“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.'” Mark 8:34-35
On our way out to M this last trip, one of our Ugandan team members (Betty) was telling me about a dream she had. In her dream, the body of Christ was being persecuted. Those who stood for Jesus were beheaded. They were forced to make a choice and the stakes were high. In her dream, Betty was beheaded but when she woke up she asked herself “Am I really willing to die for the sake of Jesus?”
The question was disturbing because of the reality that she could be called to lose her life (literally) for the sake of the Gospel. As we spoke, it really challenged me as well. I mean, aren’t we all called to lose our life for Christ?
Few in the west will actually have to face the choice of standing for Christ in the face of imminent death, although some will. For most of us, the question may look slightly different, but it’s fundamentally the same. Are we willing to die to our flesh? To our comforts? To our security? To our safety? To materialism? All for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel.
Just last week we visited M3, a prison for children in eastern Uganda. The stench in the prison cell where 30 boys are kept was so strong I could barely stand it. I consciously started breathing through my mouth because my stomach was turning. The boys are in the cell all day with nothing to occupy them. They share mattresses and blankets. The septic tank has backed up, the toilets don’t work and they have no shoes or flip-flops. The bathroom floor was covered in urine. When they walked around, you could see the wet marks on the floor as they tracked it through the room.
After our visit, we returned with a soccer ball and some paper and coloring pencils. We wanted to leave the boys with a few things until we could return with flip-flops, mattresses and someone to drain the septic tank. The reaction of the boys was incredible. I wish you could have heard the cheers.
After witnessing this and the suffering of so many others in Uganda (many, many, many of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ), it makes me equally as sick to my stomach to think that I struggle with dying to my flesh. Will Christ not hold us accountable for our selfish indulgence while His saints are suffering and dying?
If He is our supreme treasure, and there is nothing on this earth that we desire apart from Him, then why don’t we live like it. In many cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between us and the rest of the world.
Truth be told, many of us want it both ways. We want the pleasures of this world, while also doing some work for the Kingdom. But is that really the life God has called us to? As far as I know, there is no middle ground. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. James 4:4. That which is highly valued among men is detestable to God. Luke 16:15. Whoever is not willing to renounce everything he has cannot be Christ’s disciple. Luke 14:33. You can’t serve two masters.
Conforming to this world is easy; we can justify about anything. Living for Christ is difficult; it involves suffering, sacrifice and persecution. But He’s worth infinitely more than we will ever “sacrifice.” Wouldn’t it be amazing if, like Paul, we all could joyfully say that for His sake we have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Him. Phil. 3:8.
Dying takes many forms. Nailing our desires and comforts to the cross is part of our death to self. The question is “Are you willing to die?”
Update: As of the date of this post the kids at M3 have flip-flops, mattresses and the septic tank is all clear!