I was just spending a few minutes relaxing, playing a little guitar before bed, which has been one of my favorite ways to unwind for years. I was going over a song I wrote a few months ago that draws inspiration from Philippians 3, softly singing the lyrics to myself:
“I’m pressing on to take hold of You…. To live for You and die is gain….
I want to know You in your sufferings…. It’s through your death, I live again.”
As I was singing the 3rd phrase, a thought hit me – “boy, that’s a lie!” Now, I’m not saying that the scriptural basis is wrong, or that I disagree with what Paul was saying as he wrote the full verse (3:10) in Philippians that contains the phrase: “I want to know Christ… and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”. What I was realizing was, I don’t really want that! I understand with head knowledge that to live for Christ and to die to self (i.e., give up what I want) is for my gain, but the truth is, I don’t really want to suffer for the sake of Christ. Not if I’m being honest with myself. Theoretically, sure… but in reality, I’d rather skip that step.
I am so blessed when I think about it. I have a beautiful wife and three good kids, we have jobs and a roof over our heads, we’re part of a loving church, and we have great family and friends. There is so much to be thankful for, and so often we take so much of it for granted. If I had to give it all up for the sake of Christ, would I? Could I? I would like to think so, but in reality, I’m not sure that I trust myself to make the right choice. And I really hope I never have to make that type of decision: I love my family, I love my church…. (I was about to say I love my job too, but I don’t want to get convicted of lying again….) I’m grateful for my job? That one’s true. Am I willing to give it all up for the sake of Christ? (Can I claim the 5th amendment?)
Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t think God is calling me to give up my family, my church or my job for his sake. (He could call me away from the job or church, but that’s not the issue today.) But what I’m realizing is that in many ways, I’m spoiled. When Jesus calls us to “take up our cross and follow” him, there’s more to that than just going to church on Sunday and bible study on Wednesday night. Am I willing to give up the “American Dream” of success in order to truly follow Christ? If not, is it possible that I’m traveling on a “wide road” that I don’t really want to be on? Am I in danger of being the wrong “He who”? You know the one – am I the “He who tries to save his life will lose it” or am I the “He who gives up his life for my sake will find it”?
Lord, help us. Help me! I do want to press on and take hold of You, and I do understand that to live for You and to die (literally or figuratively) in this life is for my ultimate gain. But help me to be willing: if there is ever a point where I’m faced with a decision that will cause me to know you through the “fellowship of sharing in your sufferings,” give me the strength to make the right choice and the willingness to follow through with it. I don’t think you’re going to call me to die on a cross for your sake, but I’m so glad you were willing to die on a cross for mine.