Verse: Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Denying self. It’s a scary thought sometimes, isn’t it? Yet, Jesus makes it pretty clear in this verse that in order to follow Him, we must deny ourselves. We must be obedient to Him, take up our cross, and follow Him, which could come at a cost.
Have you ever given something up as a means of obedience or to be faithful? Maybe you gave up looking at your phone during dinner time in order to be more connected to your family, or maybe you gave up a particular social media platform because it had become an idol in your life.
We see many examples in Scripture about giving up in order to gain.
I was broken. A family vacation had turned into my own personal nightmare as I struggled to get work done, deal with relationship issues, and then the icing on the cake, having internet issues that prevented me from being able to complete a job interview that I believed was critical for my future. I knew I shouldn’t have come on this trip, I thought, as I went into my room, tears streaming down my face. My young niece watched me as I closed the door. Of course, her little mind couldn’t comprehend the pain I was suffering, but she knew I was unhappy and she had a plan. She put together a treasure trove of items that she loved, packaged them up, and left the package right outside my door. I know the pain of giving up those items would have been big to her sweet little heart, but she did it anyway, believing it was ultimately for a greater good.
Now, I don’t pretend to put myself on the same level as God, but my niece’s willingness to give up items she loved in order to comfort me reminded me of how sometimes we’re called to give up things we think love in order to show our obedience to God. This is demonstrated so many times in the Bible. Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac on the altar before God intervened, a little boy gave up his lunch and ended up being part of the miracle of feeding 5000, Christ telling us that we need to be willing to lose our lives in order to find them, and ultimately, God sacrificing His only Son on the cross for our salvation.
In the end, I gave my niece back the toys that she willingly (although painfully) parted with. And sometimes God gives us back those things in our lives that we give up as well. Sometimes He doesn’t, and when that happens, it is for the greater good, even if we don’t see that at the time.
As you think about giving up something this Lenten season, is there anything you could give up could bring you into a deeper relationship with Him? Is there anything that, while maybe not bad in and of itself, is getting in the way of communion with your Lord?