“Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it .” Matthew 16:25
By Bill Rudge
What do coming to Christ and a call to ministry have in common with the triumphal entry, the crucifixion and the resurrection?
When someone gives their life to Jesus Christ there is usually great excitement. There is also incredible joy when someone is called by the Lord to go on the mission field or begin a ministry – work with youth, lead a Bible study, do street ministry, start a prison outreach and so on.
The people rejoiced at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we commemorate as Palm Sunday. They were confident of the impending blessing and victory over their enemies. They anticipated going right from the triumphal entry to the establishment of the messianic kingdom. However, something unexpected – even though Jesus foretold it several times – followed shortly after the elation of the triumphal entry. It was Jesus’ crucifixion.
This same Jesus who informed His disciples of His crucifixion, also told about a crucifixion that will happen to all who follow Him:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24, 25).
There is implied in Jesus’ command to take up one’s cross and follow Him, a crucifixion that is to take place in the life of every believer. The apostle Paul knew the reality of this crucifixion for he wrote in his letter to the Galatians:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).
Believers’ crucifixion experiences are designed to remove pride, greed and anything else that hinders our relationship with God. They are intended to refine us like pure gold through the fire and burn out the lusts of the flesh. Their purpose is to enable us to overcome the lure of the world and temptation by the enemy. They are to teach us full surrender and total commitment. They are to train us to persevere in faith through trials and hardships. They are to mold and conform our lives to the likeness of Jesus Christ and bear much fruit for His glory.
Paul stated in Philippians 3:10:
I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like him in His death.
Just as Jesus’ story did not end at the crucifixion, neither does our saga with the Lord terminate at our crucifixion. Following Jesus’ crucifixion came the glorious resurrection. And after our crucifixion comes an amazing transformation. The dying to self will result in the resurrection of His goals, dreams, vision and desires in our hearts and ministries. As we lay down our lives for the sake of the Gospel, we will be infused with Jesus’ resurrection power.
In summary, the following pattern will be observed in the life and ministry of virtually every believer. First, the triumphal entry – the initial excitement and joy of coming to Christ and being called by Him to some aspect of ministry or mission. Next, the crucifixion – total surrender and the refining fire of obstacles and opposition. Then, the resurrection – tremendous blessing and victory for those who faithfully serve Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12, 13).
Maybe you are in the midst of a crucifixion experience right now. You may feel hopeless and the adverse circumstances seem never ending. Do not give up or lose heart but stand strong in your faith. The Lord is faithful. Soon His resurrection power will deliver you and transform your life to accomplish His purpose. Apparent defeat will give way to ultimate victory.
Great joy and rejoicing are just beyond the horizon. Your present valley and wilderness will lead the way to a mountaintop and oasis of wonderful blessing.
The apostle Paul confidently stated:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).