I've read John 12:25 quite a few times in my Christian journey and yet I never fully grasped its meaning until recently.
We all know Jesus is reminding his followers that to be a disciples means to sacrifice, to take up the cross, to surrender. And I know that. I remember walking down the aisle at camp every year, pledging to live my life for the Lord.
And I really meant it. I really do want to serve Christ. But I'm finding that my willingness to serve has a lot of conditions.
It can't come with problems.
There has to be no interruptions in my day.
Nobody in my family is allowed to get sick.
And I always have to have enough money to pay my bills.
When any one of those things occurs, I get upset and complain. But Jesus challenges me. He says, "Take up your cross." He says, "Lose your life."
What I'm finding is that Jesus' challenge isn't just a one-time pledge. It's a daily commitment. Paul said that he "died daily."
So it is that Jesus asks us to take up our crosses and lose ourselves every single day. That means every single day, there will be hardships, trials, and things we hate and hate to do. These are the crosses we can expect. These are the crosses Jesus asks us to bear.
Jesus said that if we stop trying to protect our lives we'll actually experience real life, the divine life, down there on earth.
I can tell you that the days I lose my life are the days I experience that life. They are the days that the peace of God rules my life. When I trust God's sovereign control.
The key is to wake up every day and surrender that day to the Lord. To toss aside our expectations of normalcy and comfort. When we do that, we relieve ourselves of the stress and expectations and we open up the storehouse of Heaven for spiritual blessings.
There have been many days lately when I've felt life was out of control. When things just didn't go the way I needed them to. When problems arise. The natural reaction is to get angry, to try to protect our lives from such terrible things.
But the spiritual thing to do is accept each problem as a God-ordained cross and to set aside our desire for comfort and "lose ourselves" in God's total control.
So surrendering your life in service to the Lord in an altar call is a good and great first step. But having the discipline to yield to the work of the Holy Spirit each and every day is even better.
Because along the way of life, you will get fired from a job unjustly. You will have people say stuff about you that isn't true. You're car will get stranded on the highway. Your kids will throw up at 3 am. You're wife will get crabby. You're kids will get in trouble in school. You're church won't play the music you like.
And each time you can stomp around. You can quit on that relationship. You can get angry and resentful.
Or—or you can accept those as crosses God designed to produce death to yourself and Christ's life inside. And you can lose your desire for normalcy and comfort and experience the divine life of peace with God in an restless world.
Daniel Darling is an author, pastor, and public speaker. His latest book is Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, follow on him on Twitter at twitter.com/dandarling, or check out his website: danieldarling.com.