Jesus says in John 10:10 that He came to earth to bring life, even abundant life, to mankind. As Americans, we dream of abundant life. Only, we picture abundant life as nice houses, nice cars, and a family size of 3.24 individuals. Somewhere along the lines, we missed the point. The very next verse in Jesus’ message is, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Death is not a part of what we picture as the “good life.” Marketing gibberish is full of “live your life to the fullest,” “live your life,” “you only live once,” and other glib phrases created to induce images of “the American dream.” When Christ came to earth to offer abundant life, He wasn’t picturing a life of wealth, ease, and deceptively covered discontentment.
John 12:24-25 states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.'” The challenge in these verses directly contradicts the “American dream.” Abundant life is not gathering to ourselves wealth that will not last, but it is dying to ourselves. The challenge is in letting go of what we have in favor of what might be. Its like a risky stock market exchange. Except that we are promised abundant life…if we first die. This scares us. We are not sure it is worth the risk.
In making the decision to go to Papua New Guinea, I find that I continually face this challenge, this risk. To go to Papua New Guinea for two years requires me to let go of the “American Dream” that society has nearly grafted into a part of my being. It forces me to let go of a comfortable life—a well-paid teaching job at a school I love, three horses and teaching riding lessons, two bikes, and untold other “stuff.” More significantly, it constrains me to leave behind my family and friends. I have a good life. And I’m giving it up for what? An unpaid job in a third-world country? A tiny flat on a mission base with people I don’t know? Life in a culture that imposes restrictions on my choice and freedom of life? Certainly, approaching this move from a physical perspective suggests a risk out of proportion with the possibility of gain.
Yet, with Paul, I choose to “count all things as loos, that I might know Christ.” You see, in reality, John 12 offers a promise. A promise in complete contradiction to the “American dream,” but which in reality, gives humans access to the abundant life that Christ intended us to live. The unknown, the life on the other side of dying to myself, like the grain of wheat, bears forth exponential fruit.
What in life—comfort, a particular sin, a relationship, etc.–am I holding onto and not allowing to die? These things hold me back from the life God intends me to live. A full and complete life in Him. The only question left is this, whether I move to Papua New Guinea or stay here in the United States in my comfortable life, “Will I choose to die to myself in order to truly live?” Oh, and, “Will you die with me?”