I die daily.
You should too.
When I became a follower of Christ, I held onto these words from the apostle Paul. I didn’t fully understand the context of the verse back then but I understood the idea of the struggle expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:31. I understood that Paul made a daily choice to live for Christ rather than himself. I understood that as a Christian, I needed to make the daily choice to die to self and live for Christ. The dramatic struggle was packed in that powerful phrase, “I die daily.” It grabbed me. It still does.
These words had an immediate and lasting impact on me. First, I was fresh out of a lifestyle that was sinful and destructive. I knew that my former way of living wasn’t remotely compatible with someone wanting to follow Jesus. Honestly, every day still felt a little dangerous. It felt dangerous like I could just fall back to my old ways. I had to choose to die to my old natural, sinful self so that I could become someone new and better.
The other reason these words grabbed me was because they were oddly life giving. This guy Paul, who wrote part of the Bible, shared in my struggle to move forward with Christ! That gave me hope.
Years have passed and I’ve grown in my understanding of living the life Christ wants. I’ve come to understand that Paul’s words (see also Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 3) apply to so much more than just salvation from the old, unsaved me. My struggles are different now, but the need to die daily in order to become what God wants me to become is still there. As a leader in the Church the struggle feels amplified. We need to continue to daily die to self so we can live for Christ.
Here are three ways I strive to die daily as a leader.
1. I DIE DAILY TO GETTING STUCK IN A RUT.
On the side of the road, in a country far from here, there was a sign that read, “Choose your rut wisely, you will be in it for the next 20 miles.” As a middle-aged man and a student of leaders in the church, I can testify with great conviction that too many of us have chosen ruts and we need to get out of them.
Are you stuck in a rut? It is way too common to see people, who are designed for the purpose of Gospel impact, living on cruise control. Leaders can easily get stuck in an old mindset that is limiting them and those they lead. As leaders, the temptation will always be there for us to settle into familiar ruts. Yet, we have within us an opportunity to trust God for new growth and new ways to see leadership. It is time, as leaders, that we take stock of the ruts we are naturally drawn to and die to them daily.
2. I DIE DAILY TO GETTING STUCK IN SAUL’S ARMOR.
Getting stuck in “Saul’s armor” (1 Samuel 17:32-40) happens when we try to imitate others instead of using the gifts, unique wiring and calling God has given us in the context in which He has called us to serve Him. In my time in ministry, I’ve been a Sunday school teacher, an intern that drove my pastor around and did all kinds of grunt work, a youth pastor, evangelist, campus pastor, senior pastor and now a denominational leader. I’m very grateful for these different seasons in ministry because I have had the opportunity to be part of some really special and uncommon things. In every phase of service, I learned lessons that carried over into the next phase of ministry.
It is really important to learn from others and from your circumstances but the most important thing I have learned on my ministry journey is this: serve God and be who God has made you in the opportunities he has placed in front of you. After all these years and experiences, I just want to serve Jesus and I am not going to try to do it by imitating others. Of course I want to learn from others who are more experienced, smarter and more gifted, but I learned a while back that I’m at my best if I am who God made me to be.
3. I DIE DAILY TO GETTING STUCK IN SIN.
More than 25 years have passed since I discovered Paul’s inspired words and they still have the same original force as when I first read them. The old sins, as well as new ones, still have the potential to trip me up and keep me from seeing God’s will played out in my life. No matter what ministry looks like or what the circumstance of my life look like, I need to continue to die to sin. As leaders, transparency and repentance should be daily practices in our spiritual walk. The rut of sin can lead to some painful places, not just for us but for the larger church as well. Keep dying to the sin in your life.
I hope whoever you are, whatever stage of ministry or life you are in, you can continue to experience the life that can be had by dying daily to live for Christ.