Then Jesus said to all the people: "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me."
-- Luke 9:23
The June 6, 1944 landing on the French beaches of Normandy -- the bloody event best known as D-Day -- involved an estimated 2 million Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen, plus thousands of naval vessels and aircraft. About 17 billion pounds of supplies supported it. And if it weren't for a stubborn weatherman and a general who were willing to risk the outcome of World War II, the history-changing invasion of Europe might have turned out quite differently.
American, British and Canadian troops had trained for D-Day for months. And the German military knew they would come sooner or later. The question was where...and when. June 5 was the original date with destiny. But the weather was questionable and could make the English Channel treacherous for the thousands of vulnerable landing craft and support craft (and not to mention the troops). Dr. James Martin Stagg -- the Allies' lead weatherman -- advised General Dwight D. Eisenhower to postpone the massive invasion. However, Stagg added that the clouds would break on June 6. Several members of the meteorological team disagreed with this optimistic interpretation of the weather charts. But after weighing the situation for just 30 seconds, Eisenhower signaled his commitment with three simple words: OK, let's go.
Commitment is a virtue that God has sought in His people for centuries. Joshua, one of the great servant leaders of the Old Testament, displayed this trait when he challenged the tribes of Israel to choose who they would serve: the false gods of their ancestors or the only one True God. "But as for me and my household," declared Joshua, "we will serve the Lord."
Jesus also seeks this same level of total commitment from His modern-day followers. Rather than would-be believers who might help to build His kingdom if it's not too inconvenient for them, Christ demands an all-or-nothing relationship from those willing to give the little they have to eventually gain everything.
Does this sound unrealistic? Jesus' closest friends thought so. One day, a rich young man asked Christ what he had to do to gain eternal life. Knowing what was in the man's heart, Jesus reminded him about following God's commandments about theft, adultery, murder, lying, and honoring one's parents. When the man replied that he had kept these laws since childhood, the Savior told him that he lacked just one thing: the need to sell all his possessions.
Jesus knew that rather than loving God with all his heart, soul and mind (the first of the 10 Commandments), the rich man was actually committed to money. This would-be follower was crushed by Jesus' harsh revelation and soon turned away. And Jesus' apostles were just as amazed. "If this is the way it is," they asked, "who can ever be saved?"
Jesus' response was both direct and reassuring.
"What is impossible for man," He explained, "is possible with God."The lesson here is that Jesus seeks undivided loyalty from His followers -- those special people who are willing to give and serve using the gifts, talents and resources entrusted from God. But to make this vital commitment, we must realize that it requires our total reliance on a Power much greater than ourselves.