The Bible is full of realities that seem to be paradoxes: exultation through humility (James 4:10), strength through weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10), receiving through giving (Acts 20:35), freedom through servitude (Romans 6:18), gain through loss (Philippians 3: 7-8), finding through losing (Matthew 10:39), and arguably the most important…. living through dying (John 12:24).
Before there can be something beautiful, something has to die.
“You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.” 1 Corinthians 15:36-37 ESV
Jesus, of course, is our ultimate example. He raises from the dead in both a spiritual sense and a literal, bodily sense. We are baptized into his death and raise to new life when we are saved and, in the Baptist tradition, we show this outwardly by the act of baptism-entering a figurative water grave to be raised in newness of life.
Before there can be something beautiful, WE have to die.
“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 ESV
Every part of our lives; our resources, talents, health, anything of which we have authority, and everything that we have cultivated, ALL, are to be used for the glory of God and the transmission of the gospel. To die, we must deal honestly with ourselves. But the idea of dying to ourselves does not need to be complicated or scary. We die to ourselves every time we simply say, “yes,” to the Lord. How would our lives change if we resolved in our hearts to say “yes”, the next time the Holy Spirit gave unction? What would happen if we were to remain available and look for the places we were being called to serve? What is the next, “yes” you will say to the Lord?
Perhaps it is choosing kindness in frustrating conditions or giving grace for the 77th time, your “yes” may be easily said, or it may have to be wrestled out, but every “yes” we say to the Lord will be life-changing and another step in the right direction.
When you are called to say “yes” to the instruction of the Lord, all that is required is obedience and faith because He provides the rest. Don’t be tempted to compare or solely seek the approval and assurances of your peers. Be confident in the call and, ultimately, in the One who gave it. He will equip you as each need presents itself, and not usually before. It is still good to seek wise council when needed, but be careful not to waste valuable time in asking permission from those around you to do the things of God He has been clear about. There are times God calls us to go first. Remember Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Seeking the approval, and even the participation of others is a trap that can render us fruitless, one will either fear God, or fear man. May we be those who are unabashed in living out the gospel. This is not to say we are strictly autonomous. We need other Christian friends and counselors, and we have been called to live in community. Simply put, we do not want to base our “yes” to the command of God on others or even our own perception of need.
To balance this admonition, know that community is not negotiable. We need each other and one of our goals in the church is that of unity. Our fellowship should be more than merely entertaining ourselves. We need depth to sustain our relationships. To quote Elton Trueblood, “The movement, we need is a movement in depth, and if it is deep enough, the problem of unity will take care of itself. When roots go down vertically from the surface of the Earth they necessarily come nearer to one another.”
As we are more firmly rooted in Christ, we will draw closer to each other.
This pattern is also seen in nature.
Hidden beneath the soil is a labyrinth of fungal connections between tree roots that scientist called the mycorrhizal network. This network stretches far beyond the reach of the trees own root system. The fungi grows inside and around the tree roots and spreads out, making connections that the tree may use to send and receive messages through the release of chemicals. Any one tree is likely to be connected to hundreds of others in an intricate web of roots and fungi. In this system, older trees, called “mother trees” use this web to provide their seedlings with sugar, giving them a better chance of survival. Trees that are sick or dying, often dump their resources into the network to be used in aiding their neighbors. Trees also use the network to communicate warnings to each other. If they are being attacked by insects, or even dealing with drought, they will tell the others to raise their defenses.
But not all relationships within the mycorrhizal network are positive ones. There have been found some orchids who are able to hack into the fungal system and steal the trees resources. It has been found that some trees will use the system not to help those around them, but to send toxic chemicals to neighboring trees as a way of sabotaging their rivals. While there are these negative examples, which are possibly not far off from your own church experience, the majority of trees by far benefit from their connection to the system.
It is the fungal network that makes all this possible. If the tree is not plugged into the network around it, there can be no benefit. Much like the church in Christ, we also need to be connected and present. Our roots must run deep in Christ. We must love one another well. We must be willing to die, to relinquish our pride, and sacrifice much for the sake of those around us. This is our call to die. May we die to ourselves that we might truly live, for this is the call of Christ and his will for our lives.
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV
Written by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.