Mark 8:34-38

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38

If you want to sell something today, your odds are greatly improved if your widget saves time, saves money, and makes everything easier and more convenient. Even better, give it away free. Everybody loves shortcuts, loopholes, head starts, and getting an edge on everybody else. I don’t think that is a modern invention – in fact, that is precisely the thinking that got us out of caves and into cars and condos. It is the kind of thinking that drives invention and innovation. Like a river, when it stays within its banks it is a blessing.

But it is also the kind of thinking that rings hollow when Jesus shows up with his invitation to a difficult life without shortcuts or an easy way out. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Yet this is, and always will be, the tension of our lives as we seek to follow Jesus. Most of the time we come to realize that Jesus is far more likely to lead us THROUGH the challenges, difficulties, heartaches, and growth plates of life rather than AROUND them. But then, and only then, do we discover the strangely paradoxical truth that the hard way is not only the right way, it is ultimately the easier way too.

This is also why Christianity is a team sport. We can’t live this life alone. We need help, encouragement, and support. We need a whole lot of reminders that “God is with us” and “we can do it” and “YES, it is worth it!”

As for “gaining the whole world”, it reminds me of that old story about John Rockefeller, then the richest man in the world. When asked how much money he truly wanted and needed, he replied “Just a little bit more.” Great story – I just doubt that Jesus had Rockefeller in mind. Far more likely, at least in my opinion, Jesus puts his finger on how all of us carry in our minds the idea that life will finally be good when we get “this” or when “that happens.” Nothing is ever enough.

Until we take a moment to get quiet. To settle our minds. To truly take stock. To count our blessings. To realize that we are children of God, deployed into the world for good. And then we suddenly realize that it is always enough. That the narrow way is the best way.

Let us pray: Today, dear Lord, we will do the best we can with what we have to be, not only your children, but your witnesses in the world. We will be grateful for your many gifts in our lives and we will be mindful of the opportunities that you give us to be a blessing to others. If that proves difficult, we trust that you will see us through and forgive us when we falter or fail. In Jesus’ name.


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