Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24)

IN ONE OLYMPIC EVENT YEARS AGO, a young man was running and fell. He hurt himself badly, yet he got up and limped toward the finish line. Seeing his son’s distress, the athlete’s father jumped out of the stands, wrapped his arms around his son, and helped him hobble to his goal. When asked why he did not just give up, the young man said his country had sent him to the Olympics to compete, and he owed it to his countrymen to finish the race.

Jesus’ words in the passage today may sound tough, but sometimes we need to hear the unadorned truth, not have it sugarcoated so it is easier to swallow. Deciding to follow Christ and “do what Jesus would do” is not an easy thing. It means doing what is right, not what is popular. It also means keeping our promises, even when things get tough. And, it means thinking of others before we think of ourselves. That is how we take up our crosses.

When we do, we may fall and scrape our knees, so to speak. It may be the hardest thing we have ever done; we may not feel confident that we can continue. But the good news is this—even better than that loving father in the stands at the Olympics who came down to help, God is within you every step of the way. Likewise, He will help you finish what you set out to do for His glory.

Ask the Lord to help you finish what you know He wants you to do.

Julie B. Cosgrove is a widowed Christian author and speaker living in Fort Worth, Texas. She has one son and two cats, and is involved with women’s and outreach ministries.