Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dying to Self...Is It Worth It?

Die to self.  We hear this message over and over as Christians, but actually doing it is something all together very challenging.  Last month I was reading in the book of Ezekiel, and as I read verse after verse and chapter after chapter, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor man based on all that God had asked of him.  The Lord wanted Ezekiel to do some pretty tough things for Him and I couldn’t help but wonder if I were in that situation would I be as obedient and faithful to God as Ezekiel was? Would I die to myself like that?

Take my life and let it be yours.
Let me give you a brief summary of Ezekiel’s story.
He was carried off with the Jewish exiles to Babylon, and while there, he became a prophet of God.  The message that he spoke was one of coming judgment for those still in Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, though, his preaching was not well received by the Jews that were with him in captivity.  39 out of the 48 chapters of this book, Ezekiel warned of the coming wrath from the Lord.  Destruction, disaster and doom were going to take place because of the peoples’ idolatry, wickedness and rebellion.  It was a fun read. (sarcasm noted)

Now, we all have trials, and at times, life can become very problematic, tiresome, and downright painful but after I finished reading this book, I thought to myself, “I have no trials and what God asks of me is nothing compared to what He had asked of Ezekiel.”

Read the following portions of Scripture and you will see for yourself some of the shocking things that Ezekiel went through.  I am sure after you read it, you won’t think your life is so hard either!

"Stand up, son of man," said the voice. "I want to speak with you." The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. "Son of man," he said, "I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says! 'And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them. "Son of man, do not fear them or their words. Don't be afraid even though their threats surround you like nettles and briers and stinging scorpions. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won't listen, for they are completely rebellious! Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion. Open your mouth, and eat what I give you."  Ezekiel 2:1-8

"The voice said to me, "Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. "Fill your stomach with this," he said.  And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth."  Ezekiel 3:1-3

Now, I don’t know about you, but that is not a very encouraging ministry to be a part of!  Think about it for a moment. God is telling you to go speak with His people, but by the way, they are not going to listen to you.  They will threaten you and treat you harshly.  Hmmm, I doubt that there would be a long line of people waiting to sign up to serve in that church ministry.  

Let’s keep reading about our good man, Zeke.

"Son of man, go to the people of Israel and give them my messages.  I am not sending you to a foreign people whose language you cannot understand. No, I am not sending you to people with strange and difficult speech. If I did, they would listen! But the people of Israel won't listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don't be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels."   Ezekiel 3:4-9  Then go to your people in exile and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says!' Do this whether they listen to you or not."  Ezekiel 3:11  

Just envision for a moment you're walking into a room filled with people like that and you have to give them a message of repentance! Generally, a message of repentance will not produce people who will like you.  I am sure you would not walk out with many new friends, but rather lots of enemies!
 
God used the obstinate, Ezekiel to give a difficult, hard-to-swallow message to other stubborn people.  For all of us that are hard-headed….God has a great plan for us as well!  Since I am included in this list, I prefer to use a much nicer word like 'tenacious' instead. (smile)  Maybe you're not like this, but you have a kid who is.  Keep praying for them to be used by the Lord.  God created them in a certain way just for His pleasure and purpose.  He gave me one too! (smile)  "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10

Let’s continue with our obstinate prophet’s story.


Prepare and eat this food as you would barley cakes. While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread.  Then the LORD said, "This is how Israel will eat defiled bread in the Gentile lands to which I will banish them!"  Then I said, "O Sovereign LORD, must I be defiled by using human dung? For I have never been defiled before. From the time I was a child until now I have never eaten any animal that died of sickness or was killed by other animals. I have never eaten any meat forbidden by the law." "All right," the LORD said. "You may bake your bread with cow dung instead of human dung." Ezekiel 4:12-15

Sounds delicious doesn’t it? (sarcasm noted)  When you read this, you can’t help but be thankful for the food you have in your pantry.  As Ezekiel is cooking his food over dung, it is kinda hard to complain that you can’t afford to go out to dinner? 

If you want your life to get easier, change your perspective. 

Now here’s the part of Ezekiel’s story that broke my heart.

"Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave. Do not uncover your head or take off your sandals. Do not perform the usual rituals of mourning or accept any food brought to you by consoling friends." So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died.  The next morning I did everything I had been told to do."  Ezekiel 24:16-18

This portion of the Scriptures was difficult for me to read.  Ezekiel had already endured so much persecution and physical hardship (which I did not recount in this post) and I could not help but wonder why God would take away his wife and then have him not mourn about it.  Poor guy!  Yet, here you have in Ezekiel 24:18, "The next morning I did everything I had been told to do."  

Bottom line:  Ezekiel was obedient to the Lord regardless of what God had called him to do, regardless of what the Lord took him through, and regardless of what the Lord took away from him.  

