November 20, 2019

What Good Is It . . . ?

Mark 8:34-38

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

—  Mark 8:36

Christ was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing he would be crucified there. And Peter had rebuked him, earning Jesus’ harsh reprimand: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:31-33).

Now Jesus had gathered a crowd along with his disciples, and he challenged everyone to self-denial, to “take up their cross” and follow him. For to have full life, he explained, we need to give our whole life to God. This means not simply letting go of all we’re tempted to hold on to, but also giving cheerfully to others and for others in our gratitude to God.

I read about a French soldier who was so seriously wounded in World War I that his arm had to be amputated. The surgeon was grieved that this young man would have to go through the rest of his life maimed. He wanted to break the news personally, so he made sure to be at the man’s bedside when he awoke. “I’m so sorry,” the doctor said, “but you’ve lost your arm.” The soldier’s response was startling: “I did not lose my arm, doctor; I gave it for France.”

As a military chaplain, I am especially grateful for people who have served in combat duty. In war, countless people have lost limbs, their sanity, and their very lives. Many have willingly sacrificed for their countries. As followers of the Lord, let us answer God’s call to give of ourselves for the cause of the gospel of peace in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, you sacrificed your life to free us from sin and death. May we live grateful lives of giving, for your sake. Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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