(Here's part 2 of a series of blogs written by various members as they reflect upon our summer reading, Paul David Tripp's A Quest for More. Check back soon for more blogs from our guest authors this summer.)
The Unfortunate Art of Dying to Self
In A Quest for More, Paul David Tripp writes:
"Christ calls each of his children to this three-fold death: death to the priority of self, death to our pursuit of our lives, and death to our pursuit of our own plan. Are you living as his disciple in this way? Are you following his example? Only as we die to the glory of our claim on our own lives will we begin to experience the transcendent glories of living for the Lord. Only when we are wiling to do the unthinkable (preside over our own deaths) does the wonderful (transcendence for which we were created) become our possession" (pg 112).
This quote gripped me when I first read it a week ago, and I've read it several times since. It communicates a wild truth about Christian living: we are called to die to self because something so much greater than ourselves is at hand -- the Kingdom of God. I don't think many professing Christians would disagree with or dispute Tripp's points, but I fear several of us (myself included) believe adhering to this truth "in theory" is enough. We rationalize ways to keep ourselves from having to die to self on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We think that if what God's asking isn't "convenient" for us, then He surely wouldn't expect us to die to self in that way. For example, we may be asked to serve our local church in a way we've never done before, we may be asked to lay aside the plans we'd made in our minds for the "perfect" summer vacation, or we may be asked to share part of our story that we don't feel ready to share. If we don't want to do it, don't feel like doing it, or feel too tired to do it, then surely God wouldn't ask, right?
Well, God asked Jonah when Jonah didn't feel like doing it (Jonah 1:3). God asked Moses when Moses thought no one would listen to him and a speech disorder would excuse him from being a mouthpiece (Exod 3 & 4). God asked Jeremiah when Jeremiah thought he was too young and felt scared (Jer 1:6 - 8). Maybe the three-fold death Tripp is writing about is at stake when we say "no" more readily than we say "yes."
I love Tripp's concept of setting aside the "little kingdom" of self in order to experience the "larger kingdom" (Ch 9 & following). A few years ago, right at the cusp of a relationship that would eventually turn into a marriage, I left the U.S. to serve the Lord in East Asia for 2 years. Before my trip, I often mourned what I thought I would lose -- friendships, family, American convenience food, a boyfriend (now husband). I had no idea at the time that I was going to experience God's presence, newfound friendships, conversions, and miracles in Asia. I will forever be changed by the larger kingdom that I experienced while in China (seriously, I could tell some amazing stories here...we're talking flat-out miracles, ya'll). You know, experiencing the "larger kingdom" can happen anywhere: here in Helena or in our own homes.
I'm not always good about sacrificing Caroline's little kingdom in order to experience God's larger kingdom. I like an easy life. I like sleeping in on Sunday mornings. It's easier not to teach Sunday school or meet regularly with other women. But a kingdom much bigger than my personal comfort is at hand. Tripp also gets me with this zinger: "What could be more horrible than to get everything I want and miss the one thing that I was made for?" (pg 116). Wow...that puts it into perspective! What's more important: my comfort or His Kingdom? Oh, Jesus, help me choose Your Kingdom more and more!