What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36
In 1920, John Sung, the sixth child of a Chinese pastor, received a scholarship to study at a university in the United States. He graduated with the highest honors, completed a master’s program, and earned a PhD. But while pursuing his studies, he had walked away from God. Then, one night in 1927, he surrendered his life to Christ and felt called to be a preacher.
Many high-paying opportunities awaited him back in China, but on the ship home, he was convicted by the Holy Spirit to lay aside his ambitions. As a symbol of his commitment, he threw all his awards into the sea, keeping only his PhD certificate to give to his parents out of respect for them.
John Sung understood what Jesus said about becoming His disciple: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). As we deny ourselves and leave our old life behind to follow Christ and His leading (vv. 34–35), it may mean sacrificing personal desires and material gain that distract us from following Him.
For the next twelve years, John carried out his God-given mission wholeheartedly, preaching the gospel to thousands throughout China and Southeast Asia. How about us? We may not be called to be preachers or missionaries, but wherever God calls us to serve, by His Spirit working in us, may we fully surrender to Him.
What do you need to surrender in order to truly follow Jesus? What are some personal ambitions you may be holding on to?
Father, help me to set aside whatever hinders me from fully surrendering to You.
In his commentary on Mark, William Hendriksen calls Mark 8:34-38 a “brief but beautiful little paragraph.” How can words about following a “cross-carrying” Christ be described as “beautiful”? The brevity and simplicity of Jesus’ words, along with their clarity, contribute to their beauty. In Mark 8:31-32, Jesus spoke of His upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection (see also 9:30-32; 10:32-34). The invitation in 8:34 is to “whoever.” Verse 35 highlights that self-preservation is ultimately deceiving; self-surrender to Christ is lifesaving. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer helps us see that communion with Jesus in the manner presented in these verses is what the life in Christ is all about: “The cross is laid on every Christian. . . . Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”