .” Pressing into a long, hard road requires a love that is greater than earthly love.
It is love for Christ that provides the grace to plunge into the hard things.
When Jesus invited His disciples to follow Him, that invitation included a personal cross and a choice. Basically, He was challenging them to consider what they loved most when He told them:
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).
We find this “cross” invitation linked to the choice to follow Jesus four more times in Scripture (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27). The context of this invitation is love. What do we love most? Jesus puts “following Him” and “cross bearing” in the same conversation with choosing to embrace hard things; choosing the grand and eternal plan, rather than the small and selfish.
Jesus wants to pry our fingers from clutching our small agenda and our selfish plans—to see beyond and respond in love to the hard task ahead.
He challenges us to consider what we love most.
Peter pressed hard against the plan for the cross that Jesus kept before them:
[box]From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
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. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matt. 16:21–26)[/box]
This is the challenge: “What do you love most?” Your life, the way you want things to go, your plans, your riches, your comfort, yourself?
What do you love most?
I’ve found it much easier to face a dirty kitchen that must be cleaned (again), or a day of care-giving, or another necessary long phone call (that includes being put on hold for forty-five minutes), or surrender of a good desire for the higher call of duty . . . when I challenge myself with the question:
What do you love most?
It is out of love for Christ that we can lay down our own agendas (even though they may be good) and embrace the hard requirements of another day of _______________________. (You fill in the blank.) Because this is what, in His sovereign will, He has given to us for this day. This assignment came from Him—so we fulfill the duties of this day out of love for Him. It’s as simple as that.
Are you a mom of a houseful of little ones? That is major care-giving right there and requires a constant flow of hard work and sacrificial service. Yes, you love those precious grimy fingers and faces—but to keep pressing in to the hard task, it requires more than love for those little ones, it requires the motivation of doing the hard work of mothering because of your love for Christ.
No matter what you face today, hungry mouths, an impatient employer, a demanding schedule . . . whatever you are doing, choose to serve others out of love for Christ. Step into that assignment and fulfill those duties because of love for your Savior.