But may it never be that I should 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 (Malachi 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 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. Moreover, 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). 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 (Revelation 14:4). If they had chosen selfishly for themselves 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. 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.
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15BACK_TO_TOP