2 CORINTHIANS 4:7–12 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
THEME OF THE DAY. DYING TO SELF THAT CHRIST MIGHT BE SEEN. Our Lord Jesus said something through an illustration of a grain of wheat that all Christians must understand, embrace, and live if they want to be a credible and influential witness for Him. The context is Jesus talking to Andrew and Philip after they told Him some Greeks wanted to see Him. Our Lord begins to tell them and us, the non-negotiable requirement to be a fruit-bearing disciple of His. And it isn’t easy. In fact, it will prove to be the hardest thing we will ever do in our lives as Christians. Why? Because it has to happen daily and constantly. It is dying to ourselves; desires, plans, resources, time, wills, and directions in life with everything surrendered to Christ that makes us Christ-revealing and fruit-bearing disciples of His. Here are the challenging words of our Lord . . .
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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him (John 12:24-26).
The illustration shows us that to truly live for Christ, a fruit-bearing life, demands we die to ourselves. It is the same principle we read in today’s scripture and the Apostle Paul’s life of daily dying to self so that Christ may be revealed through him. Now what is important in both our Lord’s and Paul’s illustrations is the suffering which must occur to die to self. Self will not die easily. Self will not let go its grip on us without a tremendous fight. Dying to self means all-out war against our flesh screaming for comfort, ease, personal interests, and desires. Yet, unless we allow God’s choice means of building fruit-bearing disciples – the school of severe suffering – we won’t send forth the sweet fragrance of our Lord Jesus. The world sees more of the real Christ in our “night seasons” of suffering and responses to suffering, not in the “daytime” of manageable life with little suffering.
So, let’s end today’s nugget with an appropriate illustration of this truth. There is a shrub which grows on an island near the city of Bombay, India. It is called “The Sorrowful Tree.” So unique is this shrub in its wonderful illustration of the Christian in “the night seasons of suffering.” At sunset, no flowers appear on “The Sorrowful Tree”. Yet a half-an-hour later the tree is full of beautiful blossoms. They yield a sweet fragrance through the night until the sun begins to shine on them. Then the blossoms either fall off or close up; and thus this daily pattern continues night after night during the year. Think about it when we are called to suffer for Jesus. He shines brightest when it is most darkest in our lives.
PRAYER: “Father, help me see the most effective times in my witness for Your Son will often be in the most trying times.”
QUOTE: “When we are most emptied of ourselves by the refining fires of trials and testing, we show forth Christ.”