"Whoever Loses His Life Shall Save It"
Its not an easy statement to believe. Jesus' statement is a
paradox. How does one go about saving his life by losing it? Such a concept can
only be valid with Jesus, the Son of God!
The road to success in life and as a disciple of Jesus is not one that most would expect. The promises of Jesus are real and all important. We had better believe them and live by them even if most in the world do not. Consider our text:
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
25 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
26 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26).
Jesus said a lot of things like this. For one example, He said "Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth." That, too, is a road less traveled. One of life's ironies is that we get some things by giving them up. Jesus said I can become richer by giving up some of earth's treasures and lay up for myself treasures in heaven. It is true! (Matthew 6:19-20). But one must first grasp the significance and wonderful value of spiritual treasures to truly comprehend Jesus' promise here. We can become "richer" by giving away some of our money. We see this principle demonstrated repeatedly in the Scripture... (re. Abraham's offer to Lot; David's "I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing"; The rich fool who hoarded his goods and died taking nothing with him).
A Physical and Spiritual Creature Called "Man"
The Scriptures teach, and I think every human being is at least dimly aware of the fact, that we are more than the sum of our body parts. There is the physical, outer part of us, that which the Bible calls "temporal", and the spiritual, inner person which the Bible says is "eternal" (that is, without end).
There is not only this life "under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:3), but at death "the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (ECCL. 12:7).
Only when one recognizes the importance of the eternal, unseen part of the human being will this principle make sense... only to those spiritually minded (Matthew 10:28). Some things only benefit us in this life, but better things benefit us in both this life and the next. Paul said, "...for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8). The question we all want an answer to is: how can we get the best out of both worlds? And are we wise enough to realize that the eternal riches of the next world are worth more than the temporary riches of this world?
Giving God First Place
When temporary things become less important and eternal things become more important to us, then we will begin to grasp the meaning of Jesus' statement. A godly vision of the faith that leads to everlasting life is the way to "love life and see good days" right now (1 Peter 3:10-12).
Faith puts God first because it believes His promises and assurances. It is the conviction of things not yet seen. But just because they have not yet been seen does not mean they are not of tremendous value already. There is an old saying that "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." But that does not hold true if the bird in the hand soon vanishes away but the two in the bush can be ours forever.
Those things for which we hope instill within us a joy and, if our faith is strong enough, even exultation that we have put God first. We will think of ourselves as rich and blessed, though outwardly we may not seem so. It is as Jesus Himself said to the church at Smyrna, "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)..." (Revelation 2:9).
We Need to be Liberal!
Wow! I never thought I'd write those words. But in one sense, it is true. It is not true in the sense of being doctrinally liberal or morally liberal. But it is certainly true in the sense that the New Testament teaches with the words, "you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:11; see also Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:2 and 9:13).
With our blessings, we could be building "bigger barns" (as Jesus described it in one of His parables-Luke 12:16-22) when greater happiness could be had by giving up some of that in favor of spiritual pursuits or kingdom matters. The "carnal" man has appraised his life and put a higher value on physical things than on the spiritual. This will not result in the depth of joy and confident strength possible in this life, and will result in complete and utter tragedy in the life to come (Romans 8:5-9; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
Laying Hold of Life Indeed
Jesus had predicted that He would be put to death and also said that the apostles would face similar treatment. When Peter objected to the idea that Jesus would die, Jesus responded "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." To the apostles, as well as all faithful disciples, we must face the fact that the world expects us to renounce Jesus, or at least reject His teachings, to be acceptable, to be politically correct, to be popular, or sometimes, even to stay alive. But if one does renounce Christ, or even merely ignore Him and His will, the things he will have saved will be next to valueless in the very near future. But if one will go so far as to lose his life rather than deny the Lord, he will find what life really is (1 Timothy 6:19).
Also, principle applies not only to life itself, but anything we consider important in life. We must be willing to lose the temporal things of life, if need be, that we may faithfully and loyally follow Christ. It might involve losing comfort or physical security. It might mean forgoing something pleasurable or some source of momentary happiness. It might cost us acceptance with family, friends or associates. It might cost us physical wealth. These are the things of this life. We must put following Christ above them all (Mark 10:28-31). The Christian never gives up anything for Jesus' sake without gaining something better. And no one reaching heaven will be disappointed.
Being a disciple of Jesus has many wonderful benefits. And, we are only at the beginning. We can scarcely imagine what glories will be in the world to come, where as one hymn suggest, we exult as "the ages roll on". We may lose our lives, but in the end, we will save them.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.11; November 2006