What are you living for? What are you seeking in life?
Comfort? Money? Things?
Here Jesus challenges us to really consider our priorities. He told his disciples and would-be disciples something really difficult.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
The interesting thing to me is that Jesus asks us no less than what he did himself.
He denied himself. He could have stayed in heaven. He could have let us all suffer in hell for all eternity. But he denied himself. He gave up all he had in heaven, his glory, the worship of the angels, and he took on human flesh. While here on earth, he gave of himself, surrendering his own needs to meet the needs of others.
He took up his cross. He suffered greatly, first having to carry his own cross to the place of his death, though he had already been beaten and was weak from the loss of blood. And then agonizing in pain while hanging on the cross. Why?
In order to follow his Father, and the plan he had set in motion for our salvation.
In the same way that Jesus denied himself, we too are to deny ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy life. Jesus certainly enjoyed his life here on earth. But there will be times when we need to sacrifice our needs and desires to fulfill the purpose God has for us.
Sometimes, it will require suffering. Our family rejects us because of our faith. We lose our jobs because we refuse to work on Sundays. Or we go through other kinds of persecution because we put Christ first in our lives.
But though it all, we need to keep following after Christ.
Why? Because in him, we find what’s most important. What’s most important? A relationship with him. And to fulfill the purpose for which he has created us.
Some people, however, sacrifice these things for what they want. And if following Christ will require them to let go of what they want, they let go of Christ instead. But Jesus tells them,
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (25-27)
The bitter irony of letting go of Christ to hold on to the things we seek is that in the end, we’ll lose it all. But if we let go of everything in order to follow Christ, that’s when we’ll find true satisfaction and peace. For when the day of judgment arrives, Christ will reward us. And even before that, we’ll catch glimpses of the glory that is to come here on earth. Jesus indeed promised that to his disciples, saying,
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power. (Mark 9:1)
Though the disciples did go through suffering for the sake of Christ, nevertheless, they saw the kingdom of God come with power, as they saw miracles coming by their own hands, but more than that, the miracle of transformed lives as the gospel spread.
And though many died martyrs’ deaths, they did find reward as they stepped into God’s kingdom.
How about you? Are you willing to let go of what you have, in order to grasp what’s really important?