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This is part 3 of a 5 part series. This series was written for my friends in the cardiac-rehab program at Valley Regional Hospital.
The Principle of Self-denial
Closely related to the one-another principle is the principle of self-denial. Human beings are basically selfish. We spend our day seeking to satisfy our self. Some ways in which we satisfy ourselves are totally necessary for our survival. We need to satisfy our hunger and warmly clothe ourselves when we are cold. There are other ways we seek to satisfy ourselves which are not necessarily important. Seeing the football game on Sunday is not necessary. Being first in line to purchase the latest product release or to talk to the bank-teller or to get a burger at the fast-food chain are not necessary. Having expectations of giving a picture perfect, flawless weather, excellent reception, and beautiful ceremony for your daughter’s wedding may be placing an unnecessary high-expectation on being satisfied when just being happy your daughter found someone who will love and care for her may be enough.
We expect our satisfaction. When someone or something steps into our path and delays or prevents our satisfaction, we get all bent out of shape.
We want to get to work on time, but we keep getting red lights. Each red light increases our stress until the end of the commute, we are ready to explode. Deny your urgency, and replace it with patience. Leave earlier in the morning. Deny yourself the five minutes of alarm snoozing or the late show on television the night before.
It’s funny how we take a stressful job situation because we like the extra money and then we use the extra money to buy the extra nice car we stress about getting scratched. Do not lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves may break in and steal.
We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about our reputation and our image. We are overly concerned with how others think about us and how they perceive our economic status, our social status, our intelligence, our clothing, our physical appearance, and so forth. We think a lot about pleasing ourselves and being happy. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Which of us by worrying can add any measure to our height? Why do we worry about clothing? God clothes the rest of nature, He will also clothe us.
How much of our stress is caused by worrying about the future? Why do we worry about things which haven’t even happened yet? The majority of the time, we find we worry about future events and when the day of the event arrives, we find out it wasn’t bad after all. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient are the troubles of today.
Let’s look at this principle from another angle. What is our response to difficult situations? Let’s ask ourselves, “When I am stressed in a situation, when I am not being satisfied for some reason, what is it I want I am not getting?” What is this thing I want so badly I get angry, treat others unkindly, and I become a difficult person to be around? We get stressed out at people like the waitress, the guy in the other vehicle who just cut us off, or my family member who lost the remote to the television. If we can gain a proper perspective of life, we will not react negatively or let these events bother us. Instead, we will “roll with the punches” and not let the little things in life get under our skin. We need an eternal perspective, a big-picture view.
To deny ourselves, we put others first. We give others first place and don’t care so much if we are second or third. When we deny ourselves, we don’t seek too hard with an unhealthy ambition for life’s creature comforts and instead become content with what we are given. When we deny ourselves, we don’t get angry and say, “I deserve better treatment than this, after all, I’m the customer.” Instead, we patiently wait for the person behind the sales counter to fix their error, and we smile and thank them because we know we also made a few mistakes along the way.
A good friend recently sent a devotion written by Spurgeon that talks about revival. In reading it, I was reminded of more writing from Spurgeon on the topic. My heart has been stirred.
What do we think of when we say, “We need revival?” What picture comes to mind?
When we look at a prosperous tree planted beside the running waters, roots running deep into the ground, broad green leaves, giving shade from the sun, branches hanging low with bushels of juicy fruit, do we say that the tree needs revival? No, we don’t say that a prosperous tree needs revival. What needs revival is a tree with shallow roots and poor soil. A tree that is sickly, bent over, leaves that hang limp, leaves that are dropping off. A tree that bears no fruit needs revival.
When we see a pair of oxen plowing deeply into a field, overturning row after row of earth from dawn to dusk, do we say these strong healthy animals are in need of revival? No, we don’t say that strong working oxen needs revival. What needs revival is an ox with no feed, lying in the stable, neglected, with sores on its body.
When we see a strong man in his youth, his muscles flexing, a man competing in the Olympics, eyes focused on the finish line, or a soldier fit for combat, trained with excellence, fully fit for hours of marching with a heavy pack, when we see these pictures, do we think those men are in need of revival? No, we don’t say that a man in sound health with every part of his body in a vigorous condition does not need reviving. But, a man that was swimming in the water, has almost drowned, the waves spitting him out onto the shore, pulled out from the depths, his body lifeless and limp, his pulse is weak and his eyelids drooping and his breathing shallow. That is a man that needs revival.
As we examine our lives, not with eyes of an earthly perspective, but with spiritual eyes, what do we see? Do we see strong spiritual soldiers victoriously carrying the banner of Christ? Or, do we see ourselves as unengaged in the battle? Spurgeon notes that Lifeless, lukewarm church men are of no value to a church, they are as a crew of sailors all fainting, weak, and in their bunks when they were needed to hoist the sails or lower the boats or set a course for the new land. Unless God revives us, we are of no value to the church. The true test of the sailing vessel and its crew is not when the ship is sailing under easy weather. The test comes when the storm is upon us. We must get healthy and prepare for the storm. There is a storm on the way.
What has taken life from us? Why do we need to be revived?
We need revival because of our daily diet in the ways of the world, our lack of exercising righteousness, our finding satisfaction in worldly pleasure. Our spirit is weak but our flesh is strong.
Revival is not man-made. By the very definition, the lifeless cannot give themselves life. The man rescued from drowning, lying on the beach with his lungs full of water cannot save himself, he needs someone to revive him. The weak, limp body of the man found unconscious lying in the desert, barely breathing, barely living, cannot feed himself and cannot give himself drink. He needs someone to revive him.
We need God to revive us. He is our only hope. We need to pray that God would do a work in us so that the glory of God becomes our greatest concern, ambition, and our source of pleasure and joy and satisfaction. The things of God need to be our diet and our exercise. Jesus said that His life purpose was to bring glory to the Father, this must be our life purpose. As an Olympian that trains before a race; as a soldier that prepares for a battle, we must set our minds upon God’s glory as the prize. 1 Corinthians 10:31 commands that whatever we do, it should be done to the glory of God! Let’s pray for a work of God in our lives, for His glory and for our joy.