A few weekends ago I attended my Church camp where the theme just happened to be denying self and the theme verse was Luke 9:23 (ESV)
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.”
There’s a subtle difference between Luke 9:23 and Matthew 16:24 and that is the word “daily“. That word “daily” was an encouragement to me because I need the reminder that denying self isn’t just going to happen overnight but is a daily process that requires work every day. How often do we think that those amazingly loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind etc. people either have always been that way or “just got it right”. That lady who has 5 kids and never seems to yell or raise her voice even a little bit, she had (and probably has) to make the decision daily to be patient. The gentleman next door who never stresses about what is going to happen to him next, he reminds himself of verses that tell him not to be anxious and daily chooses to believe them and act on them. All of my sins aren’t going to disappear because I asked God nicely, I need to actually work and obey Him as well as pray for his help, guidance and then forgiveness every time I do get it wrong.
Think about this conversation from Little Women:
Marmie: You think your temper is the worst in the world but mine is just like it
Jo: You Marmie? But you are never angry!
Marmie: I am angry every day of my life, Jo, and have only succeeded in controlling it. Though I still hope to achieve not feeling it, that may take another 40 years.
Marmie is portrayed as a woman with infinite patience, she doesn’t yell or get angry and she always has a good solution for her daughters. Yet here she admits that she has anger in her heart, she may not have outbursts but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t suffer with anger. She has to daily make sure that her anger doesn’t affect other people (that may take another 40 years implies that she has already taken 40 years to reach the point she is at) and she is now working daily to not even experience it.
Now my challenge to myself (and to you) is that I (we) will start to work daily on my journey towards denying self.