It is not easy for us to learn this lesson
(J. R. Miller, "Losing SELF in Christ" 1903)
"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9:23-24
Only as we learn to die to self—do we become like Christ.
Human nature seeks all for self—and none for Christ. Becoming a Christian is the taking of Christ into the life—in the place of self. Then all is changed. Life has a new center, a new aim. Christ comes first. His plan for our lives is accepted, instead of our own. It is no more what we would like to do—but "What does the Master want us to do?" It is no longer the pressing of our own will—but "May Your will, not mine, be done."
This is the foundation of all Christian living—the dying of self—and the growing of Christ in the heart. So long as there remains any self-will, any unsubmission, any spirit of disobedience, any unconquered self, asserting its authority against the will of Christ—just so long, is our consecration incomplete.
This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the only way to true usefulness. Not until self has been renounced, is anyone ready for true Christian service. While we are thinking how this or that will affect us, whether it will pay us to make this sacrifice or that self-denial; while we are consulting our own ease, our own comfort, our own interest or advantage in any form—we have not yet learned fully what the love of Christ means.
This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the secret of Christian peace. When Christ is small, and SELF is large—life cannot be deeply restful. Everything annoys us. We grow impatient of whatever breaks our comfort. We grieve over little trials. We find causes for discontent in merest trifles. We resent whatever would hinder or oppose us. There is no blue sky in the 'picture', of which SELF is the center!
But when SELF decreases, and Christ increases—then the life of friction and worry is changed into quietness and peace. When the glory of Christ streams over this little, cramped, fretted, broken life of ours—peace comes, and the love of Christ brightens every spot and sweetens all bitterness. Trials are easy to bear, when self is small—and Christ is large.
This lesson has its very practical bearing on all our common, every-day life. Naturally, we want to have our own way. We like to carry out our own plans and ambitions. We are apt to feel, too, that we have failed in life, when we cannot realize these hopes. But this is the world's standard! The successful worldling is the one who is able to master all life's circumstances, and make them serve him.
But the greatest thing possible in any life—is to have the divine plan for it fulfilled—even though it thwarts every human hope and dashes away every earthly dream. It is not easy for us to learn this lesson—that God's ways are always better for us than our own!
We make our little plans and begin to carry them out. We think we have all things arranged for our greatest happiness and our best good. Then God's plan breaks in upon ours—and we look down through our tears upon the shattered fragments of our fine plans! All seems wreck, loss, and disaster! But no—it is only God's larger, wiser, better plan—displacing our little, imperfect, shortsighted one!
It is true, that God really thinks about our lives—and has a purpose of His own for them, a place He would have us fill, a work He would have us do. It seems when we think of it, that this is scarcely possible—that each one of the lives of His countless children—should be personally and individually thought about by the Father. Yet we know that this is true of the least and lowliest of believers. Surely if God cares enough for us to make a plan for our life, a heavenly plan—it must be better than any plan of ours could be! It is a high honor, therefore, for His plan to take the place of ours, whatever the cost and the pain may be to us!