In other words, there's more to life than what we see. And when we give our lives to Christ, when live for him and his purposes instead of our own, we may lose our lives, but we gain so much more.
There's an advantage to living for Jesus even if it costs us along the way.
Similarly, John writes, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
When Jesus died, he took the punishment for our sin and purchased salvation for all who believe. In so doing, in "falling to the ground" and dying, he produced many seeds. We are those seeds, several times removed. Are we willing to be planted? Are we willing to "fall to the ground and die"?
Most Christians answer "yes." In theory, we know this is the right answer. The thing is, it's just not that easy.
I can be a generally good person, basically nice and kind, most of the time. But I can't live like that without the power of the Holy Spirit inside of me.
And so that's our focus. Eyes on Jesus. Praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Asking to be empowered to serve God's purposes rather than our own. Asking for strength to carry our crosses, to die to ourselves.
Yesterday Pastor Mike told the Stephen, the first person to die for his commitment to Christ. Even before he was stoned, his life demonstrated his commitment to serving God.. So, in life, he ministered to men and women, strengthening the church. In death, he served as a catalyst that spread the Gospel beyond Jerusalem. He "fell to the ground and died" and in so doing, his life produced many new lives.
And so the story had a happy ending after all.
Even for Stephen. Luke tells us that, just before he was stoned, "Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."
Stephen lost his life, and he saved his life. He died, and he death brought about life.
And so I'm thinking about a few things.
Pastor Mike asked two questions:
"Am I willing to die for my faith?"
"Am I willing to live for my faith?"
In theory, the answer is yes.
In reality, my answers vary depending on how I'm feeling on any given day and what God's asking me to do. On my own, I just don't have what it takes to "carry my cross" or "fall to the ground and die." And sometimes living for God's purposes on a moment by moment basis is harder than actually dying.
And so, I'm thinking about how I really need God's strength if I want to live a radical life that matters for the kingdom of God. And that means I need to seek God's Spirit. Today.