Luke 9: 23 Then he said to them “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
I read an article that summarized some of the crazy ways in which professional athletes spent their paychecks. Some of the highlights for me included: tennis great Novak Djokovic allegedly buying the entire world’s supply of donkey cheese; former NBA great Allen Iverson buying new clothes on every trip because he didn’t like traveling with luggage; former boxer Mike Tyson buying a set of female Bengals; and Chad Johnson’s bed partially encased by an aquarium and a giant custom-built shark tank in his living room. It is clear that these athletes would deny themselves nothing if they could buy it.
This is not, however, just a problem with athletes. Economists suggest that a large portion of the people in the western world overspend. Some overspend to impress others and make a false impression, while others are actually addicted to spending. The average person tends to overspend because they refuse to deny themselves what they want.
In today’s scripture from Luke 9, Jesus spoke to those who were following him. 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.25
What does it look like to deny yourself? It may include living a more frugal life. I know a number of very successful Christian businesspeople who worked very hard and make considerable money. They and their families could be living very lavish lifestyles, but early on they chose to determine a modest income to live from, and then anything in excess of that they donate to God’s work (locally and around the world) and to invest for the future. They have chosen to deny themselves to honor God.
However, denying yourself and following Christ involves much more than money. It will by definition mean putting yourself in uncomfortable situations at times. Tim Challies posted an interesting vlog recently entitled: “Ask Me Anything – Introversion”. He answers some questions posed to him about being an introvert. Oddly, as Tim Challies is a well known Christian blogger author and speaker, he is also a self-confessed introvert. In his response to the questions, Challies says: “I believe God has made me introverted. It’s not sinful to be introverted. But it doesn’t define me. It’s not all that I am…I can not use my introversion as an excuse for disobedience. If there are things God calls me to. Say God calls me to speak the Gospel…That’s very clear in the great commission. I need to go and preach the Gospel to all people. I can not allow my introversion to be an excuse that keeps me from doing that.” When asked about the concept of self-denial, Challies answered: “self-denial is saying, this makes me comfortable, yet I know that God calls me to this. And let’s just turn it around, as extroverts, you have to deny yourself too, right. You might always want to be in a crowd, but the Bible calls you sometimes to silence, or to praying, to meditation, to those things. So, it’s not just introverts who struggle with this. The Bible calls me to self-denial.”