“...if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark 8: 34-37, NLT)
Do you suppose there is any truth to what Jesus said about, “getting our real life by giving up our false life?”
This spiritual experience of getting a more rewarding life by giving up what we have come to think of as the most important things in life actually begins with, “allowing Christ to be in charge.” As Eugene Peterson puts it in his somewhat loose, at times, paraphrased translation, “You’re not in the drivers seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I will show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?” THE MESSAGE.
He was called "Mr. Super Volunteer," at his post every day as he commanded the community clothes closet like it was a company of cadets. Fellow volunteers and those with needs loved and admired Bill because of his contagious zeal, passion, and deep dynamic drive to fulfill their (Bill's) mission. Indeed, the mission of the ministry was a byproduct of a newfound sense of calling.
Bill told me, "I spent my entire working life building a career and manufacturing widgets, but looking back, what difference did it make?" Then he went on to say, "But, I found my true life's work in giving away clothing to people in need."
If you are young, perhaps in high school or college, you still have the opportunity to make sure that your life’s vocational choice is a career through which you can feel that you are making a contribution to your brothers and sisters on the planet. Or, if you are locked into a job that you have to keep, and think you are too old to change paths, you can find ways to share your time, money and volunteer hours with others.
John Yauger, M.D., was our Scoutmaster at Northside United Methodist Church in Atlanta, thirty years ago. He was able to share his soul and medical shills as a cardiologist, through his medical career, which he thought of as a “Divine Calling;” However, his great joy was instilling a share of his soul into the lives of hundreds of boys. Some became medical doctors, lawyers, clergy, architects and salesmen, but all feel compelled to follow their beloved Scoutmaster in sharing their time, and sharing their “real selves” with others. His avocational ministry was continued long after he retired from his vocational calling. Today, John Yauger lives in heaven but he also lives through the lives of “his boys.”
The greatest regrets of the senior years are not so much for sins committed, but of lost opportunities. Giving hours in volunteer service is a way that retired persons can make up for those long years of self centered living. The ideal is to get on board early on in life. Yet, some wait until retirement to become involved in the lives of others. The Good News is that, no matter what age we are we can change our lives--- and God’s Spirit will help us change. New choices can often make up for bad choices from the past.
Spiritual growth is always accompanied by a heightened sense of calling to follow the God who is in the “driver’s seat.” The enhancement of spiritual faith requires both wings of the plane to keep it in the air. In December we celebrate the first flight of Orville and Wilbur Wright. All airplanes require stationary wings on both sides of the pilot in order to fly. In our spiritual walk we need both the evangelical experience of salvation and the social element of living our lives for others. Indeed, the two are so absolutely essential that the plane will not fly, and the soul will not find fulfillment with either wing missing.
When John Wesley experienced an inner assurance of salvation he also went out and started serving his fellow human beings in Jesus’ name. Wesley found that the abundant life cried out for both aspects of Christian commitment and sacrificial living.
Having primarily served affluent congregations I have known quite a few folks who have made an awful lot of money and who have had all of the toys. A few have made the fatal mistake of worshipping mammon and none of them have been ultimately happy. Power, big houses, fine cars and other luxury items have never brought fulfillment. Only those who have submitted to the leadership of the Spirit, and the Lordship of Christ, have found the truly abundant life.
The Good News is that Christ offers this same abundant life to all who will give their hearts to Him. We truly get by giving our lives away. We discover our true self in Him.
What else ultimately matters in the end? What good would it be to gain all of the toys and lose our souls?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor