But it is not only that we are to say no to self, which is what denying self is all about. We are also to say yes to God, which is what taking up the cross involves. Some speak of cross-bearing as if it means enduring the inevitable. But that is not it at all. There are all kinds of things that cannot be avoided: a physical handicap, a deficient academic background, a drunken husband, a profligate wife. People sometimes refer to such inevitable things as “my cross,” but they are not crosses. They are just inescapable limitations, trials. Real crosses involve the will. They mean saying yes to something for Jesus’ sake.
Cross-bearing involves prayer and Bible study. These take time and must be chosen and pursued, rather than other pastimes that we might humanly prefer.
Cross-bearing involves the items Jesus listed in Matthew 25:31-46- feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, receiving the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the one who is in prison. These are not easy things to do. They involve denying oneself time, money, and convenience. At times these efforts seem utterly fruitless, because the gifts are abused, and the one giving them is slighted even by the one he helps. We are to continue in this anyway. Doing so is saying yes to Jesus.
Cross-bearing involves witnessing. It means putting oneself out for the sake of the ones God sends into our lives.
Essentially, cross-bearing means accepting whatever God has given us or made us and then offering it back to Him, which is “your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1, KJV). That phrase from Romans 12 is in a passage that describes us as God’s priests making sacrifices that are “holy and pleasing” to Him. What is it that priests offer? They offer only what they have first received. They take the gifts of the worshiper and then offer them up. You and I are in that position. The gifts we receive are from God. We take these gifts- whatever they may be- and then offer them up to God with thanksgiving.
-from Christ’s Call to Discipleship by James Montgomery Boice