Have you ever considered death as a victorious beginning rather than a final ending? In his latest book, A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live, Rick James examines the idea that when Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, Jesus is describing a path of death, not a path to death. Using Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians, James explains that our trials are like “little deaths” because they enable us to see how God resurrects or brings life out of each circumstance.
James, publisher for Campus Crusade for Christ, invites believers to experience a paradigm shift and consider what it means to die to self and live for Christ. James encourages God’s children to embrace the victory found in Christ’s resurrection and know that while some Christ-followers are called to give up their physical lives for the cause of Christ, most believers are called to a type of death that shows up in endless ways throughout their daily lives. He explains that Scripture uses the term death or “to die” as a continual admonition for Christians to “take up our cross,” “die to sin,” and “die to the world.” James believes that seeing the smaller daily opportunities to die is as important as seeing the daily tokens of God’s love and faithfulness that He bestows on us.
James encourages believers to reconsider death as the opportunity for resurrection in some way, shape, or form. Rather than running away from death, we can embrace death and consider it pure joy in whatever form we encounter it. According to James, “Death is no longer a dead end or detour to life; it’s a fuel stop on the life-long trip to the cross.” God can use the life and faith of the believer as an engine to convert the “little deaths” into abundant life. As we follow Christ, we will trace His steps and our lives will begin to reflect the principles He taught us through His own suffering and death.
Whether it’s the death of a dream, a job, a relationship, an ego, or a reputation, we must all die to ourselves. Each of these “little” deaths offers an opportunity for us to display God’s sacrificial love for others by offering forgiveness and grace and then submitting our lives to God’s will rather than our own. Then, instead of the Christian life being viewed as a string of little deaths, it becomes, more importantly, a string of little resurrections. It is this process that drives, energizes, and animates the Christian life. The trials of life then become invitations, in the truest sense, to draw closer to Christ and reflect His grace and mercy into the lives of others. Nothing can minimize or eliminate the pain, suffering, and finality of death, yet through Christ we are able to view this process as the vehicle to resurrection and the means to greater life and deeper intimacy with Him.