We had an “ouchy” sermon at church. You know what I mean. The kind that you don’t really want to hear, because in the back of your conscience you can hear the Holy Spirit speaking forth clearly: This message is for YOU!
The sermon was based on Matthew 16: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV), and hence, the “ouchy” part. Deny myself? Take up my cross? But following Jesus is supposed to be fun! There’s nothing fun about taking up a cross and denying myself! And why should I do that, anyway? Aren’t I free (“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…” Galatians 5:1a NIV)? Doesn’t the Bible teach that I am allowed to do anything I want (“All things are permitted for me…” 1 Cor. 6:12a NASB) What then is all this business about denying myself?
Yup, it was an “ouchy” sermon…
Of course the second halves of the above two cited verses explain it all: “All things are permitted for me, but not all things are of benefit.” (1 Cor. 6:12 NASB); and “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.“ (Galatians 5:1 NIV). The point is: Although I am free, that freedom, if used wrongly, could end up causing more harm than good. In fact, if you read on in Matthew 16, Jesus goes on to say as much: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (vs. 25 NKJV). In other words, it is for our own good that Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses!
In his sermon, the pastor asked us all to reflect for a couple minutes on what it means to deny oneself. I didn’t need any time for reflection on that one. God immediately brought to my mind what He’s been “hounding” me on for weeks now: Submission to His plans over my own, total surrender of my plans to Him…
That doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Then why is it that every time somethings messes up my “plan”, I fall apart? I mean, how can I do more for ministry when I have so many responsibilities already on my plate? When there is illness? Family worries? Financial concerns? How can I possibly do more when I can’t even help my neighbour because it interferes with what I need to do? Someone recently said this to me: “I pray that God heals me soon so that I can pray for other people!” Yup, my line is similar: I pray that God takes some of the things off my plate soon so that I can participate more in ministry!
But Jesus doesn’t tell us to wait until this or that has happened to deny ourselves! Rather, He says just the opposite:
“Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.’And another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:59-62 NKJV)
There are no excuses. We are simply told to deny ourselves!
So how can my friend spend time praying for others with the physical problems she has? How can I have time to help other people when my own plate is so full? How can someone give up a paying job for a faith-filled ministry?
By denying self. By submitting our own needs to God and trusting Him to take care of them. It is only when we fully surrender our own needs and desires to Him that we are free to be able to focus on others. We can live as if we have no needs, because we can trust our Father in Heaven will take care of them for us!
I could tell you many stories of volunteers through this ministry who have put aside their own glaring needs to focus on the needs of others, only to have God meet their own needs. And sometimes these were needs they had been praying about for a long time with no response! The point is, God has called each of us into service. Our job is to submit our own needs to Him so that we can focus on our calling, ever trusting that He will make the way, He will supply the strength/time/energy/money/etc. that is required, not only to do His will, but to help us and our families survive as well!
If this is an “ouchy” devotional, then perhaps it is because God is trying to get your attention as well. What do you need to surrender in order for God to be able to work His purpose through you? Whatever it is, surrender it in all faith, ever knowing that He will take care of you so that you can take care of others! Take a moment, right now, and pray this prayer: Lord, I give you my __________(insert whatever your own worries and cares are that would keep you from ministry). I trust You to take care of it, and I commit to being Your hands and feet on this Earth!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart
Moderator, Associate Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries