Devotion By Dr. James MacDonald
We live in a culture that is selfish and self-absorbed maybe like no other culture in human history. A few years ago Barron’s Magazine ran an article entitled “We Have Too Much.” It talked about how more and more Americans want things that make them feel good—cruises, makeovers, golf lessons, etc. Recreational spending jumped 30% from 1993 to 1998, while the luxury segment of the economy rose 21% in 1996 alone. In short, people are spending a lot of money giving themselves grins.
Yet all of this material abundance has not resulted in an abundance of happiness. The January 1998 issue of Entrepreneur carried an article by a historian from UCLA, who wrote, “Although the gross domestic per capita product in the United States has more than doubled in the past fifty years, there has been absolutely no improvement in the percentage of happy people. The more we have, the more we want. The evidence shows that this is what the world thinks.”
Is this what you think? Do you think that showering yourself with luxuries will make you a happier and more fulfilled person? It won’t. You’ll end up glutted on goods just like everyone else. If you want to be really happy, if you want to experience true satisfaction in your life, then there is only one thing you can do: die to self and live for God.
Jesus taught about this in John 12:24-25, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Jesus gives a little gardening lesson here to teach a profound truth: a plant doesn’t grow unless a seed dies first. And we don’t produce godly fruit in our lives unless we die to own goals, dreams, desires and ambitions.
It is a sad thing, but many people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ have not gotten very far on this matter of death to self. A world famous missionary who had scores of dedicated men and women passing through her mission said in one of her books, “Oh, the tragedy of it. More sad than seeing the heathen bowing down to their idols is the sight of Christian missionaries who have sacrificed so much: their country, their worldly goods, their homes, their loved ones—but have never given themselves to God.”
So let me ask you the question that the text forces us to ask ourselves: Do you love your life? Do you love your dreams for tomorrow? Do you love your plans for your own financial security? Do you love your little house and your car and your vacation plans? Do you love those things? Because the Scripture says if you love your life, you’re losing it! It is slipping away, bit by bit, like sand through an hourglass. You say, “Well how can I find my life?” Let it go. Lay it down. Spend yourself in fervent commitment to Christ, and then you will find your life.
One time I was preaching at a Bible conference. There was this sweet old woman sitting up front with two of her friends. They were talking kind of loud, and I could hear the one lady say to her friends, “Oh, I just love him!.” It would get me so fired up to preach. Then I learned that she was the wife of Howard Sugden, a wonderful pastor whom I had heard preach many times when I was younger. In fact, he had been my mom’s pastor before I was born, and had led her to Christ.
Mrs. Sugden was a widow now and in her nineties. For over fifty years she had been a Sunday school teacher in the same church. Yet, she listened all week and took notes. It was so humbling for me, because she should have been the teacher. When I told her the story about how her husband had led my mom to Christ, tears welled up in her eyes and started rolling down her cheeks. It was obvious how much she loved the Lord. There was a lady who has lost her life and found it.
I am calling upon you as a follower of Jesus Christ to give Him your all. Stop looking for things to give you that sense of happiness and satisfaction for which you long. It is only when you give up the search and turn it all over to Him that you find what you were looking for along. Dying to self can be a scary thought, but it’s the price of true happiness.