One of the aspects of Christian living that I find hardest to live out is self-sacrifice. Specifically, it’s difficult for me – and I’d wager to say for all of us – to be willing to sacrifice things that I love for the sake of the gospel. In my flesh I want to cushion myself with comfort, pad myself with pleasures, and avoid difficulty at all costs. I want to create a situation in which I can coast through life with as little turbulence as possible. Left to myself, these desires would guide my decisions and shape my lifestyle.
However, a passage that has been a huge challenge for me in this respect – and also a great encouragement – is Matt 10:37-39. Here Jesus says:
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (vv. 37-38).
Here’s what’s difficult for me as we prepare to go to the mission field: I love my parents. I would love to live near them for years to come. I love my children. I would love for them to grow up near their grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles. But what Jesus says here is that I must love Him more than my parents or my children. And that means that if He calls us to move far away – which we believe He is – then we need to be willing to do so.
I also find it interesting that Jesus follows this statement about loving Him over close family members with the startling claim that only those who take their own cross and follow Him are worthy of Him. This means that we must be willing to sacrifice certain things in this life for His sake. For us this means not living near family or familiarity. For others it might mean sacrificing something else in life.
The encouragement comes, though, with the next verse:
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39)
That is, those who seek their “best life now” will ultimately lose it, but those who live sacrificially for Jesus now – who “lose” certain things in this life for the sake of the gospel – will find true life. This is an encouragement because oftentimes I would prefer my best life now. I worry that by moving across the world I will miss out on things that my shortsighted vision for a good life says are most important. But the opposite is the case. By letting go of a life driven by my own desires and instead letting the gospel direct my path wherever it might lead, abundant life will follow.
Our prayer is that God would sustain us and help us believe this as we struggle to live this truth out.