In the GROWTH practices I have identiﬁed, O is the ﬁrst stretch practice. The six practices are Go to God in worship and prayer, Receive God’s Word for you, Opt for self-denial, give Witness to your Spiritual experiences, Trust God in a new venture, Humble yourself before God.
In my personal walk with the Lord, opting for self-denial has been the most productive stretch practice.
Jesus told the rich young man to sell all his possessions and then follow him. He told the disciples that anyone who would follow him must deny himself and take up the cross daily. Those weren’t commands; they were challenges.
The rich young man wouldn’t even consider giving up anything he owned; he went back to his old way of life. It is the willingness to consider this challenge of doing without that is most important. The disciples continually struggled with what they wanted to hang on to from their life before Jesus.
We, too, struggle with how to rise to the counterintuitive challenge of losing your life so you may save it rather than trying to save your life and ending up losing it. It’s a riddle that is fully understood only when the Spirit opens our eyes.
Understand self-denial to mean not insisting on receiving what is rightfully yours in a relationship but voluntarily giving up something important to you at that moment. Such an act of self-denial, or of losing something from your life, can be a powerful reminder of what you gain as a follower of Christ, thus saving your life by losing it.
Paul did not give commands to his fellow workers and his churches. He pointed out where they should head in speciﬁc situations and told them to ﬁgure out how to get there. He was not big on rule-making.
But he continually emphasized motivations as more important than behaviors. To him, it was clear that the Holy Spirit can and does change human spirits. I interpret human spirits as what we now can call human motivations. He refers to the Spirit 143 times in his letters. The fruit of the Spirit consists of the changed emotions that bring love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control into a believer’s life.
Paul told the Ephesians to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That is, realize who you are in Christ and act accordingly. Such an intentional act of submission can be especially diﬃcult be-tween husband and wife. When one or the other is argumentative, the natural tendency is to want to defend yourself or your view. Self-denial would be the choice to forego more self-defense, not carrying the discussion on any further. As a conscious act, that can be an exercise in self-denial that has spiritual value.
I am not advocating self-denial and constant submission as a lifestyle. Such might emerge later. But to start, consciously try an act of self-denial or intentional submission once a week. Notice how you feel about it. Deriving beneﬁt from such acts involves being open to the Spirit’s inﬂuence. See what happens.
I purposely chose the O of Opt for self-denial as the key verb for this act of growth in the Spirit. Such an act of self-denial is in your power. Doing it may involve overcoming a basic fear that something bad will happen to you. Face it as a challenge to put your trust in God.
What are your practices to help you grow closer to God?
Kathy Graumann says
Thank you for your inspiring, motivational words.
Lee Larsen says
I want to encourage all of your readers to get PACK (Planned Acts of Christian Kindness) started at their church and out in their community. The free program suggests doing PACK once per month, but you certainly can do more or less and you can even do it on an individual basis everyday!
Through simple acts of kindness and a Connect Card you can easily bring Jesus to life in the hearts of everyone that His Spirit sends your way.
Whether a simple practical gift or a helpful service rendered the Connect Card gives all the glory to Jesus and invites them to your church/school/youth activity…
Because your challenge is to love on everyone PACK teaches you to have a cheerful & giving heart to all people even though there will be many that appear to be better off than you! A humbling experience in its own right, but through those you would least expect will come powerful testimonies, ones that God already knew what they were enduring in their hearts, and it was Him working through you that they were able to feel His love & comfort at a time when they needed it the most. Through what first appears to be something simple and even fun to do God shows up to teach us some very valuable lessons! Experience for yourself the faith & Kingdom building blessings of PACK! Simply go to http://www.acts18.org for your free download and join with believers in 112 countries who are already sharing & connecting everyone to Jesus!
Elaine Schomaker says
Thank you for today’s post. One never tires of hearing about and being encouraged to be led by the Holy Spirit, but you made some very interesting and profound comments about today’s emphasis on self denial. Thank you for the challenge to “consciously try an act of self-denial or intentional submission once a week.” Also, to emphasize that “an act of self-denial is in your power.” Thank you for adding the opt for self-denial in the letter of O. It really completes your GROWTH practices and a immensely helpful addition. What an opportunity to “grow” beyond your initial six GROWTH practices.
Have a blessed day.
Tim Johnson says
When I thing of the word “Opt,” I think of opting out of something.
Here it is opting into/for a lifestyle of self-denial. A great idea for Lent, coming up soon.
Self denial doesnt work in America. It leads to poveryym everyone is building for themselves.
Kids are raised in school for self fulfillment not self denial.