Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Mark 8:34-37 MSG)
Stop. Turn right. Yield. Go 30 miles north. A fork in the road appears and the next sign reads Destination straight ahead. What? This does not make sense. You must choose a direction. Which way do you turn? If you turn left you’ll encounter bad roads with rocky terrain and falling rocks. If you go right you’ll encounter a band of savage wild beasts who don’t take kindly to strangers passing through their land. People have been known to be ruthlessly attacked and left for dead.
No matter which road you take; trouble, distress, oppression, tribulation, hardship, affliction and possible persecution lie ahead. There is no escaping it if you wish to arrive safely at your destination.
Like road signs that direct us; we must also follow God’s directions. Our destiny is determined by our obedience. Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Heb 5:8) and so must we.
1 Samuel 15:22 says to obey is better than sacrifice. Hebrews 10 says Christ came to do away with the old system of sacrificing live animals to cover our sin. He sacrificed himself once and for all. He does, however, desire self-sacrifice from the depths of our heart. Sometimes this means giving up everything you once considered gain (Phil 3:7): your home, your spiritual family, your natural family, friends, your time, job, ministry or anything else you value above God.
Any suffering we endure God uses to break us of our selfishness. He uses hardships to bring us to a place of total dependence on him. God delights in a broken heart and a humble spirit (Ps 51:17).
Jesus said, “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.” Wow! That is a hard cup to drink from. Yet, Jesus did it. He was afflicted for us. From the tears he shed in the garden to the physical and emotional pain he endured on the cross, he was obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8). Jesus gave his life: the ultimate act of obedience.
The destiny of Jesus was to die so we might live with more than enough. Abundant life starts the moment we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and continues throughout eternity. It includes having an intimate relationship with the Father through his son. It also means ruling and reigning with Jesus on earth as life is in heaven. Because we cannot do this in our own strength, he gave us his Holy Spirit to empower us to live the life he always intended.
Through the process of self-sacrifice and obedience; God does his most creative work in us. He opens new doors of opportunity for us we never thought possible and restores things to us once lost. Like Jesus, we are to sacrifice ourselves and die to our selfish and worldly desires. Jesus lived a sacrificial life and died a sacrificial death for us; like him, we are called to a life of sacrifice so we can experience new life through him.
What is God asking you to sacrifice in order to walk in greater abundance and into your destiny?