Thursday, 10 August 2017

Self-Denial: Sure or Not

I find it interesting and amusing to observe how some go about practising some form of self-denial, especially when it comes to Fridays, or even the season of Lent. Some seem to think that self-denial merely means that one must abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and they feel very good about themselves for doing so. Some think that self-denial means they must make themselves miserable in different ways, and make all sorts of sacrifices, as if doing such things would appease God. But are these what self-denial is all about? Do we practice self-denial just for the sake of doing it? Are we really practising self-denial, or we actually "gluttons for punishment"?

Now before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am against self-denial, no I am not. What I am getting at is when we begin to treat self-denial as a form of outward show, or "sandiwara" or "wayang" (Malay words meaning "putting on an act" or "putting on a show"), where we do it merely to get attention, or to appear to be pious or "holy," or even as a form of self-gratification.

So what does self-denial really mean? In Matthew 16:24, Jesus reminds us: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." What Jesus is telling us is that ultimately, all that we are and all that we do must be not to please ourselves, or to drive our own agenda or interests. Instead, we should be denying anything which is sinful, evil, selfish, self-centred, egoistic, making oneself proud or glorifying oneself. We should be following Christ wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, without terms and conditions. Our efforts should be for the good of all, and for the glory of God. "My way" should give way to "God's way" as our motto in life.

So, when all is said and done, we deny ourselves when we follow Christ with trust, hope, joy and gladness, without fearing the cost, danger and suffering, knowing that He will lead us and guide us closer to Him. Are we willing to cast aside our doubts, our desires, our wants and needs, and let Him be our true providence? Not easy, some may say, but with God, nothing is impossible.

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