Are You Ready?

Mick Turner

Let us clearly understand a key principle as we move forward in this exciting and challenging century in which we live. The path of Christ is a difficult undertaking. His yoke may indeed be easy, but his consistent demand upon us is the most arduous and threatening requirement that could ever be made of a mortal.


Take up your cross and follow me.


The rich young ruler had no misunderstanding of what this demand would mean. He would have to give up his riches and give to the poor and that, of course, hit him where he lived – his wallet. But I think this young aristocrat understood something else after listening to Jesus, most likely on more than one occasion. He discerned the deeper message of sacrifice, suffering, and personal pain involved in following this radical teacher. No doubt he saw that look in the Lord’s eye when he spoke. He understood what Jesus was saying – that the entire order was corrupt and rotten and that something totally new, vastly sweeping, and thoroughly uncompromising was being put forth as salvation for his ailing world – something called the Kingdom of God – something requiring a price most costly for entry.


Take up your cross and follow me.


Chances are this rich young man truly had ears to hear what the Christ was saying, namely, that if one really desired to be a part of the solution to the world’s ills and not a part of the problem, it required nothing less than death. And more startling, a voluntary death – a releasing of not only our material comforts; not only our friends and family; not only our most cherished ideas, misplaced priorities and mistaken notions. This Jesus was calling for the relinquishment of our very self, our identity, our sense of who and what we were. There was no mistaking his message – it was a sold out consecration or nothing. There would be no putting the hand to the plow and turning around for one last look.


Take up your cross and follow me.


The rich young ruler was not ready for this bold step. Not many were. When you think about it, Jesus left only a handful of converts before he ascended into heaven to take his seat next to the Father. As an evangelist, he was by all accounts a failure. Or was he?


Jesus presented the gospel, the good news, the message that God was love and that he was God and that real love and light had come in the flesh. But he also preached the reality of what being in the kingdom really meant when the rubber met the road. Even his most intimate disciples did not fully grasp the depth of renunciation this holy man was asking for. Jesus knew this and that is why he asked him if they were really ready to drink from the same cup as he. I wonder how many of us, living out our predictable lives in our comfort zones and circles of personal peace, are truly ready to drink from that cup. Specifically, I wonder if I am really ready.


Take up your cross and follow me.


The reality that our nation is now in one of the most challenging times in its history should be apparent to anyone not living under a rock. Our economy is as close to bottoming out as it has been since those dark days of the early 1930’s. More Americans are living beneath the line that defines poverty in our land of affluence and plenty and, although this wasn’t the case eight years ago, it is a stark reality that none of us can now ignore. Many of those new residents below the poverty line are children and it matters not what political view one clings to, this is inexcusable.


Yet in the midst of all this distress and turmoil, we have a new President and we have a rekindled hope. It is a hope that has its roots in the shifting sands of that unsettled landscape we call “change.” It is beyond any measure of doubt that change is a commodity sorely needed at this critical juncture in our nation’s history. Change is now an inescapable necessity and the time has long passed where we can patiently put our heads in those shifting sands and be assured that if we keep our eyes closed, this too shall pass.


If we are among those who have the audacity to call ourselves Christian, the time is now thrust upon us where we are called to live out the teachings of Christ in ways unprecedented. The time is here and the call is upon us. What call is that, you ask?


Take up your cross and follow me.


You see, my friends, the Christian path is first and fundamentally a call to sacrifice. And believe me, if we really want to pull out of this dire situation we, as a nation, find ourselves in, sacrifice is going to be an absolute necessity. Each and every one of us will be asked in one way or another to give something or give up something. It may be money, it may be one of our comforts, or it may even be a cherished belief that is no longer applicable to life in this hurting world.


Over the past few years, the schools in several counties near where I live found themselves in pronounced fiscal difficulty. Unless an expanded stream of funding was found, the situation was going to go from bad to worse. Old facilities needing a facelift and some needed to be replaced. With advancing technology, more up-to-date equipment was needed if students were to receive instruction that would make them competitive in the job market after graduation. The needs of these school systems were not extravagant, only minimal actually. If funding didn’t come through, the one’s that would truly suffer would be the area’s children.


After exploring all alternatives, several of these counties, including the one in which I live, eventually put the matter up for public referendum. A ballot measure was presented with an average one-half cent sales tax increase on various items. Even with these additional funds, the school boards would still have a budget shortfall, but at least the monies would be of some assistance. In every case, the minimal tax increase was defeated.


I am always amazed at how this consistently happens. People everywhere pay lip service to education and blather on about how children are the future of America and blah blah blah and so on and so forth. We must invest in our children’s future so that we may blah blah blah….And every time we are asked to sacrifice a tiny, tiny sum, the answer is always, “No way.”


And you can take it to the bank that as soon as test scores go down, or school crime goes up, or other problems surface, it will be those who voted against spending an extra half-penny every time they bought a Big-Mac or a Budweiser that will be carping the loudest about how our educational system is failing in its mission.


As a nation, we insist that we can drive a Rolls and pay for a Rambler.


In the days ahead we will be called upon to make many sacrifices and we must be willing to make them. No one likes to pay higher taxes, but if the time comes and that is what is necessary, then pay them we must. We may have to do without certain things we have come to enjoy and expect to be a part of our lives. If that is what is called for, then do without them we must.


Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies….


If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, prepare to live your faith in ways unprecedented…..and consider it an honor. Christ told us that in the end, many who cried out “Lord, Lord,” would not be recognized. And when the sheep and goats were separated at the time of Judgment, it was service and sacrifice of time, money, and effort that was the deciding factor. My guess is that in the days ahead, there will be ample opportunity to take care of widows, orphans, the sick, those in prison, and a thousand other things. The question each of us must ask ourselves is this, “Am I ready to take up my cross and follow him?”


If so – fact so – it’s time to act so.


© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved


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