One of the hardest things for me, in my Christian living (perhaps it could be called “my weakness”), is my enjoyment of sensual pleasure: eating, sleeping, photos & other things pleasant to look at, even the ones for the mind–puzzles, books, etc. The strong desire for comfort, and enjoyment. I’m always asking myself if I’m able to really sacrifice, and trying to do it and usually failing (think diet & exercise, for one example).
Perhaps just carrying out my daily duties when I don’t feel like it is a sacrifice, I say to myself. Or, it could be a cop-out. Jesus did comment on how hard it was for the rich young ruler (who had every comfort) to enter the Kingdom of God, though “all things are possible with God”.
But, aren’t we supposed to enjoy everything as God’s gifts, as Paul says? Within reason (meaning, according to God’s will), yes. However, it’s so easy to get distracted and simply forget that they are God’s gifts. This is one of the reasons that I wish I’d remember to say grace. It would also help during times of distress, help us to remember our blessings–which usually leads to the discovery that there are many wonderful, positive things to be thankful for in spite of the negatives.
Yet I keep coming back to the word sacrifice–“bearing your cross” and all that. Christmas is a time of so much delight and enjoyment, for me, it feels like I should balance that with a reminder about living sacrificially… thinking about the many who are not in very good circumstances for the season. Soooo…. here is my memory verse for this month, right from the mouth of Jesus:
“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.
The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)
Yeah, don’t like that one at all. Not the best one for the Christmas season. But–Jesus’ own words! I destroy my own life by loving it. That comes through when you’re so very disappointed about something not going the way it should, robbing you of some comfort or enjoyment or whatever. But then it comes to me… “if it dies, it produces much grain.” Oh the joy in that “much grain”! Oh the joy of feeling better after being sick for awhile (small example); oh the joy of experiencing God’s provision of strength, wisdom, presence through the fire! There’s nothing wrong in looking forward to joy. The ultimate example is Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross”.
Recently I’ve come across the truth that reminding myself of God’s presence within, will help me to endure, persevere in God’s will, resist temptation, etc. (the discipline aspect vs only the comfort aspect). It should help me not to “love my life”, so much that loving others (as Jesus loved) gets neglected.