Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24 NASB)
If I want to follow Christ, there are a couple of steps I've got to follow: deny myself and take up my cross. Hmmmm... Deny myself is more than not focusing on me. It's getting over me, all my past hurts, all my disappointments, all my shortcomings, all my negative experiences. Nothing else matters but my journey following Christ. I am nothing, but Christ in me is everything.
Step two is take up my cross. I must be willing to share in Christ's suffering. I must be willing to immerse myself in the work of the kingdom. I do this knowing I won't be popular or well-liked, or even supported. I expect to be persecuted, as was Jesus Christ. I look past this world to my eternal home daily. This is what gets me through the betrayal of so-called friends and known enemies. I know this world will hate me, but I press on doing the will of God in Christ Jesus.
And I don't complain. I deny myself and take up my cross willingly. I don't expect an easy path, so I don't get surprised at the roadblocks, detours, and construction. I praise God through it all because I made a conscious decision to follow Christ. I was not coerced or forced into this life. I live this life because I don't want to be lost. I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back!