Laying Your Life Down
Recently, Jesus said to me, “As you learn how to lay down your life for your wife, I’m going to teach you how to lay down your life for the poor.” The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
When I heard Jesus tell me that, my heart came alive. To some people, that may sound crazy. Why would I get excited about giving up my life for poor people who don’t even know me and don’t care about me? Because it’s not about me. It’s about demonstrating the love of Jesus to people who don’t understand. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the lover of our soul, we will taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8) even when the things we see in a natural sense are not.
Five years ago while I was holding a knife to my throat in the middle of the night, I was depressed, I had no reason to continue living, and I just wanted to leave this crazy world. But at that moment, Jesus gave me an open vision. I saw followers of Jesus, young and old, lying dead on the ground. Some of those people were children who’d been decapitated by ISIS for following Jesus.
After Jesus showed me that vision, I dropped the knife and fell down to my knees. The Jesus said to me, “These people are giving their lives for Me, and you’re taking your life for what? If you really want to die, then die for a cause. Don’t die for nothing.” After I saw that vision, I no longer wanted to die for nothing, but I was ready and willing to die for Jesus, no matter the cost.
You Have a Destiny
Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Five years ago, I was ready to die for Jesus. I was ready to go anywhere, preach to anyone He wanted me to preach to, and do anything He wanted me to do, and I was not afraid to die for Jesus in the process. In the past five years, God sent me to preach the Gospel in South Africa, the Middle East, Mozambique, Spain, and to various parts of my home country in America. I was on fire. I knew since God was with me, no power of darkness could stop me (Romans 8:31).
But I had a problem that I wasn’t aware of at that time. I was really and willing to die for Jesus, but I didn’t understand how to live for Jesus. 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
God had to teach me throughout the years that while my desire to die for Jesus was good, I didn’t understand that dying for Jesus shouldn’t be my goal. Above dying for Jesus, above giving to the poor, above praying for the sick and seeing them recover, the goal is to love people with the kindness of God that leads them to a radical heart transformation (Romans 2:4).
Living for Christ
Living for Christ has to look like something. It doesn’t just look like going to church and listening to a sermon. It doesn’t just look like reading the Bible every day and living as though you don’t have a love relationship with Jesus. What happens when you’re in love? When you’re in love, you do crazy and radical things. When I met my wife Mary Lee, I was a missionary living in Spain and she was living in Seattle, WA.
After my season in Spain was over, God told me to fly to Seattle Washington to pursue her heart. People who aren’t in love don’t do that. When I was ready to pursue a relationship with Mary Lee, I told her I wanted to pursue her. There was a heart to heart connection. If I had told her, “Someday I want to marry you because that’s what the Bible says I should do,” I don’t think she would have jumping up and down with joy to hear that.
Being in love with Jesus isn’t about following a religion with rules and regulations, but it’s about being in love with a Savior who wants us to live in freedom and wholeness. And when you’ve been set free and made whole, you just can’t help but tell everyone you know about the hope you have.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15
Finishing Your Race
When Jesus told me to lay down my life for the poor, I learned that He wanted me to reach the unreached with a demonstration of His love (read Matthew 19:21). It’s a beautiful thing to be ready and willing to be a martyr for Christ. It’s a beautiful thing to be ready and willing to die at any moment so that broken people can hear the good news about the supernatural power and love of God that can change everything is a second.
But being willing to die for Jesus is not the focus. Our focus is to be such radical lovers of Jesus that our love for the poor and the hopeless actually looks like something practical. We can pray for the sick heal the sick and see them healed. We can prophesy over those that are hopeless revealing the supernatural power of God in action. But, when we love people the way Jesus did when he gave His life, that’s when the love of God in us is able to change the world around us.
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