A new year is usually the best time for reflection on the old. Do you want to make the same choices this year as you did last year? Are you happy where you are, or do you want to change? Do you think you have more to offer the universe in general than your current circumstances allow?
Those aren’t unusual thoughts at the beginning of a year. They aren’t even bad questions to ask in general. But how do you go about making changes in your life? How do you know changing your life won’t get you into more trouble than just doing it the way you’ve always done it?
Maybe you’re not happy where you are right now, but you probably have all your needs met. But is that the way God really calls us to live?
Today’s verses are Matthew 16:24-25.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
Have you noticed that the lifestyles Jesus talks about are often contrary to what the world says works? Sometimes they’re even contrary to what makes common sense.
To us, it make sense to take care of our lives, but in this verse Jesus is saying that if you want to find your life, you have to be willing to give it up. Now, I always thought this verse was talking about being willing to die for your faith, and I’m sure it’s true in that connotation as well. But that’s not the only connotation.
So does that mean you have to be willing to destroy your life for God’s sake? Well, what’s your definition of destroy? Do you define your life as living in a huge house, making a large paycheck, eating expensive food, wearing extravagant clothing? If you gave it all away, or if you were willing to sacrifice it all for God’s sake, would you call that destroying your life? Some people would.
This verse isn’t about taking a vow of poverty. I’m not saying that at all. But it does call us to look at our lives and our possessions and our status the way God sees them.
What do you have in your life that you won’t let go of? What do you have in your life that you are hanging on to with all of your strength? Is it a job? A person? A possession? The harder you hang on to that person, place, or thing, the more likely it is that you’ll lose it. Why? Not just because Jesus says so (although that should be more than enough reason.)
Think about it from God’s perspective. If we would start placing value on what God says is valuable, our entire lives might turn around. God places no value on money or possessions or wealth. God uses gold on the streets of heaven, so how could He want more of it? The things that mean so much to us down here–all those things we think we can control–are meaningless in eternity.
Being willing to give up your life–to sacrifice what the world tells you is important–is the key to finding what God’s purpose for your life is, even if other people around you say you’ve lost your mind, even if it looks like you’re making a terrible financial decision.
You can’t hold on to your life and save it at the same time. That’s not how life following God works.
What do we actually need out of life? Do we need fast cars and closets full of shoes and phones that are smarter than we are? If you woke up one morning and found that God had taken all of that away, would you still be content to follow Him? Would you rejoice because none of it belonged to you anyway?
If you want to be a true follower of Christ, that’s going to take some sacrifice. It’s going to take some discomfort. That’s what taking up your cross means. And if you want to save your life, you have to be willing to give it up. Not living. Not your actually physical life, but a life of comfort that so easily blinds us to God’s call.
Nobody starts a new year with the desire to ruin their lives, but maybe we should. If we are willing to ruin our lives for Jesus, maybe it’s worth it.