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“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-26)
In this passage, Jesus says that if we choose to live our lives for ourselves (doing what we want rather than what God wants) then we will lose our eternal life. Conversely, if we choose to lose our self-pleasing life here on earth (by submitting ourselves to do what Jesus wants rather than what we want) we will gain eternal life.
Most people strive for a happy, comfortable life here. However, Jesus repeatedly warns us that on Judgment Day, “…many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30). (See also Luke 18:18-30).
God commended Moses for his faith. Living with eternal priorities in mind, Moses firmly knew that it was worth it to give up everything he had and to endure suffering in order to keep his eternal life and heavenly rewards. “He [Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward…he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:25-27).
This doesn’t mean that following Jesus is a miserable way of life. In fact, it is exactly the opposite! Jesus came to give us an abundant life that is full of joy despite circumstances.
“I [Jesus] have come that they [we] may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
From personal experience, I can truly say the more I cling to my earthly, self-pleasing life, the more miserable I am (selfish people do tend to be the most miserable people). On the other hand, living my life surrendered to the lordship of Jesus (rather than my own) yields far more joy, peace and deeper satisfaction than the happiest life I could ever live without him.
Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).