What a beautiful example of a God-fearing man.  Ezekiel was more concerned about satisfying the Spirit rather than his flesh.  He died to self.  We can all learn a lesson from him.

Keep reading... the story gets better.

“During the twenty-fifth year of our captivity—fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem—the LORD took hold of me. In a vision from God he took me to the land of Israel and set me down on a very high mountain. From there I could see toward the south what appeared to be a city. As he brought me nearer, I saw a man whose face shone like bronze standing beside a gateway entrance. He was holding in his hand a linen measuring cord and a measuring rod. He said to me, "Son of man, watch and listen. Pay close attention to everything I show you. You have been brought here so I can show you many things. Then you will return to the people of Israel and tell them everything you have seen."  Ezekiel 40:1-4

God gave Ezekiel a vision of the new temple area along with the rooms for the priests, the altar, the division of land, etc.  Imagine if you received a vision like that from the Lord.

Now here comes the best part of the story.  My heart beats fast just reading this passage!

"After this, the man brought me back around to the east gateway.  Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory. This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Kebar River and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. I fell face down on the ground. And the glory of the LORD came into the Temple through the east gateway. Then the Spirit took me up and brought me into the inner courtyard, and the glory of the LORD filled the Temple. And I heard someone speaking to me from within the Temple, while the man who had been measuring stood beside me. The LORD said to me, "Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will live here forever among the people of Israel. They and their kings will not defile my holy name any longer by their adulterous worship of other gods or by honoring the relics of their kings who have died."  Ezekiel 43:1-7

Oh, to see the glory of the Lord!  Wow, to be Ezekiel, what an honor for him.  Yes, he did go through some horrendous stuff….stuff I don’t care to go through, yet, look at what the Lord entrusted him with?  Can you see how Ezekiel continually died to himself and how the Lord blessed him?  I do hope so!

We all want to be used in a nice, easy and uplifting way but sometimes that is not a part of God’s plan. 
·       Sometimes we are called to minister to rebellious and obstinate people; maybe even to those in our own family.
·     Sometimes we are asked to endure a difficult life filled with persecutions and hardships.
·    Sometimes we have to eat things that don’t taste very good (those that are on special diets for health reasons know what I am talking about!)
·     Or for those who have endured the greatest of grief and sorrow because they have lost a loved one way too soon.

God has entrusted you with a great message; a message of Hope.  I am sure He is either taking you through something very difficult or He is asking you to do something that you don't want to do, either way He wants you to DIE TO SELF.  When you do that, not only do you bring Him glory, but in His timing, He reveals to you His glory as well.  It is beautiful and it is worth all our pain and suffering.

Now don't think for one minute that I am always dying to myself...because I am not.  I am a work in progress and I need to learn to daily lay down my life for Christ.  In the meantime, I hoping to indulge myself in a bowl of ice cream tonight!

On a personal note:  the last time I wrote to you I told you that our home was going to be sold on the courthouse steps.  On Monday, July 11, 2011, it did sell and was foreclosed upon.  You can read more about my story here at, Not My Will, But Yours Be Done.  As the real estate agent for the Bank showed up on our doorstep a few days later, she asked me a few questions.  I told her of our entire story, (and her mouth dropped open in disbelief) plus I told her that the Lord would take care of us, because I wanted to use every opportunity to testify of the things of the Lord. (smile) She told us to just stay put in the house because she has seen months and months go by without the Bank proceeding.  That was comforting to hear.  God is holding us in the palm of His hands! 

God ALWAYS has a wonderful plan for His children...we just need to remember that we are not here on earth to build our kingdom, but we are here to build His Kingdom. 

Dying to self is worth it, because we show others our hope in Christ; which is a way His glory is revealed.

Keep your eyes on Jesus,




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4 comments:

Heather said...

I do sometimes wonder why God does what He does; why we experience the trials we do. One thing I try to remember is that I cannot see the whole puzzle as He can; I only see certain pieces to the puzzle. Thanks!

Patti Hanan said...

I think of Paul's words, "In Christ, I die daily." He, like Ezekiel was another man who suffered greatly and was entrusted with much. It is not easy to die to self, but the rewards are great. I am encouraged by your writing, and will pray about your house. Your attitude is inspiring.

Jolene Engle said...

Hi Patti, I love Paul!! What a great man...one of my favs! I have this verse below my email signature: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21
Dying to self is sooo hard, but in the end it is always worth it. I am so glad my writing encourages you. That just blesses my heart! Thanks for your prayers (smile) and the Lord has already taken care of it! I will write about His hand of faithfulness soon, but in the meantime I will be busy packing.
Thank you sweet sister,
jolene

Jolene Engle said...

Hi Heather, I agree about not understanding all that God is doing in our lives, but I guess that is where our faith and trust comes in and that is what He wants from us! He always has great plans for us and when the puzzle of our lives is fully put together, it will look beautiful.
Hugs,
jolene