I was paid the best compliment I have ever received in my life the other day. A learned individual looked at me and said, "There is nothing remarkable here." I never thought I would rejoice in hearing such words, but they were especially wonderful when they came from the expert radiologist reading my confirmatory CT scan. I spent a few moments with my oncologist this afternoon reading the CT scan images myself, and it continues to appear that the solid tumors in my pancreas and chest area are completely gone. Hallelujah!
So now I am out of the treatment phase and into the recovery phase. Today would have been the day for my seventh treatment, would that have been deemed necessary. However, it is nice to be on the mend and gaining strength day by day. Again, I cannot thank you enough for your faithful prayers. I am as firmly convinced that God has heard and answered these prayers as I am of anything else in my life.
Back to Luke 9:23, 24 - "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
When considering what Jesus meant by the last two phrases, I am reminded of Jim Elliot's famous quote: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose." Indeed, Elliot, a missionary to a remote tribe in south/central America, gave his own life as he was murdered by the people he was trying to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ over 50 years ago. (If you are interested in his story and the other missionaries involved, rent the movie "The End of the Spear"; it is quite compelling and appropriate for the entire family.)
I believe that Jesus is warning us with this last phrase that trying to hang on to the things of this world will only result in loss because the things of this world are temporary and don't ultimately meet our deepest needs. Jesus states these truths similarly in Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
If you invest yourself completely in gaining the things of this realm for yourself, you will come up short in the end. In other words, he who dies with the most toys, does NOT win. However, if Christ - and trusting in him and following his lead - are what you invest in, then you will not be disappointed. You will not only gain abundant life here on this earth, but you will gain the afterlife with him. Elliot's pithy thought makes sense. It may not be easy to live out, but it is certainly a proposition worth embracing.
Ultimately, Jesus is asking each of us, "What do you treasure"? Do you value possessions, status, power, comfort and the praise of others more than you do me? Or, are you willing to lay up treasures in heaven, demonstrating that your heart is in the place it should be?
Losing our lives for a worthy cause here on earth is compelling. Losing our lives for the One who saves us, restores us and provides us eternal security should be irresistible to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. If you are reading these words, I pray that is the case for you.
May the irresistible, unmerited favor of Jesus rest upon you and draw you to himself, so that you may lay a hold of life that is truly life.
In Christ alone,