For the Applause of Nail Scarred Hands…

Posted by on Apr 30, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

crop man placing arms on sharp nails

I love Mark Batterson’s counsel to “live for the applause of nail scarred hands”. It has echoes of R.T.Kendall’s instruction to live “for an audience of one”. Both remind us that it is God’s perspective of who we are and what we do that matters. That’s easy to forget in an era that places great weight on what others think and say of us. It’s also a reminder that it’s not all about “me, myself and I”, but that I am a very small part of a very large story- the story of God. Ephesians 1:6 encourages us to live for the praise of God’s glorious grace. Put differently, it is not for me to proclaim my agenda to God and ask for a Divine rubber stamp upon it, but to attentively ask God about the path my life should take if I am to live for the praise of God’s glory.

It’s one thing to say that we should live for the applause of God rather than that of mere mortals, it takes it to a new level to suggest that the applause comes “from nail scarred hands”. This uncomfortable reminder of the suffering of Jesus relativises the struggles we face.

As a much younger Christian I was captivated by many sermons from Luke 9:23: ‘Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.“‘ The sermons went along predictable lines. There was a voluntary part to cross carrying, for it was our responsibility to take it up. We could walk past it, pretending it wasn’t there, but then we weren’t obeying the instruction. It was also a daily carrying – we couldn’t quickly say, “Cross carrying? Yup, done that. Let me see, from memory it was on the 23rd August 1996.” Something more current is required. It’s somewhat confronting that it needs to be on today’s to do list. “Wash the dishes, make the bed, write 1000 words, send 15 emails, pick up the cross.”

Why would we pick up our cross daily? Why not for the applause of nail scarred hands?

Fairly often the sermon would encourage us to identify the shape our particular cross took. Instead of looking at the struggling relative’s needs as an unreasonable burden, carrying our cross sized share of the load was a way to follow Jesus. Or it could be going the extra mile for someone who clearly didn’t deserve it, but might be impacted by the grace shown. Or it could more simply be carrying on doing the right thing even though thanks were absent and we could get away with doing the wrong thing.

Nail scarred hands are credible. Jesus does not ask us to go where he has not first gone.

While the call to carry the cross has not disappeared, its volume has been lowered. It is more common to be reminded of the benefits of faith. And it is true that you are a little less likely to be depressed or anxious if you follow Jesus. Your marriage also has a slightly better chance of being successful. You should even have the tiniest edge in your finances. True, the odds are only slightly better, but why not take what you can get? And don’t forget that Jesus tells us to take up our cross, but also reminds us to come to him with our heavy burdens. Matt 11:28-30 reads: 2“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The invitation is given to those who are weary and burdened, not those who are ecstatic at one easy triumph after another. Perhaps they are weary from cross carrying.

And here’s the thing. Noble though our cross carrying might seem, in reality it pales before the actual cross carrying of Jesus. Nor is cross carrying the same as crucifixion. And when the burden is too heavy, he carries it for us. There was no one to take his burden from him…

The first Christian book I read from cover to cover was Michael Griffiths Take My Life. Published in 1967 and reflecting a long past era, each chapter explored a couplet from Frances Havergal’s 1874 hymn with the same name. Why not ponder the words:

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  2. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  3. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  4. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.

Wow, that’s almost as challenging as to live for the applause of nail scarred hands… or to live for an audience of one.

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

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