From the time we are little children we know what we want. You remember having a favorite toy that you always wanted to play with. The last thing you wanted to do is deny yourself the chance to play with that favorite toy. As adults, our issue may not be toys, but we still don’t want to deny ourselves. If we’re honest, no one, regardless of age, wants to deny himself. Then we decide we want to become a Christian and live our life for the Lord and we’re hit right in the heart with a very difficult teaching that we must accept and practice.
Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”(Lk.9:23) We want to follow Jesus but we don’t want to deny ourselves. This teaching of daily self-denial is difficult because it’s the complete opposite of what we’ve been taught our whole lives. The world says that adults can do whatever they desire. In fact, the world’s belief is that your life is all about you and you should get all that you can get from it. When the Christian denies himself he is putting himself and his desires on the back burner and putting the Lord first in his life.
We all face temptations every day and we will as long as we’re in this life. Learning to deny yourself every day and putting God first in your life will help us to overcome Satan’s temptations and attacks. See, when I deny myself and God is first in my life, my focus is on Him and I’m not thinking about ways to gratify the desires of the flesh. Satan uses our weakness of the flesh against us with the many temptations he uses in his attacks. Reality is we’ll have far more success overcoming temptations when we practice Jesus’ teaching of daily self-denial. We have to remind ourselves every day that we died at baptism and this Christian life we are striving to live is not about us.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”(Rom.6:11)
We think about heaven when the preacher preaches about it. We think about heaven when we’re gathered to pay our last respects at a funeral. Heaven becomes the topic of conversation when we lose a loved one or friend. I can’t help but believe it really does matter what we think about. In fact, what we think about affects our mood and our overall mindset that we carry throughout the day. “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”(Rom.13:14) Paul verifies for us that it matters what we think about.
My question is, what if we think about heaven? If our thoughts were centered on heaven most of the time wouldn’t it change the way we live on a daily basis? I know it’s hard to be in a bad mood or depressed when I think about heaven. Just the thought of heaven gives hope. If heaven was the focus of our thoughts I think we would treat others better. If heaven was our focus, we would hold our tongue and strive daily to only use it for good and for encouraging others. The thought of heaven should strengthen us in our fight against sin and challenge us to avoid sin.
We all need motivation, even the Christian. Heaven is the best motivator and should motivate us to live for God and do the right thing. If heaven occupies my mind, then my actions will be godly and pure. It does matter what you think about. Why not try focusing on heaven daily and see how your attitude and actions change for the better.
“But our citizenship is in heaven.”(Phil.3:20)
None of us like going through difficult times. In fact, if we could choose, we’d rather never go through trials in this life. Most understand that if we hang around this world long enough, we’ll face our fair share of trials. Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble.”(Jno.16:33) We simply must face the fact that we will all go through trials. So, now what? What can we do?
I want to suggest three things we should all do when we’re going through trials. First of all, we should listen to wise counsel. There are plenty of people who have either been through the same trial you’re enduring or are at least more experienced in life and could offer some helpful advice. Next, appreciate the purpose of the trial. Trials are not fun but I believe they do serve a purpose. That purpose may not be easily seen or it may be testing our faith so that we learn perseverance. (Jas.1:2-3)
Finally, try to learn the lesson the trial is teaching. I believe there are always lessons for us to learn from the difficult times we go through. It could be about refocusing your life on God. Patience could also be a lesson we learn from trials. We could also learn to be more compassionate to those who are hurting. These are just a few from a number of lessons we can learn from the trials we endure. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”(Jas.1:12)