I think about how often we express our desire that God’s will be done in our lives. Sometimes we quote John 3:30 where John the Baptist says this in response to Jesus’s growing popularity, “He must become greater and I must become less.”
Self-sacrifice in Jesus’s name and the mortification of our sinful desires, and sometimes even our not so sinful desires, are essentials of discipleship. If we are going to follow Jesus, so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, we must die to ourselves and take up our crosses every day. If we are to follow Jesus, we must lay our lives down for our friends (not to mention our enemies) if we are to love them as Jesus calls us to do.
But laying our lives down for anyone, even our friends, is painful. Death is painful. The thousands of little deaths we are called to in the name of Jesus claw at us. These little deaths foreshadow our physical death. Recently I was complaining to the Lord about having to lay my life down for others and about the perceived costs of doing so. I pathetically cried out, “Why is it that I am always having to lay my life down, Lord? I feel like I am always decreasing and that others are increasing at my expense.” Yes, it started out as a very self-centered conversation. But I am in good company aren’t I? And then ever so gently God responded to me, “Don’t you want my kingdom to come? And my will to be done?”
“Yes Lord, in the end, I do.” But honesty requires that I admit that I don’t always like how he goes about it. I don’t like how it feels. It feels like it costs so much, like his kingdom comes as my expense! I don’t like the feeling of decreasing although I like the idea of it, the truth of it. It costs something like my will, my agenda, and possibly my ambitions. If it costs me, does that give me even a small idea of how it must have cost Jesus? It often is the case that in seeking God’s will we will have to lay down our ideas for how his kingdom is to come and his will is to be done.
Following Jesus is costly. That’s why he tells us to count the cost. Yes, following Jesus is costly. It means an excruciating decreasing of ourselves that he might increase. It means seeking the good of others at our expense. Yet Jesus says, “The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the servant of all.” He is the greatest person in the kingdom for he serves all. In gratitude for all he has done, shan’t I be like him?
Is there any other way? Jesus alone has the words of life. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No, there is no other way. He must increase and I must decrease painful as it is. This is all for his good and for his glory which in the end turns out to be for my good and my glory, too.