Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”. (Matthew 16:24-25)

As Christians, we are all challenged daily. Challenged to follow Christ’s teachings, challenged to make disciples of all nations, challenged to teach, to share, to worship our God, to love one another! Not only that, but as we do this, we are not promised an easy ride. Jesus does not give us a “get out of jail free” card to suffering.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is as clear as clear can be about what the demands of being a follower of Christ are. His teachings are ones of love and forgiveness, of compassion and the greatness of our Father’s love for us, but he also doesn’t skirt around the fact that, if we follow Him, we are called to a life of obedience, a life of servanthood to others and a life in which we will all must expect to have our own crosses to bear.

But what does that mean to me? To my colleagues here at WorldShare? To our Ministry Partners? To our supporters?

Firstly, I don’t think we can ever know what each other’s crosses are. St Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, speaks of the thorn in his flesh. There has been speculation of what this may have been through the ages but it is clear, throughout the New Testament, in Acts and the Epistles, that being a follower of Christ does not bring us peace and tranquillity and a life of plenty in this world. It does however bring us the promise of a new life to come.

For us, as with Paul, our challenges may not be obvious, but they are still the crosses we bear. It may be that we have financial struggles, challenges to our faith, difficult relationships within our family and friends, health problems of either ourselves or those close to us, disagreements with our neighbours, within our churches, within our marriages.

For the workers and volunteers in some of our Ministry Partners, such as those in places like Indonesia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the dangers faced by those early Christians are the same dangers faced today. The crosses that they bear are significant, and bring possibilities of violence, poverty, being ostracised by their communities and, from time to time, even death. Their challenge is to remain true to their faith, to God, sometimes despite huge opposition.

No matter what church or home group we go to, whatever denomination or affiliation we may have, we all look to Jesus and aim to follow his teachings. For each one of us, our challenge is to remain true to our calling from God, to follow Him, despite the challenges we may face. Not only that, but we are called to support each other in our need, whether it be financial, spiritual or physical. The crosses that we bear are shared amongst us. As Jesus said:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)

So how can we help each other bear our crosses?

Firstly, we cannot underestimate the power of holding each other in our prayers. As we come into Lent, I am challenging myself to spend more time in prayer daily, putting aside 30 minutes each lunchtime, and as part of that, will be remembering both individuals and Ministry Partners that I know of in need. Please feel free to join me in doing this. As an office, we are always keen to hear of the needs of our donors and supporters as well as the needs of our Ministry Partners. We feel that we are a family together, each performing our own part in growing God’s kingdom, so please let us know if we can pray for you too.

I would particularly like to challenge you to commit to praying for us and those we support during WorldShare Week, which this year will be running from Sunday the 15th to Saturday the 21st of March, be it for 5 minutes, or 5 hours! If you would like any prayer resources to help you in this, please download our prayer calendar. You may also see this as an opportunity to help fundraise for some of our ministry partners? Perhaps a bake sale, or if you are fasting for Lent, and the thought of cake too tempting, a sponsored event. Funds raised will be able to help practically with the crosses that our Ministry Partners bear, so that they can continue to follow Jesus, spreading the Gospel of hope in their communities.

John Bunce, one of our trustees, who recently wrote a blog post for us, is also looking to challenge us, this time through a sponsored event. In June, he will be leading the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge, and anyone who wishes to can sign up to join him, helping to raise funds, again in support of our Ministry Partners. What may seem an insurmountable challenge to us, can in fact be a tool to help the least of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, this Lent and beyond, why don’t we all look to take up the challenge to do just that little bit more, to be more generous with our time, with our prayers, with our resources. As we look towards the crucifixion, let us be aware of the crosses that each of us carry and let us all, as Simon of Cyrene did in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, help to carry some of the weight for those whose burdens are heavy.

By Jenny Hunt, our Finance Manager here at WorldShare.