What did you want to be when you were little? First I wanted to be a cartoonist. I got it in my head that that seemed like the most fun job in the world. The problem is that I can’t draw to save myself (although I don’t do a bad cartoon whale, to be honest). Next I wanted to be a paleontologist (thanks to the dinosaur stage that every boy seems to go through), then a pilot. As I moved into my teens, I wanted to be the guitarist in a famous band, and a successful record producer. My generation might have some major issues, but we are good at dreaming! There’s nothing wrong with having dreams of course – God is a god of hope. We should have dreams, ambitions, and hope for the future. Everything that God is part of is full of hope. As kids, everybody dreams of doing something significant with their lives. The problem is that sometimes our dreams are our dreams, not dreams we have with Him. Sometimes we end up just doing our stuff and asking Him to bless it.
God gives us some amazing promises about our desires. In Psalm 20 it says He will “give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 145 says, “He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him, and He hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm 37 is similar – “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart”. All this is great, and it’s the part that sells books. We want our “best life now” – we want to be remembered. But let’s just be real for a minute. Many people only come to Jesus because they want Him to help them get where they want to be. A lot of the time, we just want. Doing this chucks the whole ‘relationship thing’ down the drain, and attempts to turn Jesus into your butler. We go about living our best lives in the wrong way. All the promises I’ve mentioned above are true, but they’re held in tension by another incredible truth: We die to live.
We need to die to ourselves. We love that Jesus died on the cross for us. We don’t like that He expects us to go there with Him. In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus says to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?””. He says almost identical things many more times. This is huge.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way in ‘Mere Christianity’: “Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
Dying to yourself doesn’t look like hating yourself (you have to love yourself to love others well). It doesn’t look like false humility (which is just pride in disguise). It doesn’t look like being miserable or hopeless. Dying to yourself looks like giving everything to Jesus. We aren’t our own anymore – we are His. Dreams, desires, urges, ideas, valuables…everything. I’ve got to ask myself, what am I willing to lay down? What can I live without? Life is so fragile, and I can’t concern myself with it, because I can’t hold it. In 150 years time most of us won’t be known. Sounds harsh, but we know it’s true. But He will be known, and we’ll be known to Him. If I die to myself, I become part of His legacy…part of something bigger than myself. When I die, I begin to live. When I give up my “best life now”, I gain my best life forever!
Scriptures to check out: Matthew 25:14-23, Galatians 2:19-21.