In Mark 8:34-35, Jesus tells his disciples that “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me; for whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” Clearly Jesus was teaching his disciples, and us, that self-denial is the path we are to follow. It is the path that Jesus followed during his life and his death on the cross. Submission leads to freedom. It is the freedom of not always needing to get our own way. When we learn to live that submissive lifestyle, our happiness is not dependent upon getting what we want.
Self-denial does not become a negative thing but is a very positive view of life. In Matthew 10:39, Jesus teaches that “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus teaches about the two greatest laws. The first law is that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second law is that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Philippians 2:4-8, Paul teaches that we are to look out for the interests of others and that this is the attitude that Jesus Christ showed. Jesus’s ultimate “cross-life” was that He freely took the form of a human and became obedient to the point of death for our sakes.
The cross-life that Jesus lived is the example of ultimate submission that we are to follow daily. There are really two aspects to Christian submission as taught by Jesus. The first is to submit our lives to God and then to submit to our neighbors. By following those concepts of submission daily, we find the freedom to follow God’s will and to put others' interests first.
This discipline of submission is dealt with on a deeper level in the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Much of this devotional is from that book, and I recommend it to all as the disciplines lead to many freedoms that we miss because of the distractions we allow in our daily lives.
I had the opportunity to teach this lesson on submission in early October of 2012 at my church. At the end, I closed with the following story as one of the greatest examples of submission that I have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing.
As many of your know, my sister-in-law Kristen Milligan has been fighting cancer for approximately 9 years and is very ill. In fact, unless God chooses to intervene in a miraculous way, we are fearful of receiving a call in the next few weeks telling us that she has gone to be with the Lord.
I share this with you because many of you have been praying for Kristen and her family for many years. However, I also share this with you because I believe that Deric and Kristen are a unique example of submission and what God can do with lives that are truly submitted to His will.
When Deric and Kristen first learned of Kristen’s cancer nine years ago, it was a very difficult time for them, which is quite understandable. However, over a period of time, they learned to submit this cancer to God and learned to follow His will in ways that are difficult for me to imagine.
I do not believe that God gave Kristen cancer, but because Kristen and Deric submitted themselves so completely to God’s will, God was able to make a beautiful thing out of what the world would consider to be a terrible situation. Deric and Kristen have created the ministry Inheritance of Hope to help other families deal with the very same issues and pressures that they have learned to deal with through God’s love. Had Kristen not experienced life-threatening cancer, and had she and Deric not walked through this trial together, they would not have learned the lessons they in fact have learned and would not have been able to share those lessons with hundreds and thousands of other families. God has used them to touch many other families in ways that would not have occurred but for Kristen and Deric’s submission to God’s will.
I want to encourage each of us to consider what God can do in our lives if we submit to Him daily. We can literally change the world through lives submitted to Christ.