Devotion Day 2: The Giving of Self

Have mercy on me, O Lord – my daughter is grievously vexed with a demon – Matthew 15:22

A mother with a shadow over her home and over her heart. She has an afflicted daughter. The nature of the affliction we do not know. According to the belief in that far off day, she was afflicted with an evil spirit. But whatever her malady, it was robbing her of opportunity. It was laying her life in ruins. But hard as it was on the daughter, it was harder for the mother.

Suffering with the child, she is willing to pay any price within her power to bring healing. When she hears of Jesus, she hurries to him and prays the prayer’ “Have mercy on me, O Lord, my daughter is tormented with a demon.”

The prayer is beautifully unique. The mother is not praying as one might expect. She is not praying as we usually pray. Instead of praying “Have mercy on my child. It is, “have mercy on me.” Her prayer is not an effort to stand from under as ours so often are. She is not seeking to push her burdens on the shoulders of others. Hers is not a cheap prayer. It is costly, as really praying ever is. She made the burden of her daughter her own. The giving of self in the interest of others is costly.

Self-giving just like that is required of all who truly pray. We cannot pray except at the price of self-surrender. If we cease to surrender when we pray – sooner or later we surrender prayer. The most amazing of all Christian experiences is the strength-inward. We well know that God can only trust this amazing power to those who are willing to give themselves. Real prayer always involves surrender.

Self-giving is the essence of Christianity. “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” says Paul, and so fulfill the law of Christ. The law of self-giving – the law by which Christ lived. He was and is the great burden bearer. He is constantly putting himself under our loads. He takes upon himself the burden of our sin. He offers himself as the bread of life – the water of life. He takes the burden of our weariness and restlessness, saying, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He was, he is constantly offering himself – this the whole meaning of his life.

Such is not only the law by which Christ lived, it is the law by which he expects us to live. What he did and what he does – he counts on us to do.

We are to have his mind, his disposition, his way of looking at things, his way of doing things. Give ourselves for the good of others even as he did. If he laid down his life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren. In that spirit, the early church lived and served, we can be truly Christians no other way. Must Jesus bear the cross alone?

Jesus makes self-giving the law of life for us. Why? Not because he looks upon sacrifice as an end in itself. To cause ourselves needless suffering is not in itself a virtue. Self-giving even to the first limit, is not necessarily a good. “If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.” 

If sacrificing in the sense of surrendering something of value were an end in itself – then these who are the farthest from wishing to make any sacrifice at all would be the most enriched. No one gives up quite so much as the one who is the most determined to sacrifice nothing – give nothing.

When the prodigal son went into the far country, certainly, he had no thought of making any sacrifice. But in spite of the fact he found his adventure most costly – cost him the companionship of his father – gnawing, hunger-burning, thirst-usefulness – cost him everything. It is true that none surrenders so much as those who are bent on surrendering nothing.

Why does Jesus ask me to make self-giving the law of my life? He does so because it only as I give myself that I can achieve the highest usefulness. But if this self-giving is to be of supreme value, it must have at least two characteristics. First, it must be voluntary. For only as such can my giving become shot through and through with the spirit of the cross. Some have burdens thrust upon them and become reconciled by saying well this is my cross and I will bear it. But it is not a cross – it is a burden – you did not want. You would not have accepted it if you had not been forced to do so. We can only count our cross that we bear of our own choice. Jesus did not have to bear the cross.  When He spoke of giving up his life on the cross, He said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.”

Not only must the burdens we bear be voluntary, they must be borne from a worthy motive. Jesus never did look on any form of suffering as an end in itself; not even the cross.

Well, you say, why did he put himself under the burdens of others, even to the point of going to the cross – to Calvary for them? It was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross, despising the shame. The joy was not the joy of suffering, but the joy of winning the world through suffering. He suffered because of the conviction that after he was lifted up, he would draw all men unto him. It was through suffering on the cross that he attained his highest usefulness. All subsequent centuries bear witness to the fact that his expectation was well founded.

We too, can only serve in a superlative way at the price of a life laid down. We may serve in a superlative way at the price of a life laid down. We may serve at a lesser cost and receive commendation; but we can’t accomplish or best-realize our highest, except at the price of life laid down. This is true in all departments of human endeavor – books – art – the old artist who painted with life’s blood. In the realm of service – Rockefeller vs. the widow’s mite – $530 million. He gave of his superfluity – she of her wants. The missionary in an obscure Chinese village – the forgotten Doctor.

Jesus urges me to give myself not only because this is the way to highest usefulness, but also to my highest self-realization. But you say, this is all well and good for the receiver – what about the giver? The receiver is enriched, strange as it may seem, the giver is enriched even more. Once it was believed that personality was a gift, but now we are learning that personality is a matter of development; but can only be developed by self-giving. The greater the abandon – the richer our personally – the more abundantly we live.

A few years ago, a Japanese student left these shores with the sentence of death passed upon him. The doctor told him he could not live for long. He went home to the slums, flung himself away in the cause of others and there were such powers given him which made death impossible.

Now the greatest Christian of the world, to fulfill the law of Christ by self-giving is at once the way to highest usefulness and self-realization.

Look at what self-giving did in the story before us. “Have mercy upon me” prayed the sorrowing woman; “My daughter is grievously ill-vexed with a demon.” What was the worth of the prayer to the one on whose behalf it was offered? There is mystery connected with intercessory prayer, but we are taught throughout the Bible to pray for another “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord,” said the prophet of long ago “in ceasing to pray for you.”

Such praying does not make it so here. It was through this woman’s prayer that healing came to her daughter. By her prayer, she took her afflicted daughter in her arms and fairly laid her upon the lap of God. O woman, great is they faith be it unto thee as thou wilt; and her daughter was made whole for that hour. Thus, while her prayer brought blessing to her child, it brought even greater blessing to herself.

It was by self-giving that our Lord won his crown. “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who existing in the form of God counted not the being on the equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, ye, the death of the cross. Wherefore God highly exalted him, and gave him, and gave unto him that name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the glory of God the Father.”

Thus, according to Paul, Jesus climbed to the highest heights because he was willing to stoop to the lowest depths of humiliation and even shame.

The Chinese king put to the disposal of his chief minister all the wealth of the kingdom that he might make a bell which would ring with a note of flawless sweetness. But the bell was soulless to the disappointment of all-ordered the bell recast – but still the bell was soulless. The king was angry – ordered the bell recast and commanded that if the bell did not ring with flawless sweetness this time that his life would be the forfeit.

The girls part flung herself in boiling caldron, thus with the gold and silver was mingled the blood of a devoted heart. When the bell was hung in the tower and the kind and his people came to hear it rind and such heavenly music had never been heard before. It attained the flawless sweetness in the blood of a devoted heart.

Our lives never attain their best, highest possibly sweetness and beauty, except at the price of utter self-giving.

From Grandpa’s Whit and Wisdom, Devotions compiled by Liza Weidle / January 2023

Published by Liza Weidle

As a savvy connector with a passion for making the world better, I am known as a good listener and resource immersed in learning trends, tackling challenges, and helping organizations translate vision into actionable, results-driven strategies. In other words, I get the job done!

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