2 Timothy 2: 11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him; we will also reign with him
One of my passions is trail running. For me nothing quite matches running on my own in a forest enjoying God’s creation and communing with God in this quiet time. While some people can’t quite compute the concept of an elevated heart rate with quiet time, I know most athletes can, although their specific form of exercise may look different: swimming, biking, skating, skiing or another sport.
One of my daughters has spent considerable years studying tree and plant life, so she often shares incredible stories of what is happening in the forest – things I do not necessarily see. This has brought me an even greater appreciation for what God has done and is doing. One of the recent stories she shared is about the death of a Poplar, a type of tree which is prevalent in the area I run. She shared that Poplar tree regeneration is quite unique. As the Poplar tree is nearing death it initiates the formation of a dense carpet of new shoots (known as coppice growth or suckers) that spring from the ground and rise up to form new trees. A small forest is quickly created out of this one dead Poplar tree.
The death of the Poplar tree and the resulting fruit of multiple healthy trees is a good analogy of what happens when we choose to die with Christ. Jesus made this concept very clear to his disciples as he mentored them.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16: 24-25)
King David touched on this same concept in his Psalms. In Psalm 116:15 he says “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116 is David’s Psalm of thanksgiving to the Lord for his deliverance from death, and it is also his commitment to God of his all, including his very life.
More than sacrificing our physical life, God wants our complete sacrifice. In order to be a disciple of Christ we need to be part of his death on the cross. That is why Paul says “if we died with him…”. Paul recognized that as believers who want to be truly useful to our master we must die to ourselves. We must each come to a place where we have died with Jesus before we can truly live for him.
In John 6:56 Jesus speaks to the many disciples who had been following him and says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” This is a tough message. So tough in fact that in verse 66 it says “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Are you prepared to die with Jesus? Are you prepared to join in his death, so that you may truly live with him? If not, then the most you will experience is a “form of godliness”, only a shell of what God has truly called for in your life. However, if you are prepared to die with Jesus, then be prepared for a difficult road, one which is filled with much discomfort, much sacrifice, but also a life filled with inexpressible joy and peace, as you recognize that you have died to yourself and you are solely serving your master. This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and this is why many turned away. Their desire was for their comfort today rather than sacrifice for their saviour who had already sacrificed everything for them. What do you choose?
We must each come to a place where we have died with Jesus before we can truly live for him.