"And he (Jesus) said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:23-26
The other day when I was at Wal-mart I saw a shirt that said, "I Heart Me". I thought, "wow". That's the problem. We already love ourselves; we don't need a shirt to remind us. The world wants us to put ourselves first, do what will make us happy, treat ourselves, make ourselves comfortable, keep what's best for ourselves, serve others in order to make ourselves feel good, believe in yourself, and the list goes on and on. This is not what the Bible tells us, however. If we want to follow Jesus, we must deny ourselves.
I have been blessed to grow up going to church and be taught the truth of God's word in my home. I have read these verses many times. I thought I understood what it meant to deny oneself. You know, putting God before yourself, doing what would please Him most, giving up your stuff and giving to the poor, denying your desires for an easy life and living overseas on the mission field, giving your life as a martyr for the name of Christ. But recently I read this passage again and took "deny myself" more literally....my life, even my body. Could God be calling me to a life of physical pain for "his sake"? Of course He could. Whether it is a lifelong pain or a struggle with numbered days I don't know, but I do know that I have to be willing to deny my physical comfort and trust God. It is extremely difficult, but that's why Jesus says we must take up our cross of self-denial daily no matter the cost. The end result is worth it! If we try to worship life on this Earth and cherish it as the "end-all", we will only be disappointed when it is soon over. But if we give up our life in order to serve God trusting in Jesus (however that may look), we will surely not be disappointed both in this life and in the life to come!
Take courage, my friends, your suffering (whatever that may be) is not in vain. God is at work...trust Him!