Life-Giving Encouragement: Given Over to Death
By Sharon W. Betters
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. -2 Corinthians 4:11-12
“Please, take a few breaths, I can’t understand what you are saying.” My friend’s sobs slowed as she breathed deeply and then spoke in a voice I could barely hear, “My child just told me she sees nothing wrong with the life choices she is making. She gave me a whole list of reasons why my thinking is old fashioned, but I know her decisions will lead her to destruction. This is all so foreign to me. I don’t know what to do and I’m terrified for her.”
We hear these stories more and more. Christian parents are struggling with how to love their adult children when these same children are rejecting the values of their faith. Once more this topic is too much for a devotional, yet Today’s Treasure gives us guidance on how to set a table for our wayward child that entices them to “come and sit a while” and bask in our love that is rooted in the love of Jesus.
Notice Paul uses the words “death” and “life” twice in this short verse. What does this look like in our relationships to people whose lifestyles conflict with what we believe is Scriptural? Paul says Jesus gives us new life so we can die to self for the sake of others, so those very people can experience a new life in Jesus.
A mother listened as her son described all the ways she had failed him. He rejected his childhood commitment to Jesus, saying it never meant anything to him. Her gut reaction was to strike back, to defend herself and point out all the ways she had cared for and protected him. But that morning she had read this verse and meditated on the way Jesus sacrificed so she could experience new life. She thanked the Lord for her salvation and His presence. Then she asked Him to show her how to die to self so that His life could shine through the cracks in the clay pot of her life. Her son’s words stung and tears filled her eyes. Instead of striking back, she paused and then said, “I am so sorry for the ways I messed up. Will you please forgive me?”
How I wish I could say that moment healed their relationship! Instead, it was one moment in the marathon of life that began to entice her son to “come to her table and sit a while.”
Most of us would applaud this mother if she had told off her son the way she wanted to! He would have deserved it, but instead, humility and dying to self-created another crack in her clay pot, so the life of Jesus could shine through. It was just a glimmer, but it caught her son’s attention.
God wants to break apart our jars of clay to display the treasure of the gospel. That process showcases His power and not our weaknesses. Breaking hurts and sometimes destroys, but rather than despair, this should give us great hope, if our hearts are fixed on the bigger picture of eternity. The breaking through humility puts Jesus on display, rather than our pride and hurt feelings.
This is a hard message to embrace and live out. There is no cookie-cutter strategy of practical steps for every relationship. Instead, this is a call to falling more in love with Jesus and depending on Him to open our eyes to those moments that require dying to self, so that His love shines through the cracks in our clay pots.
Instead of a practical to-do idea for offering life-giving encouragement, I invite you to write out Today’s Treasure and take some time to meditate on what this Scripture means for you personally in your daily interactions with difficult people. Is there a specific way the Lord is calling you to die to self, with no expectations of any return? Life-giving encouragement flows from a life-giving intimacy with the Life-Giver, God. Ask the Lord to transform any self-protective hard place in your heart in a way that entices others to come, “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Oh, Jesus, we need You, how we need You. Every hour we need You. Every minute we need You. Your presence brings life, but it also requires death. Alert us to moments today when instead of protecting ourselves, we humbly die to self as a means of setting a beautiful table that entices hurting people to come taste and see that You are good.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon W. Betters is author of Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness, and co-author of Treasures of Faith. She is Director of Resource Development and co-founder of MARKINC.org, a nonprofit organization that offers help and hope to hurting people. Sharon enjoys quality time with her husband, children, and fourteen grandchildren.
For more from Daily Treasure please visit MARKINC.ORG.