Change Your Tune
Whoever loses his life for My sake, he will save it
The story is told of a great violinist who owned the most valuable violin in the world. Once, during the course of a superb concert performance, he suddenly smashed his violin over a chair again and again, breaking it into little pieces. The audience was stunned. The master quickly relieved their anxiety, saying, “Don’t be alarmed. The violin I smashed was not my priceless Stradivarius. It was a cheap instrument, worth only a few dollars. Now I shall play upon my Stradivarius.” Whereupon, he played the same selection he had just finished playing on the other violin. Most people in the audience couldn’t tell the difference. Then the violinist said, “So much has been said about the monetary value of my beautiful Stradivarius that I wanted to demonstrate the fact that the music is not in the instrument. The music is in the one who plays upon it.”
Regardless of your monetary net worth, regardless of whether you are rich or poor or somewhere in between, you make beautiful music with your life when you place yourself in God’s hands. Allow God’s purposes to be played through you, His human instruments, and the great music of life will resound. But God cannot use your life in this way until you put it in His hands.
Our number one priority in life is to be in union with God, our Father, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from God there is no possibility of genuine growth, genuine happiness, genuine peace, genuine security in our life. In the Apostle Paul’s words, “May the God of Peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1 Thes. 5:23).
We all want God to make us sound and blameless in spirit and body. We all want God to make us feel secure in the knowledge of who we are and why we are and where we’re going with our life. We all want the genuine peace of soul that only God can give us. And yet many of us come to Church and talk about God and sing about God, but money is our God and things are our God and mindless pleasure is our God. And, inevitably, this estrangement from the only genuine Source of our fulfillment affects our health, our relationships, our ability to love unconditionally, our ability to grow into our full human potential. We become more and more anxious, and our anxiety robs us of our sleep, robs our life of its joy, drains us of our vitality, affects us with psychological and emotional pain. We feel more and more helpless, more and more powerless, more and more out of control. We don’t recognize our true self anymore. And we wonder if there is anyone to tell us who we are and why we live and die.
God, our Father, the Source of all of life, is a gracious God who wants us to know who we are. He wants to bring us to fulfillment. He is for us in this way, but always there is the condition: “You shall have no other Gods before me.”
“I will give you life; I will resolve your identity crisis; I will make it possible for you to be the beautifully fulfilled person I made you to be.” Then the condition: “If you put your ultimate trust in other gods, if you put other gods at the center of your life, you will not be able to discover who you are and why you are and where you are going with your life.”
In today’s Gospel Lesson, Jesus says to His disciples: “Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will preserve it” (Mk. 8:35). The word in this text which we translate from the Greek as “life” literally means “psyche.” Jesus is talking about our psyche: our spirit, our soul. He says, “lose it!”: Lose it to God. Immerse your spirit in the Holy Spirit of God. Give your life over to the Rule of God. Lose your life to God and you will save it.
I have no doubt that this makes sense to most of us — up to a point. What is missing in our response is a sense of immediacy, a sense of urgency, a sense of “Now is the time for all good men and women to come under the Rule of God!” Of course we want to get rid of our anxieties. Of course we want to get rid of our feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Of course we want our relationships with other persons to be more life-enriching. Of course we want to be able to recognize our true self and to grow into our full human potential. Of course! But, “Not right now, O Lord. Some other time! Right now we’re too busy dealing with our anxieties.”
Many of us are like the man who hated his job but worked at it for thirty years waiting for retirement — “When I can begin to live,” as he put it. But don’t you see, Jesus is calling us into life now! Jesus is telling us that it is in the struggle, in the job, in the relationship, in the pain, in the joy, in the tears, in the laughter, that we experience the Divine Presence in our life if we are open to it. It is not “out there” somewhere but in the everyday-living process that we need to position ourselves under the Rule of God in order to enrich our understanding of who we are and why we live and die. It is in the everyday-living process that we receive our opportunities to experience the Presence of God more deeply — in the family, in the community, and in the world. It is in the everyday-living process that we receive our opportunities to know each other and to love each other more deeply in Christ Jesus.
One Sunday morning, in a big-city Church, the pastor made the following announcement:
It is obvious that as more and more new high-rises continue to swallow up the burgeoning population, and life continues to become more and more computerized, our city is growing more and more impersonal. It appears that we are experiencing a similar problem in this congregation. We are growing more and more impersonal. The spirit of friendliness is declining. We seem more and more reluctant to even greet each other as we gather together to worship God. As your pastor, I would like to take steps to correct this situation. Therefore, beginning next Sunday there will be a pause in the service, during which time members of the congregation can turn to each other and extend a friendly greeting. When the service was over, a man in the congregation turned to the woman seated behind him and said, “Good Morning! How are you? Nice to see you this morning!” The woman gave him an icy stare. “That doesn’t start until next Sunday,” she snapped.
“Whoever loses his life for My sake, he will save it.” Jesus is not talking about next Sunday — or Saturday, or Friday. Jesus is not talking about tomorrow. Jesus is talking about today! Jesus is talking about this Sunday. Jesus is talking about now! “Lose your life for my sake now.” That means, “Lose your life in My Cause now. Lose yourself in My ministry of loving service now. There you will begin to recognize your true self. There you will begin to discover who you are and why you are. There, and only there, you will begin to identify the meaning and purpose of your life with the Gospel truth that love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable.
“A New Commandment I give to you,” Jesus said to his disciples, “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35).
The truly marvelous thing about Jesus’ Commandment is that the newness never wears off. Each individual act of compassion, each act of understanding, each act of healing, each act of forgiveness, is a new and unique revelation of what love is all about and, therefore, what God is all about, and therefore, what our fulfillment and eternal happiness are all about.
If you want to make beautiful music with your life, change your tune from “I Did It My Way,” to “I’ll Do It God’s Way.” Play it God’s way and you can begin to grow into your full potential as a human being.