This past summer held some of the best weeks of my life. Who would have ever guessed it?
I love going places.
I stayed home almost the whole time.
I love being being with people.
I interacted with very few others, besides my dear family.
I love accomplishing goals and getting things done.
Outside of the spiritual realm, I got almost nothing done.
So why was it such an amazing time for me? Simply put, my life was God this summer. My whole family took a month to do nothing but seek God. We aren't some super spiritual saints - we hardly even planned to do it, and certainly not for that long! God dropped the idea in our laps, and all of a sudden, we were in the middle of one of the most spiritually beautiful times of our lives.
During those weeks, I had glimpses of what it meant to abide in Christ. I had glimpses of what it meant to love the Lord with all my heart. I had glimpses of what it meant to actually hear the Lord's voice (not audibly, but in my spirit) and to know that He was speaking to me. And I had glimpses of what it meant to die.
"If any man will come after me, let him...
...pray for long hours?
...give a lot of money to charities?
...go every week to church?
...even become a missionary?
No! "...let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." And then His next words are:
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. " (Luke 9:23-24)
I lived 18 years of my life with a will that was strong and alive and well, and I regret that. Just a few months before I turned 19, God finally brought me to a point that I could choose to die. I died to my pride, my stubbornness, my selfishness; and also to my dreams, my desires, my goals.
And I found that dying is the only way to live.
"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24)
This summer, God brought me into a deeper understanding of what that looked like. He impressed on me a very simple fact:
"The only things that matter at all are the things that count for eternity."
In eternity, will it matter if people liked me? If I had friends out the wazoo, and impressed those in my life with my talents? When I stand before the judgement seat of Christ, will it matter if I could sing beautifully? If I was busy? If I had a successful career?
On the day that I step into eternity, the only thing that will matter is if I served the Lord with every atom inside me. Simply put, did I love the Lord with ALL of my heart?
And these are all very nice thoughts, right?
Until I have to put them into practice.
Because if I believed them, then they would shaped every activity I chose to participate in. In every choice I made, the deciding factor would be, "does it count for eternity?" And if not, then what in the world am I doing messing around with it??
That is dying. And that is hard.
But I understood that so clearly this summer. It was my heart. And there was joy in that.
Somewhere along the way, my focus shifted. I remember feeling vague uneasiness over it...realizing that I didn't have quite the same passion and single-hearted focus as before. But hey, life is busy right? And in the flurry of getting ready for a new semester, I forgot.
I forgot that greatness isn't about how many people serve us. It's about how many people we choose to serve. I forgot that success isn't busy-ness, and popularity, and favor with men. Success is favor with God.
I heard from the Lord today. And He told me, "you think life is all about you."
I was in awe. Of course it's true. I had planned my whole semester around the activities that I would enjoy, and would sound impressive to others. I stepped into the new semester for me. The painful, honest truth is that I resurrected my "will" and my "self" once again.
And once again, God asked me to die.
And once again, I died.
"I am crucified (dead) with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me..." (Galatians 2:20)
This whole dying business isn't too popular with Christians nowadays.
We want just enough of Jesus to make us happy, just enough to give us a peace, and just enough to make things go our way to fulfill our dreams and our agenda. Meanwhile, (Christ) wants to take us to the cross, where our own selfish dreams, egos, and plans for "great accomplishments" have to die. The cross brings you to a place of total and absolute surrender of all you have and all you are. You submit everything in obedience to (Christ).~ Chip Ingram, "Good to Great in God's Eyes
No we Christians don't understand the dying part of Christianity, nor do we care to. But the disciples did. What did they say?
"Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee (Jesus)..." (Matthew 19:27)
Imagine that. Everything. Thrown aside and forgotten. Why? In Paul's words,
"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." (Philippians 3:8)
Is Christ enough for us? Do we crave Him so intensely that we would give Him every fiber of our lives, every vibrating pulse of our passions, every heart throb of our dreams?
This is what He asks for. I am convinced that this is what it takes to "win Christ." And He is enough.
I love Him, because He has asked me to die.