This way of thinking has caused me to hang on to my selfish ambitions because I have told myself, “It’s okay. You want to do this for God.” But no, I haven’t. I have wanted to make a name for myself. I have wanted to accumulate college degrees so others will value what I have to say. I have wanted to have some say in where God takes me in life. Truthfully, I have wanted all the say in where my life goes. I have wanted to lead, and yet at the same time I have pretended that I wanted God to lead.
Today Matthew 16:24 hit me like a ton of bricks. “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.’” My logic has always been, “I am going to the mission field so therefore I must be denying myself and following Him.” God gracefully opened my eyes that denying myself and following Him does not mean that I am willing to go to another country. It means that I am willing to give up my desires, ambitions and all that I want. The exact words of the passage say that he who desires to follow Christ “MUST deny himself.” It is a prerequisite for following. The following cannot be done without the denying of self. This denying is a daily choice to say, “Please Lord, take away my desires and ambitions for the day and show me what You desire.” Then, and only then, are we free to follow. Following requires submission, patience, humility, listening, and willingness to say, “Not my will, but Yours’ be done.”
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” –Matthew 16:25
Desiring to “save one’s life” is the longing to be in control and to plan for one’s future. All my life I have desired to save my life. I have been unwilling to give my future into the hands of our God. And yes, it is possible to quit your job, sell all your belongings, and be in the process of moving to another country AND STILL be desperately hanging on to control of your life. I still do it daily. My longing to cling to some sort of control of my life is the desire to continually be in school and accumulating degrees. “Having degrees will make what I say more credible and open doors for ministry”, I would tell myself. No, the truth is that I long to have a safety net to fall into if I fail horribly as a missionary. I want to have a way to provide for my family in the future. I want to save my life. However, if I would follow my desire to constantly be getting more degrees then I would lose my life. I would spend countless hours of time studying that God wanted invested in His work elsewhere. I would spend thousands of dollars on tuition that God wanted invested in His Kingdom. I would miss out and lose the life that God intended for me because I was unwilling to deny myself and unwilling to let go of the notion that I could save my life. Might God call me to go to school in the future? Possibly, but not now. Right now He has called me to lose my life in every way I know how. He has called me to give my desires and ambitions to Him. If I hang onto them in a desire to control and save my life, it will result in me losing that which I long for.
Only when “we lose our life” will we truly find life. Discipleship is costly, but the reward is worth it.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” –Matthew 16:24-25