What's the Next Best Step?
Ever since I started writing Rest and Rise, I have struggled with wanting to write blog posts. "Why write something digitally fleeting when I can spend my writing time on a book people can hold in their hands?" I thought. But I also wanted a place where I could give regular restful encouragement and create real opportunities to rise up with others in life outside of the internet.
These posts will offer a Word of Rest, Reflect questions, and Rise, a tangible way to lift up Jesus' name in your given space.
This is how I envision these going: ask a friend or a whole group to read the Rest post. Set up a time where you can meet and Reflect (using the questions below), and talk about which option you will choose to Rise and lift up someone else in your community. If you do any of these things, snap a picture and tag #restandrise. I would love to repost and feature you in the next email!
Winter is ending, and Spring is springing. When we reach the end of a season, how do we decide which step to take next?
Many areas of my life are coming to a close: my fitness classes at the church are concluding, the rush of the New Year resolution clients are slowing, and I just finished a book.
What should I do next?
I tend to feel anxious about these particular seasons, because it usually involves stepping outside of my comfort zone, reaching out and risking rejection, and remembering my past failures when it comes to planning a new program.
I have this prayer journal that I write new verses for my family each week, and the Lord gave me this one:
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" Matthew 16:24
That’s pretty vague and a little scary, Lord.
The Berean Literal Bible translation says it like this, "If anyone desires to come after Me…” where the word “desires” in the Greek means to want what is best; commonly used of the Lord to extend his “best-offer” to the believer. Jesus essentially says, “If you want what is best, do this.”
Don’t we all, deep down, want the next best step? Doing the best thing is not always the easy thing. Jesus said we deny ourself and pick up His cross—disregard our former plans and look forward to His unbreakable hope; disown our dis-ease to take ownership of the life of a disciple; despise our past shame in exchange for the joy set before us.
The Choice to Listen
When I was searching for this verse's reference numbers, I typed in “pick up your cross” and this one popped up instead: “Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). I knew it wasn’t the specific verse I was looking for, but then again, what if it was? It struck a chord within me, and I kept it in mind.
The man Jesus told to pick up his mat could not move. He had no choice but to lay on the mat all day. Now, Jesus gave him a new freedom and invited him to stand up. As soon as the man obeyed and stood up, he was healed.
I’m sure life on that mat was comfortable, but it was confining. Picking up our mat, or our cross, is freeing. So yes, picking up a cross sounds painful, but what if instead of hurting us, obeying Jesus is the answer to our healing?
The Cross Is A Place Of Rest
Seeing the mat as a place to rest one’s head allows me to see the cross as a place to rest my soul. Jesus may ask us to bear the cross, but how much more often does it bear us up?
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were to bind the law around their hands and head (Deuteronomy 6:8). Now, God asks us not to carry the law around with us, but the cross. We can’t fulfill the law, so God sent Jesus and He fulfilled it for us. We carry not just the law but the cross of grace—the very power to carry out God’s will revealed in His Word.
Denying myself and taking the cross means forgetting my flesh and picking up the new life Jesus offers. For me, that means looking at my calendar and saying, “If it is your will, Lord, I will go on this trip, write this next post, send this outreach email.” It is feeling that familiar anxiety creep up and immediately calling on the Lord for peace. It is forgetting the times people have said no, doubted me, or even worse, haven’t responded at all - and living in the new mercies of each day.
I was taught to base my goals and plans within the SMART model: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This sounds safe and tame. But how much more fun are God’s ways? I would generally say they are mysterious, immeasurable, impossible, surprising and limitless. Where will you be in three years? Only God knows! But you know it will be good.
What is the next best step? Let us deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Jesus. We may not understand where He is going or perceive the end result, but we believe this: He knows the way to life abundant. And making the hourly choices to follow Him is the best choice we can make. These small steps of faith lead to the exact place we need to be.
What in your life do you need to make a decision about?
What doubts are keeping you from standing up and picking up the cross?
What is the cross for you?
Where has Jesus led you in the past?
Where do you think He is leading you now?
Easter marks the beginning of Spring, the beginning of new life on the earth and resurrection in our hearts. In this season, let us consider those who cannot pick up their bed and walk. Let us care for those who, like the crippled man, are home-bound and discouraged. Is there anyone in your life who has been unable to get up or get out? We don’t always have to heal exactly like Jesus did in order to set people free from feeling stuck, from feeling like they can’t get up, get out, or make a new decision.
Think about any new moms you know of. You could offer to hold the baby so she can go out and get some fresh air. In the name of Jesus, be free, woman!
You could visit a nursing home and read the Easter story to those who don’t typically get visitors. What a gift your presence and words could be to someone else!
Be creative! This is your chance to lift up someone else. Share your ideas with us using #restandrise.