By Ryan Kelly –
A powerful verse in Scripture is Mathew 16:24, “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me daily.” Jesus tells us how to follow Him and achieve everlasting life, but what does it really mean to deny ourselves?
I have struggled with this throughout my life, and still feel the pull between self-sacrifice and enjoying the blessings that God has bestowed on me. On one hand, God tells us to enjoy the world that He has created and our relationship with Him. He has created a beautiful and majestic world just for us. On the other hand, as Christians we feel compelled to spread the gospel throughout the world and to work hard for our Savior.
So which is it?
The answer is both. We are indeed to sacrifice when needed, and to be willing to sacrifice everything important to us (see Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler). But, the willingness to sacrifice does not mean that He wants you to sacrifice everything right now.
We are each on a path designed specifically for us by God. And, He speaks to each of us daily. When we listen to Him, we hear Him guiding and directing us each in individual ways. When He tells us to deny ourselves, it’s always for good reason. Most of the time it is to reject the sinful world around us and to lean on Him. Sometimes sacrifice deals less with us and more of what He is doing in the lives of others. Either way, we should listen.
It is equally important, though, that we enjoy the world that He made for us. Enjoy your spouse, your kids, nature, fun, food, excitement and humor. These things are made specifically for us, and it does a disservice to God when we refuse them. Obviously there are limits to this notion as there is with anything, but it’s important for us to remember that following Jesus does not mean that we cannot enjoy life.
It is possible to work and play all within the will of God. Keep working to find that elusive perfect balance of life.