Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? – Matthew 16:24-26
On June 5, I talked about the benefit of losing your life:
So let’s flip this on its side. So what do you find when you’re willing to lose your life?
You find real purpose. Surrendering your life to Christ is about finding your real purpose. The “What am I here for?” The irony is that when you give up the “it’s all about me” attitude, your greatest personal satisfaction comes. It’s like giving up a 12″ black and white TV (familiar to us children of the 70’s and 80’s) for a 70″ HD TV with Dolby surround sound. You experience the world in a dazzling clarity you couldn’t have imagined before. You notice things you’ve ignored. You hear things that you’ve missed. When you allow Christ to lead you, there’s no telling where you life will go. Whether exotic or every day, you will know that what you are doing is what you were created to do and be.
You find real peace. Jesus never gave us any indication that life on Planet Earth would be easy. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” You’ll notice that he used “will have trouble” and not “might have trouble.” There will be bad days, sickness, sadness, and loss. There will be things that we just don’t understand. BUT… we CAN have peace when we trust that Jesus never leaves us alone in the midst of our mess. Jesus is our savior. Our knight in shining armor. God is the heavenly Daddy we can run to in the middle of the night when the storms rage and the nightmares come. He has overcome the world. All of it. Everything. Done. End of the story. No matter how the story ends, we can trust that He will abide with us through all of it. No matter what.
Hebrews 2:17-18 tells us, “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Jesus gets it. There is nothing that you will ever suffer that He hasn’t suffered. You don’t have to feel ashamed of what you feel because He’s felt it too. There is nothing more healing in this world than finding someone who understands what you’re going through, and no one fits the bill more than Jesus.
You find real contentment. Contrary to what you hear on a lot of religious TV, being a Christian does not automatically entitle you to a Rolls Royce, a fat bank account, and perfect health. What it does promise is that you can be content in whatever circumstances you find yourself. The Apostle Paul is a perfect example. He was a traveling man, going from place to place spreading the Gospel. Sometimes he was welcomed with open arms. Sometimes he was stoned and left for dead. He was shipwrecked. He was imprisoned more than once, and yet in Philippians 4:11-13, Paul says:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul knew that his steps were ordered by God and that he was fulfilling a purpose higher than himself. He knew that because he was walking in God’s purpose that God would give him the strength and ability to do whatever he was asked to do. That faith allowed him to help change the course of human history by presenting the Gospel to thousands in person and to millions in the letters he wrote.
When we give up trying to manage our own mess and let ourselves be used by God, we open ourselves up to more opportunity, more peace, more contentment than we could ever imagine. Society will tell you that a self-made person is the highest goal. I would challenge that a God-centered life is much more satisfying than anything this world has to offer.