Mark 8:35 “Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'”
I did it again yesterday.
A student sat in my office and we plotted out her graduation pathway and then I asked, “What do you plan to do after you graduate?” We ask that question, or ones like it, all the time. “What do you want to do with your life? If you could do anything at all, what would you do? What will you do if…?”
We ask with no malice whatsoever. In fact, it seems polite and interested to ask these questions. But behind the questions lies a particular assumption, namely, that we should align our lives with our own desires, skills, or plans. It’s called ambition; something I’ve written about in the past.
Jesus, however, teaches that the flourishing life emerges not from self-service or self-fulfillment, but self-denial; even death to self. What a paradox!
Can we even imagine that losing our life for a cause greater than ourselves is actually the way to find life? Jim Elliott’s words echo quietly again: “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Our culture keeps insisting that the abundant life is found in acquisition not divestment, in power not service, and in self-gratification not self-denial. Jesus certainly challenges that paradigm, and calls us to die to ourselves.
This is not about Christ creating his own battalion of mindless servants. Ironically, it’s about us! Those who can lay their personal dreams to rest, are truly free to flourish in the way of Jesus.
As she sat in my office yesterday, a better question to ask would surely have been: “What does Christ call you to, after you graduate?” Or perhaps, “What are you doing to give yourself away for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom?”
Most of us hear the call to self-denial and lay it aside. Unrealistic. Idealistic. Then we meet someone who is completely sold out to “His Kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) — utterly committed to furthering the Kingdom of God in the darkness of this world and pursuing the heart of God above all else — and we see the kind of satisfaction, purpose, peace, and joy for which we long.
What might Christ call you to release…and embrace…today?