Luke 9:23 – And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (RSV)
"Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun while taking this medication." This is the message or warning that appears on the label of one of my prescriptions. In other words, prolonged exposure to the sun could cause damage to my health or body. When I read this warning a while back, I remember asking my wife the question, "I wonder what it means by 'prolonged'?"
A sign in front of a local church currently reads: "Exposure to the Son may prevent burning". This sign caught my attention as I immediately related these words to the warning I had recently read on my medicine bottle.
How true the statement on this sign really is. Exposure to Jesus Christ, the Son, can indeed prevent eternal burning. But as I related those words to the warning, I thought about the word "prolonged" that appeared in the warning but not on the sign. If mere exposure to the Son can prevent burning, what can we achieve through prolonged exposure to the Son? And what exactly is prolonged exposure to the Son? How much must we expose ourselves to the Son for it to be considered prolonged exposure?
I think Jesus Himself answers that question for us in today's scripture verse when He instructs us that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. That means that each and every day when we wake up, we must seek first the will of Jesus, while denying our personal wants and while carrying our cross for Him. That cross may be something different for each person, but it is something we must all identify and bear, if we are to receive the full measure of God's blessing. Whatever our cross is, it is surely something that will bring glory and honour to God. I know that personally I often struggle with the "daily" aspect of this challenge. My walk with Christ sometimes falters at times, as I let other things get in the way. I begin carrying the crosses of this world rather than the crosses of God's kingdom. My exposure to the Son is interrupted by some earthly shadow that blocks out the Son.
But I have surely come to realize that daily and prolonged exposure to the Son can only bring greater and greater blessings into our lives. The more we seek to serve and to honour Him, the more He seeks to bless and honour us. We must expose ourselves not only through our daily walk and service, but also through our prayers, as we open ourselves up to the Father. We must seek God's will through our prayers and pray His blessings to fall upon us, and He will surely answer.
1 Chronicles 4:10 – Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that thou wouldst bless me and enlarge my border, and that thy hand might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from harm so that it might not hurt me!" And God granted what he asked. (RSV)
Just as Jabez asked God to bless him and enlarge his borders, so too should we petition God to expand the borders of our service for Him and bless us. The further we expand, the more exposure we will have and the more God will bless us.
Prayer: Dear Father, we too ask that You might bless us indeed. Lord, we petition You to expand our borders that we might have greater and more prolonged exposure to You. Help us to daily carry our crosses for You and deny ourselves that You might receive the glory and honour You so richly deserve. Amen.