Lose your life to Save it
The call to discipleship is an invitation to a life of crisis in this life. It’s a call to stand out and live for Jesus amidst opposition from the world, the devil, and even our own sinful flesh (Ephesians 2:1-3). It’s a call to move against the tide following Jesus in life and death. To lose our lives for his sake and his Gospel and in return gain eternal life.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35).
When we commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus, we get a guarantee of life with him now and forever in his eternal home but in that package also comes suffering. This will be different for each of us and there will be those who suffer to the point of death while others not as much. Suffering isn’t a mark of being a Christian but every Christian should expect and be ready to suffer if they live long enough in this world. As Christians in the enemy territory we are either going through suffering or we are about to unless the Lord comes sooner.
Try Save your Life and Lose it
But if that sounds too much to ask, I think we’ll find the alternative worse and harder. We could try to save our lives by going our own way, disregarding Jesus and his Gospel warning. We can live a carefree life, yielding to sin and going with the flow of the world but then we can be sure what awaits us, in the end, is eternal judgement:
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:36-38.
What this Corona crisis teaches us is that it won’t be easy on this side of eternity either for those who choose to disregard the Saviour’s appeal. We are now realising that what the world promises is really overrated. At the sight of a pandemic and economic breakdown, everything comes crashing down. The devil says, bow down to me and I’ll give you the world. But what he doesn’t tell you is it’s really a broken world and not worth losing your soul.
The world promises abundant life here and now and it seems only wise to pick what you can get now instead of what you might get in future. This is really attractive to a world obsessed with getting things quickly and easily. That offer is well advertised but also highly overrated. If the world could deliver on her promises then we would be the happiest people of all the past generations. But in truth life has only become more complicated and depressing. The promise of abundant life here and now is but a mirage. The closer you get to achieve it the more it demands you to sacrifice with no guarantees.
Think about the offer that comes with getting a permanent job. It means steady income for your family and should guarantee happiness. Growing up that was the motivation to work hard at school. And a considerable number of people turned down Gospel ministry opportunities as it seemed financially insecure. I’m not saying that’s not a valid reason to consider among others when making a decision to join full time Christian ministry or not but on its own it isn’t valid. It would also suggest that everyone outside Gospel ministry has a permanent income and secure future which isn’t true. In truth, the permanence that comes with a job is highly overrated and this pandemic has awoken us to that reality. This idol promises much but delivers little for only a few.
Safe in Under the Wings of Jesus
I wanted to start here as we talk about discipleship in this crisis because many times, we see this only from one dimension. We think about how much we are asking people to give up to live for Jesus and his Gospel. How much they stand to lose by living for Jesus in the office. Who wants a holy Joe in their gang?
We feel we are risking student’s future calling them to give up careers and join Gospel ministry. Sometimes we can’t help but imagine the kind of life we would be living if we followed that dream job or got into that relationship or hoarded that income. In truth, those who did all that aren’t the happiest people in the world. But it is because the world knows how to market her lies. And this crisis is exposing what’s truly in that package and it’s not nearly enough to lose one’s life.
On the other hand, Jesus tells us what to expect from the word go… “In this life, you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world” John 16:33.
He binds his promise with the truth and goes ahead of us to show us that it’s worth this life and much more. What he gives, the world can only dream about. It’s what we want above everything else, to live life in abundance without fear and stress of illness, wars, or economic crisis. And Jesus says you can have it all and much if you’d come to him:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30).
The world can only promise temporary comfort if you work really hard, work smart as they say, steal or luckily you are born with a silver spoon. But it cannot guarantee how the future will look like and neither can it save you from death.
Let’s think about the outcome of this crisis for a minute. Best case scenario we get a cure soon. We take some time to recover and go back to rebuilding our lives. That’s the good news everyone is waiting for.
But in reality, it may take longer to get a cure and much longer to recover and a lot of people will probably never go back to their former lifestyle. Then there will be another crisis to deal with and death will surely knock at our door sooner or later. Is that really worth losing your life? I don’t think so.
I’m not trying to scare you to turn around and follow Jesus. No, I’m just laying the facts in front of you to see how hollow the promises of this world are. It offers much with a lot of toil and pain but no guarantees. But in contrast, I hope you can see how dependable God is. Only He can deliver on his promise of abundant life in future.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, those of us who believe in him are guaranteed eternal life with him. An eternal life that is free of illness and death. And he promises to walk with us in this life through all our troubles on our journey to our eternal heritage.
Trust Him and make him Known
Where does this leave us then as Christians seeking to live for Jesus in this Pandemic? First, I hope we are convinced of our security in Jesus no matter what happens. That he is the only sure Rock and all other ground is sinking sand. If he ordains that we fall to this pandemic then Paul will remind us that dying in Christ is the best thing that can ever happen to a believer as we go to be with the Lord, Philippians 1:21.
But as long as we are alive then we should be living for him. Living informed by his Word and seeking to grow his kingdom by reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus even at this time. Now as always, we need to be feeding from his Word and being steadfast in good works. The world maybe in hibernation but the church cannot be more active at this time.
This is the time to grow those fellowships and reach our non-believing friends with the Gospel. Luckily, we now all live in the same village and though it’s far better to disciple people physically, there’s still something we can do with the resources and platforms God has given us.
Before the busyness of life had made it hard to even sit down for a 15 minutes devotion and prayer. Now we have more than enough time to develop good habits of Bible reflection, read good Christian materials, pray and encourage others with the Word before we become crazy busy again.
I was recently really encouraged by a family where they are now preaching in turn at home since they can’t attend church. We should have more men like these who are equipped and committed to disciple their families. Many churches have gone online to share their preaching on Facebook and do Bible fellowships on Zoom. It’s not ideal but it’s evidence that though the Church door is closed Gospel ministry still continues.
But for those in Gospel ministry, I hope this Pandemic has exposed us to the urgent need to faithfully preach the Gospel and equip people to faithfully handle the Word of God. If churches and Christian organisations committed to do this then we wouldn’t need to do those Live-streams and come up with Church devotions and Prayer sessions online. Families would be well equipped to do most of these things. I hope we will invest more in Gospel ministry training and equipping the next generation to be faithful in preaching the true Gospel before the next crisis comes knocking or Jesus returns whichever comes first.
Article by Peter Muturi. Peter works as a Ministry Training Facilitator for iServe Africa’s Graduate Apprenticeship Programme (GAP). Peter loves walking and blogging @ timetopreach.wordpress.com