"Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'" Matthew 26:38 (NIV)
I dipped my piece of torn bread in the cup of dark purple juice and placed it in my mouth. I tasted the ripeness of the fruit and savored the texture of the bread. "I will remember, Lord." I spoke the words in my head, silently thanking Jesus for the sacrifice He made for me on the cross.
Within a minute, the aftertaste of the juice distracted my communion meditation. It was more bitter than usual and I thought about taking a sip of something else to remove the flavor from my mouth. Should I grab my coffee, or some water?
Immediately, the Lord spoke to my heart: "Suffer with Me awhile."
Sadness filled my heart as I realized how quickly I wanted to remove the unpleasant taste ... how fast my thoughts drifted from the suffering of Christ to my own comfort. And I wondered how many times my self-focus had led me away from obedience in the hard places of life.
The Bible tells of three disciples who also chose comfort over obedience. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus asked Peter, James and John to watch and wait for Him while He prayed. During the time when our Lord was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," His closest friends couldn't keep awake. Three times Jesus returned to find them sleeping.
For those disciples, it was sleep that drew them from Christ's request to keep watch with Him. What is it for me? What keeps me from obeying Jesus' requests? Oh, the easy ones I have no problem with. It's the ones that infringe on my comfort that I wrestle with.
Someday, we'll get to enjoy heaven and all its perfection. But for now, the work God calls us to do here on earth is often uncomfortable, physically tiring and emotionally draining. Some days it's downright dirty and difficult.
While my flesh would prefer a cushy assignment, I don't want to shake the nail-scarred hands of Jesus—the hands that touched lepers, the hands that stroked the head of a broken sinful woman—with hands that have never gotten dirty with life.
During this time before Easter, consider what sacrifices the Lord might be asking of you. Perhaps it's serving in an area at church that's difficult, reaching out to an unfriendly neighbor, or mending a damaged relationship. Or maybe it's getting less sleep in order to wake up and spend time with Him through prayer and reading Scripture.
Moving from serving in comfort, to serving in sacrifice, builds spiritual character and maturity. But more than that, our hearts unite with Christ as a suffering servant.
Jesus asked us to carry our cross daily. Before we can truly appreciate what happened on the cross 2000 years ago, or the resurrection that happened on Easter, we need to deny ourselves and follow Jesus wherever He leads. And stay awake while we do.
Heavenly Father, You are faithful and awesome. Forgive me when I disobey Your requests to sacrifice my own comfort. I ask for a heart like Yours that sees beyond the surface of this life, a heart that sees the work that needs to be done from an eternal perspective. Please give me courage and boldness to become a steadfast servant, pleasing in Your sight. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Find new boldness in serving Christ by getting to know Him through Scripture. Proverbs 31 Ministries' team included 366 devotions to study the Word with you in our new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women. Pick up your copy here.
Reflect and Respond:
Why would Jesus have asked Peter, James and John to watch with Him while He prayed?
Is there something that Jesus has asked you to do that you haven't done? Define what that is and take a first step toward it today.
Luke 9:23-24, "Then He said to them all: 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.'" (NIV)
Phillipians 1:29, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." (NIV)
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