Every year the women’s ministry at my church has a retreat. We leave Vegas to a beautiful town; the hotel is always cute. We decorate it and have amazing speakers and it is a wonderful weekend full of fellowship with amazing ladies, renewal and God moving. I have never been to a retreat where God didn’t move. Retreat is my favorite event of the year. I look forward to it, I enjoy it and I love growing closer with my sisters in Christ.Read More
If you’ve been a christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about denying self at some point. I’ve been hearing it a lot more from prominent christians on the internet lately. Mostly in podcasts but I’ve still been hearing it a lot lately. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about denying self and I understand the concept. As I heard it being talked about in these podcasts though I started to ask; what did that look like?
We are constantly reminded that we are called to love others and pick up our cross and deny ourselves. We know what loving others looks like, we have example after example in the Bible in parables and in how Jesus treated people. Our goal should be to love people like Jesus did. He invited tax collectors and fishermen to follow him, to learn from him. I don’t recall him asking a Pharisee or an expert in the law to follow him. In fact, during Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and experts in the law worked very, very hard to shove the law down Jesus’ throat as if he wasn’t the maker of the law.
What does denying ourselves look like? Well, I’m about to dive in on my thoughts about this and what I think it might look like.
Luke 9:23 says: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
There really aren’t any parables about denying self from what I’ve read in the bible. Now, I’m not a bible expert but I’ve gone through it a few times, especially the gospels and I don’t recall a verbal example of what denying self looks like. As I’ve asked this question and thought about what it would mean, God has been whispering the answer to me by giving me real life examples in my own life.
For me, denying myself is not hitting the snooze button when my alarm clock goes off in the morning. I was specifically shown a time that I have free to work on my book (a book that God has told me to write for years and I was running from it). I wake up earlier in the morning to give myself that writing time and then I start getting ready for my day. Some days, I bolt up, excited to write and get going like an energizer bunny. Other days, the snooze button in my best friend and I can get really logical and make sleeping in sound like the best option. I don’t need the added sleep though. I just don’t want to get out of bed. Denying myself is getting up anyway because I’m writing this book for God and because he told me too. Denying myself is not giving into the feeling of “just five more minutes” because those five minutes turn into an hour and then I don’t work on my book that day. In fact, I’ve slept in more times than I’ve woken up to write when I’m supposed to. This is a discipline I’m working on, getting out of bed when I’m supposed to.
Denying myself is to not allow my past hurts dictate the type of relationship I have with people in my life. When someone close to me hurts me, it is so easy to be like “well, cannot allow that to happen again” and cut that person off. Denying myself is forgiveness. I know we are called to forgive but sometimes, it is easy to argue why you should forgive them and then forget them. Denying myself is not forgetting them and still allowing them space in my life. Even when the hurts are numerous, I still forgive and allow them in my life. If Jesus was closed off, none of us would have been saved.
Denying myself is setting my coffee down, my book down, my laptop down, my phone down and playing legos with my son on the floor. While I want to be scrolling through Instagram or reading an article or whatever I was working on, time with my son matters more. While I logically know it matters more, sometimes it is hard to put into action. Maybe I’m comfy on the couch, maybe I don’t want to get up and sit on the floor, maybe my back hurts, maybe I have a headache.
Denying myself is saying yes to things that will take up room in my schedule. After my accident, I was forced into slowing down and saying no. While this was a good lesson, I’m learning I work in extremes sometimes. Everything used to be yes, and now it is like everything is no. However, sometimes an opportunity will pop up and I should serve and I should take it. It is very easy to still be of the no to everything mind-frame, I have room in my schedule for some things, not all the things. Denying myself is allowing room for the some instead of only focusing of what I have going on.
Denying self is realizing that it isn’t all about you. Denying self is doing the right thing even when we don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like waking up every morning at 5 AM to work on my book. I don’t feel like bringing up all the things I’ve gone though and re-living them through writing about them. I do it though, because God told me to and I answer to God. If my ultimate goal is to go back home one day and hear “good job my good and faithful servant” I won’t get there by hitting the snooze button.
Denying self is allowing God’s will to prevail and allowing yourself to be used in whatever part God has for you. In the garden, before the soldiers came to take him away, Jesus was in the garden at Gethsemane and asked God to take away what he was supposed to do. He asked God to take the cup from him and allow it to pass over him. He knew what he was about to go through would hurt and be painful, it would be hard. Even though Jesus knew his purpose for being on earth, it was still hard to do it. Jesus denied himself in his humanness and allowed God’s will to overcome, giving us the salvation we all needed.
