This week's sermon at church was on Mark 8:35, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." The pastor followed this with a call to service, to give up one's time and comfort so that others can experience God's grace through our acts.
This verse reminds me of the words of Jim Elliott, who literally gave his life for the sake of the Gospel: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
Jesus was crucified, many of his disciples gave their lives in martyrdom, and even Jim Elliott was murdered on the mission field. In our comfortable, suburban, SUV and latte filled world, we are unlikely to be asked to die for our faith. But these words still ring true in our reality. We are called on quite often to sacrifice our desires, our time, our comfort, our idea of how things should work, our plans and hopes and dreams, so that others can know Jesus or understand a little more about God or see grace in our eyes and our hands.
When these moments of calling occur, we have a choice. We can surrender, giving up our selves and our lives for someone else. When we choose this, we so often find that we are the winners. We gain the joy of seeing someone else come closer to God, the joy of knowing we have done something good, the joy of having a purpose and a role to fill. Or, we can hold tightly to our ways and our desires, carefully protecting the world we have worked so hard to create for ourselves. But when we choose this option, we often find that, rather than gaining something, we have lost something of tremendous value. We lose the opportunity to experience joy, but we also often lose so much more. In our rush to protect our lives, we find that life becomes empty, hollow, without purpose. What were we working so hard to protect? And why does it seem further off than ever?