23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
What is your immediate reaction when you read this? For me, I had an immediate sense of uneasiness. The passage calls me, as a follower of Christ, to deny myself and suffer.
In a world that values comfort, this sounds strange. However, this is not a completely foreign idea. Often that is what we do in our general life. Here are a few examples: a student painfully grind through their studies for the high marks, an athlete who trains tirelessly for a chance to win, an immigrant parent moves to a foreign place for a chance that their kids will have a better life, etc. We also have many common sayings, such as “Work Hard, Play Hard” and “No Pain, No Gain”. We sacrifice for the things that we want, whether that is influence, money, family, etc.
However, none of this matter to us in the end: our influence of people will fade, we are unable to use money after death and your family would have mostly forgotten you in a couple of generations. This is reiterated in Luke 9:25, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”. There is no profit, and just like the things above, this world will also fade and only Christ will remain.
So, does this mean that we must suffer to gain Christ? Definitely not, Christ has freely given Himself to us, as seen in the Gospel, in which He came to us in flesh, died to defeat sin and put us in right relationship with God, so “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).
So why do we suffer for Christ? In EMYF we have been going through 1 Thessalonians, and one of the key takeaways from our 1st Bible study was that we should be imitators of Christ. As a result, we will suffer, because living out of this faith is counter-cultural to norms of this world.
But Christ understands our suffering, for He suffered by testifying who He is and what He is going to do. Hence, with Easter coming up, let us rejoice in the fact that by we participate in Christ suffering.
SUGGESTED FAST: SHOPPING FOR NON-ESSENTIALS Consider fasting from shopping for anything that is not absolutely necessary this week. Reflect on the ways that God has provided for your every need. You could choose to start a list of God’s provision in your life, spend time praying for God to help you remember that He is your ultimate sustainer and giver of life or find small ways to be generous toward others in gratitude for what the Lord has given to you.