Self fulfillment or self denial?

“If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

We live in a remarkable age where we are bombarded with ads about self fulfillment. Travel agencies tell us to fly now and pay later. People will say to us, “You owe it to yourself.” Or “You deserve a break today”. In western society we have the best of everything from doctors, dentists, medical insurance, homes, etc.

Yet, for all the blessings of living in western society we can observe some remarkably unusual trends. It seems that our riches in this part of the world do not satisfy our longings and needs. Apparently the USA with 5% of the world’s population consumes 80% of its cocaine.

What is wrong with this picture? Why are we not satisfied with what we have? How can those with the most creature comforts in the world still be seeking for more? When is enough, enough? Even the question indicates the insatiable appetite we have for more. Is it that we really do not have enough in life or might it be we have not found the right thing yet? Maybe it is not greed for more things in life as much as the fact that what we have found so far in life does not bring the peace, contentment, and purpose we strive to obtain?

The curious call of Jesus is for us to come to Him and die. Our verse refers to taking up a cross in order to follow Him. In Jesus’ time a cross was never a burden that someone carried through life. Rather it was always an instrument of death. The cross always symbolized the end of life.

The paradox of genuine Christianity is that if we really wish to live, we must die. We must die to ourselves and our own craving for things in this life. We must renounce what this world holds dear to its heart. Be it wealth, health, position in society, or whatever. These things are not what the Christian desires.

God created us for Himself and until we come to Him and are reconciled to Him we will never find the rest and peace that we long for all of our days. The puzzle of life is that we must give ourselves up to our Creator and submit to His will in order to fulfil the reason for our existence.

It is then that we are able to cope with the difficult alternatives life often brings to us. Because we have given ourselves to the Lord it is no longer an issue of what we want or desire. We accept what our sovereign Lord gives and find contentment in His will for us. We learn to pray with Jesus,

“Not my will but yours”.

Have you come to that place in life where you are willing to accept what God brings into your situation and look to Him for grace and strength to carry on with life? Will you deny yourself in order to gain Jesus? If you do you will never regret it. If you do not you will always regret it. 

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