The older I get, the more inevitable death becomes to be. All things that live will at some point die. But even we tend to forget that — acting shocked or surprised when friends or loved ones pass. Death is dark. It’s feared. It’s even avoided at all cost.
But the Bible has historically promoted death differently. The New Testament is filled with verses that call us in one way or another to figuratively “die to ourselves,” almost as if it’s a good thing. But it was the Apostle Paul who said it best, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Our ultimate example of death to self can be found in the cross of Calvary. It was hours before Jesus LITERALLY died to himself that he prayed in the garden a very interesting, two-headed prayer.
He first prayed for his own desires: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). It’s here that we see that while Jesus was fully God (Son), that He was also fully human, filled with angst and emotion for what was to come.
But it was his next words where He shows us what death to self is really about: “Not my will, but yours, be done.”
Those words are quite possibly some of of the most dangerous you could ever utter. It’s in that prayer where you surrender all control, desire, and self will into the hands of a God who will go to great lengths to glorify Himself. We begin to see here what dying to self really means: submitting to what God wants from our lives before we look towards our own desires.
Dying to self is not as much about sacrifice as it is about submission. It’s not a call to be miserable and worthless, but rather to find purpose in asking God, “How can you use me today?”
God does not call for us to be miserable in the giving of ourselves to Him. Wasn’t it Jesus who said that he came so that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)?
Let me be the first to admit that dying to myself is no easy task. I fight the urge daily to put myself first. Even by hitting that snooze button two to three times in the morning I am telling God, “I’m not ready yet. But please be patient. I’ll let you know when that time comes.” If you’re headed west on Ray Road safely at the speed limit, I’m tempted to pull a Jeff Gordon and fly around you — more so because YOU are hindering ME from getting where I want and when I want to get there.
We are naturally wired to believe and act as if our little, short-lived lives are about us. It’s even in my car where my heart is screaming, “This commute is about me.”
We live in a world that will always promote LIVING TO SELF. We are constantly being told that this world and this life is about us (as individuals).
But knowing, believing, and trusting in this truth — that you were designed and created for a much bigger purpose than yourself — are the first steps towards seeing that giving up our lives doesn’t bring misery, but rather joy.
Handing our lives back over to the one who gave them to us falls right in line with what D.L. Moody said: “Let God have your life. He can do more with it than you can.”
• Colin Noonan serves as the director of youth minitries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Keep the conversation going with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.