When we need an example of denying self, look to the cross. Once I look there, the snooze button seems like a small thing to give up.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” Luke 16:10
I have got some big dreams. I might have mentioned this before but God has given me some big visions and big goals. Everything in my head is big. However, you don’t wake up one day with a book that you wrote placed in front of you, waiting for you to put your name on it. You don’t wake up as a speaker or a dentist or a doctor. There are steps to take in order to reach these outcomes. You cannot just decide to become a doctor, walk into a hospital and apply for a job. You have to get a degree, do a residency to be trained, and clinic hours and other things. (I might also be wrong on the order of these things, I am not a doctor.)
Everything big and awesome and cool started out small. The bloggers I follow and admire did not wake up overnight with thousands of followers. They kept pushing out blog post after blog post even when they only had like 10 followers. The people I look to for inspiration did not wake up in the place they are now. There was work, growth, and learning done in the process. In fact, I didn’t wake up one day and be in the season I am in now. I wasn’t just handed these dreams, God developed them and grew me into them. If I tried to start this blog five years ago (which, technically, I did) it wouldn’t look like what it looks like today. I believe me this version is better (even if I do wish I had 5 years of work in this already, hahahaha).
All of us have to start small. We are not given the big things until we prove ourselves in the little things. We have to start with ourselves, what small step can I take today to make a difference? How can I do something internally to get to where I want to be? What small thing can I do right now? Well, for me, I can write this devotional. I can write the next blog post. I can record the next podcast.
Just like trust takes time to build so does the big awesome God-given dreams we have. So take that baby step, and the next and watch what comes by step 10,000.
Write it Out
- What can you do right now to get started? What is your baby step?
- Write out the next 5 steps, make an action plan.
- Write how you are going to be faithful to these steps
I feel like today’s culture is very “you must agree with me or you’re stupid”. Anywhere you look people are arguing over opinions as if they are facts. People talk about “their truth” and it almost appears as though truth is something that can be changed based on whoever is speaking.
God says differently than this. In the Bible, God has laid out how we are meant to live, do marriage, be parents, trust in Jesus and everything we need to know. However, the world will tell us that God is wrong and God is bad. The truth is we live in a very sinful world where the enemy is running rampant. In fact, he has the world’s culture hating God and not believing he exists. All of the evil in the world is blamed on God because he “allowed” it. As Christians, we know that isn’t true and that isn’t how God works. “If God is all powerful, why does he allow -blank- ?”
As Christians, we know the answer is Free Will and we know that even in the bad times, God works to make the evil good. Every bad thing I’ve gone though has allowed me to grow, learn or shape who I am today. Sometimes, the end of the bad ended up being better than before the bad. God is amazing and powerful.
As Jesus followers though, what are we doing to proclaim his name? What are we doing to share the good news? I know I struggle with this. I am almost afraid to admit that I love Jesus because I’m afraid of what whoever I am talking to will think of me. I’m afraid I will lose credibility or that I’ll be thought of as intolerant or whatever else is thought of when it comes to Christians.
I want to be bold. I want to speak my faith without fear because when you get down to it, the opinions of others do not matter. When I return home, I want to hear “good job good and faithful servant.” I don’t want to have to answer for my fear of what other people thought.
There is a way to speak our faith and that is to speak it plainly, letting God guide us in our words. The bible tells us that He will give us the words when we speak. Let’s walk in boldness of our faith instead of fear of what others might think.
Write it Out
- Do you worry about what others think?
- How can you put a bolder step forward and share your faith?
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. -Isaiah 43:1
Google tells me the dictionary definition of “redeem” is: compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something).
I can’t speak for you, but I’ve been consistently told a lot of bad things about myself by people who were supposed to love me. I was constantly told the same bad things by family on a daily basis during the years where my inner voice would be formed. My inner voice is mean to me. M-E-A-N. It’s really awful. It is something I have to battle daily because if I make a single mistake, it’s full out war inside my head. If I ever think that I am becoming a burden on someone, all the old things that were said to me play on repeat in my mind.
“You are lazy.”
“You will never do anything.”
“It’s always your fault.”
“You need to calm down, this is why we cannot have _____”
It’s enough to make anybody think they weren’t ever wanted.
How do I battle it? How do I battle the human flaws that remind me I am weak and need something bigger than myself?
I start with Isaiah 43:1. God has redeemed me. Jesus’ blood is compensation for my sins. His blood paid the price I could never pay. I start there because it is the most important truth. I have been redeemed. I am a child of God’s. He has called me by name and I belong to him.
It’s all right there in black and white.
Write it Out
- What bad tapes play in your head?
- What truths can you use to battle the lies that play like records in your head?