Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (NIV)
In my neighbourhood, I deliver a free community newspaper twice a week. I do it mainly for the exercise, but it's nice to get paid for exercising! Recently, this task has been a challenge, with more than a metre of snow having fallen in the area around Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, over the past three weeks. The ensuing flooding has even hit the national television news.
The largest dumps of snow occurred around Christmastime, but the newspapers still had to be delivered. I trudged through the deep snow, making tracks as I went. Between one delivery and the next scheduled one, it rained, and the snow compacted and melted a bit. So when I went back over the route again, there were my tracks, still visible in the snow. When I put my boots in the tracks, the going was much easier, and a devotional began writing itself.
In order to use the tracks, I realized that I had to start off with the correct foot. If I put my right foot in a left track, it wouldn't work at all. I began thinking about how Jesus commanded us to deny ourselves and to follow Him. Clearly, we can't follow Him by walking behind Him, but we can follow Him by thinking and acting like Him. The Bible clearly outlines the right way for Christians to behave and believe. If we think we can do it another way, things will all go wrong, and we won't be following Jesus. He wants us be kind and loving, but if we ruminate about how others have hurt us, talk behind their backs, and hold grudges, we're off on the wrong foot. If we think that we can gain God's favour by doing good deeds, we will have missed the point that salvation is a gift of God's pure grace that we can never deserve, however good we are.
Along the way, at times, I took a different route than I had taken the previous time. However, making new tracks was always harder than following previously existing ones. In terms of following Jesus, when we pray for His guidance and seek to act in accordance with His plan for our lives, life always goes better. When we strike out on our own, the going is always more difficult. Co-operation with God and submission to His will is the essence of Christian discipleship.
Sometimes, I assumed that dimples in the snow were the tracks I should follow, but they weren't. At other times, my previous tracks were obscured by many tracks laid by other people. I likened this to the temptations of life that confuse us as to what God wants us to do. Then, I realized that what kept me going the right way was knowing what my objective was: to deliver the papers. When life is confusing and we realize that we can't control our circumstances or other people, that is the time to remember that our goal is to be self-controlled and to become like Christ in thought and deed.
Romans 8:29 – For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)
Prayer: Lord, the task of being like Jesus can sometimes seem so hard, especially when our circumstances and other people make our lives difficult. Encourage us and help us to control our own attitudes and actions in such a way that our life resembles that of Jesus. We pray in His name. Amen.