In a collection of letters entitled Let Go, seventeenth century French theologian Francois Fenelon wrote:
"The death of self must be voluntary, and it can only be accomplished as far as you allow."
Whatever spiritual knowledge or feelings we may have, they are all a delusion if they do not lead us to the real and constant practice of dying to self. And it is true that we do not die without suffering. Nor is it possible to be considered truly dead while there is any part of us which is yet alive.
This spiritual death (which is really a blessing in disguise) is undeniably painful. It cuts swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are. The Great Physician, who sees in us what we cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife. He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up. And how it hurts!
He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life. Should you resist? Certainly not! You must learn to suffer all things! The death of self must be voluntary, and it can only be accomplished as far as you allow.
Abraham was not the only one of God's saints who had to make a choice concerning self-sacrifice. David, the prophets, the disciples, and the apostle Paul came to a point where they willingly laid down their lives—their personal desires, goals, and dreams—for the love of God.
Jesus willingly sacrificed His life for you so that you would have the opportunity to know Him personally. He did not avoid the cross. Because He was willing to die for you, you can live eternally. Will you not die to self, crucified with Christ, to gain life more abundant than you can imagine?
Prayer: Lord, I know you are the Great Physician. Thank You for loving me enough to sanctify me completely and forever. Help me to look to Your promises when the way of dying to self is painful. I know the result is more glorious than I can even hope or imagine. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).