In a world where opinions run rampant, I’d like to reaffirm that I do not claim to be an authority on God’s word nor life itself. I’m not a ministry blogger rather an echo of a life lived with many failures and flaws. But, grace! As much as I draw inspiration from various authors, I still prefer delving into the word of God for my personal edification and encouragement. There’s a little comment I’ve inscribed in the front of my Bible that says, “You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.”
I don’t know where you are currently stationed along this journey of life but I do know that ‘death’ awaits you, as it does me and everyone around us. What a gloomy thought and au contraire ‘bella musing’, right? But stay with me, I know this is uncomfortable. Death is merely transformation. It is a bridge and crossing it is a means to an end. Like the butterfly, without death we cannot transform and be truly resurrected. Without it, we can’t cross over and receive the wonderful promises found in Christ, in this life and in eternity.
Whilst we have no power in the ‘death’ that we face at the end of our life, we do have power in the daily ‘death’ during this life, that is ‘dying to self’. In other words, willingly ‘denying yourself’. This entails a string of little encounters we face throughout life. It is in these encounters where we are required to choose “in humility, to count others more significant than ourselves” as Paul cautions in Philippians 2:3. The purpose is to sharpen and build our character in preparedness for what comes after the earthly death.
Of course, not everyone grapples with this. Many simply choose to reject it and forgo the narrow path for the easier one of living for ‘self’. This is a tough inner battle and proves difficult to even the most saintly of saints. I’m pretty sure you can relate to the challenge of ‘dying to self’, perhaps one of these resonate with you:
When insults and accusations are hurled against and you don’t retaliate with harsh words – that is dying to self.
When your trust and love is betrayed and you don’t become cold and bitter – that is dying to self.
When you are genuinely happy for others when they prosper and bloom even though you are still waiting for your breakthrough – that is dying to self.
When you are rejected, shamed and despised but instead, decide to trust God to define your worth and not give in to self-doubt – that is dying to self.
When you are forsaken and neglected and you don’t become defeated with dejection – that is dying to self.
When you are ostracized and oppressed because of the color of your skin, ethnicity, gender or creed and you don’t stir up rebellion in your heart – that is dying to self.
When you are unfairly silenced and disregarded, and sans disparagement, you hold a silent tongue for the sake of peace – that is dying to self.
When your enemies are consumed with jealousy and hatred and are out to get you with slander, gossip and ill will and, instead of being vengeful, you pray for them – that is dying to self.
When you sincerely take an interest in helping others, seeking no personal accolades or glory but your help is exploited and undermined, and you lovingly ignore the oversights and slights – that is dying to self.
When you are content in all circumstances – that is dying to self.
When you lay down your life / personal agenda (pursuit of career, relationships, education, power, fame, money, and the like) and surrender all your desires and needs to God. Now, without any foresight of the outcome or future, you willing obey and continue to trust Him despite any visible or tangible signs of security – now that is dying to self!
In essence, ‘dying to self’ or ‘denying yourself’ is the way of Jesus. Billy Graham’s definition tugs at my heart: “To die to self is to set aside what we want in this moment and focus instead on loving God with everything we’ve got and valuing others as highly as we value ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).” Let’s take care to monitor the motives and intent behind our suffering and self-sacrifice. “Our suffering is not a tribute to Jesus unless we endure it because we cherish Jesus.” – John Piper
Only when we truly surrender and allow God to take over the wheel of our lives will we truly experience the freedom, peace and joy of losing ourselves for His name sake. Admittedly, the battle still waxes and wanes within me but this is why Jesus says to take up our cross daily. It’s not a once-off ‘death’, neither is it something we can do by our own strength. We need to rely on God to strengthen us with His supernatural power. And here lies the paradox, the beautiful truth: ‘we have strength in weakness’.
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me”. Jesus admonishes us further, “if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:34-38).
Whoa! I simply couldn’t bear Jesus being ashamed of me when He returns. How about you?
In closing, beautiful musings by Joyce Rupp:
Para mí, to live is Christ.