Lose to Find
Have you ever been in a place in your life where you’ve felt unfulfilled? Stuck? Bored? Listless? Like a ship bobbing up and down on the waves without any real direction? Some of us may even be there now. In seasons like this, perhaps you’ve done some thinking, you’ve sought out advice from friends, colleagues, or family, or maybe you’ve looked for guidance in the wider culture. Wading out into that stream, you might find yourself presented with any number of options on the consumer menu of life which promise to fulfill you. Have you tried getting a different job? Gathering more education? Finding a spouse? Having kids?
Now, there’s not anything inherently wrong with pursuing a change in your life through any of those avenues. But sometimes, when we’re in a lull, it’s not because we haven’t filled our lives with the right amount, or the right selection of things. Sometimes, it’s because we need to be reminded of the upside-down nature of meaning, purpose, and glory in the Christian life. Jesus said, “Whoever would try to save, keep, preserve his own life will lose it, but he who gives, loses, lays down his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will find it.” Elsewhere, He says, “The more joyful path is giving, not receiving.”
In his book “Death by Living,” author N.D. Wilson paints a picture of what this idea can look like in practice for us. He says:
Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain-they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter… I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to [others], or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live.
So Wilson is double-clicking there on the truth Jesus laid out - make your life about yourself, with you at the center, with people, places, and things spinning in your orbit, and you will ultimately lose everything you’re trying to gain. But, flip that around, pour yourself out rather than attempting to pour things in, and you find real, deep, true life - now, and ultimately forever.
But if you’re like me, you may have found that it’s incredibly easy to fall back into the default mode of “me-seeking” without even trying. It’s the current that our world, and indeed, our natural selves, travel down as a standard course. Ever since our first parents saw that the forbidden fruit appeared to be a delight to the eyes and reached out for what would never satisfy, rather than pouring out worship and honor to their wondrous Creator, humanity has been in a rut like this… with what Screwtape would call “ever-increasing desires for ever-diminishing pleasures.”
And so the challenge of each and every day when we open our eyes is to set them on the true realities of what we’ve already been given by God in Christ - the deep approval, pleasure, meaning, forgiveness, and adventure that life in Jesus offers. So we cling to what we already have, our treasure in heaven, so that we can spend our time, effort, & resources for those around us, for the sake of Jesus, and find real life.
And this reminds us of our need to confess our sins. Pray with me.
Father in heaven, we confess that our hearts are restless, and it is not our default to find our rest in you. We strain and reach for good things that you have made, subtly elevating them and prioritizing them to a place they were never intended to be - on the throne of our hearts. We know this, because often when we don’t get what we want, we pout, or drift, or take it out on those around us. We don’t act as if we believe the words of Jesus, that giving away our lives is the way to find them. And so we search our hearts, and confess our individual sins to you now.
And now Father, would you have mercy on us, graciously directing our attention to your Son Jesus. Allow us to behold his glory, to see the Only One who perfectly laid down his life for the whole world in pure faith and untainted joy. Transform us by your Holy Spirit as we remember what the King of Heaven gave away to bring us near, and keep our hearts full of that reality and we seek to give to others here and now. In Jesus mighty name we pray, Amen.