1. THE RESULT OF GRATITUDE
a. What vital expressions should repeatedly resonate in our hearts? Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31; John 14:1–3.
“Let it be understood that the love of God alone can keep His people true in the self-denial and self-sacrifice that they are called to endure for Christ’s sake. Repeat often the first three verses of the fourteenth chapter of John. This scripture is a panacea for trouble, disappointment, and affliction. A conviction that the hope of eternal life is sure causes the heart to overflow with gratitude and thanksgiving.”—The Paulson Collection of Ellen G. White Letters, p. 5.
b. As we give of our means to the Lord, what should we ever keep in mind? Psalm 29:1, 2.
“To give is to live. The life that will be preserved is the life that is freely given in service to God and man. Those who for Christ’s sake sacrifice their life in this world will keep it unto life eternal.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 623, 624.
“The recording angel makes a faithful record of every offering dedicated to God and put into the treasury and also of the final result of the means thus bestowed. The eye of God takes cognizance of every farthing devoted to His cause and of the willingness or reluctance of the giver. The motive in giving is also chronicled.”—The Adventist Home, p. 368.
2. DIFFERENT THAN MIGHT BE EXPECTED
a. What principle given by Jesus is a secret to a happier life? Acts 20:35.
“The principle of worldlings is to get all they can of the perishable things of this life. Selfish love of gain is the ruling principle in their lives. But the purest joy is not found in riches nor where covetousness is always craving, but where contentment reigns and where self-sacrificing love is the ruling principle. There are thousands who are passing their lives in indulgence and whose hearts are filled with repining. They are victims of selfishness and discontent in the vain effort to satisfy their minds with indulgence. But unhappiness is stamped upon their very countenances, and behind them is a desert, because their course is not fruitful in good works.
“In proportion as the love of Christ fills our hearts and controls our lives, covetousness, selfishness, and love of ease will be overcome, and it will be our pleasure to do the will of Christ, whose servants we claim to be. Our happiness will then be proportionate to our unselfish works, prompted by the love of Christ.
“Divine wisdom has appointed, in the plan of salvation, the law of action and reaction, making the work of beneficence, in all its branches, twice blessed. He that gives to the needy blesses others, and is blessed himself in a still greater degree. God could have reached His object in saving sinners without the aid of man; but He knew that man could not be happy without acting a part in the great work in which he would be cultivating self-denial and benevolence.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 382.
b. With what appeal does the Lord bid us align our priorities in life? Matthew 6:19, 20.
“[God] has ordained that giving should become a habit, that it may counteract the dangerous and deceitful sin of covetousness. Continual giving starves covetousness to death.”—The Adventist Home, p. 370.
“When the riches that moth devours and rust corrupts shall be swept away, Christ’s followers can rejoice in their heavenly treasure, the riches that are imperishable. . . .
“To those who have squandered His goods, Christ still gives opportunity to secure lasting riches. . . .
“Let your property go beforehand to heaven. Lay up your treasures beside the throne of God.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 374, 375.
3. A BASIC REQUIREMENT
a. What must every one of us keep in mind in the process of genuine self-denying surrender to Christ in preparation for the kingdom of Heaven? 1 Corinthians 15:31.
“The life of the apostle Paul was a constant conflict with self. He said, ‘I die daily.’ 1 Corinthians 15:31. His will and his desires every day conflicted with duty and the will of God. Instead of following inclination, he did God’s will, however crucifying to his nature.
“At the close of his life of conflict, looking back over its struggles and triumphs, he could say, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.’ 2 Timothy 4:7, 8.
“The Christian life is a battle and a march. In this warfare there is no release; the effort must be continuous and persevering. It is by unceasing endeavor that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose.
“No one will be borne upward without stern, persevering effort in his own behalf. All must engage in this warfare for themselves; no one else can fight our battles. Individually we are responsible for the issues of the struggle.”—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 452, 453.
“ ‘Will ye shun the seven last plagues? Will ye go to glory and enjoy all that God has prepared for those who love Him and are willing to suffer for His sake? If so, ye must die that ye may live. Get ready, get ready, get ready. Ye must have a greater preparation than ye now have, for the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it. Sacrifice all to God. Lay all upon His altar—self, property, and all, a living sacrifice. It will take all to enter glory. Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where no thief can approach or rust corrupt. Ye must be partakers of Christ’s sufferings here if ye would be partakers with Him of His glory hereafter.’
“Heaven will be cheap enough, if we obtain it through suffering. We must deny self all along the way, die to self daily, let Jesus alone appear, and keep His glory continually in view. I saw that those who of late have embraced the truth would have to know what it is to suffer for Christ’s sake, that they would have trials to pass through that would be keen and cutting, in order that they may be purified and fitted through suffering to receive the seal of the living God, pass through the time of trouble, see the King in His beauty, and dwell in the presence of God and of pure, holy angels.”—Early Writings, pp. 66, 67.
4. A GOOD HABIT FROM A YOUNG AGE
a. How does the concept of self-denial apply even to children and youth? Proverbs 20:11.
“Children of two to four years of age should not be encouraged to think that they must have everything that they ask for. Parents should teach them lessons of self-denial and never treat them in such a way as to make them think they are the center, and that everything revolves about them.
“Many children have inherited selfishness from their parents, but parents should seek to uproot every fiber of this evil tendency from their natures. Christ gave many reproofs to those who were covetous and selfish. Parents should seek, on the first exhibition of selfish traits of character, whether in their presence, or when in association with other children, to restrain and uproot these traits from the character of their children.”—Child Guidance, p. 132.
“If, while traveling, our youth will keep an exact account of the money they expend, item by item, their eyes will be opened to see the leaks. While they may not be called upon to deprive themselves of warm meals, as the early workers did in their itinerant life, they may learn to supply their real wants with less expense than they now think necessary. There are persons who practice self-denial in order to give means to the cause of God; then let the workers in the cause also practice self-denial by limiting their expenses.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 400.
b. Give an example of how early training in economy was put into practice. 1 Corinthians 11:1.
“When I was only twelve years old, I knew what it was to economize. With my sister I learned a trade, and although we would earn only twenty-five cents a day, from this sum we were able to save a little to give to missions. We saved little by little until we had thirty dollars. Then when the message of the Lord’s soon coming came to us, with a call for men and means, we felt it a privilege to hand over the thirty dollars to father, asking him to invest it in tracts and pamphlets to send the message to those who were in darkness. . . .
“With the money that we had earned at our trade, my sister and I provided ourselves with clothes. We would hand our money to mother, saying, ‘Buy so that, after we have paid for our clothing, there will be something left to give for missionary work.’ And she would do this, thus encouraging in us a missionary spirit.”—The Adventist Home, p. 384.
5. CONTINUING AS WE AGE
a. Just as the young should lay up treasure in heaven, how also should the older ones? Psalm 116:14, 15; Luke 12:33, 34.
“To the aged, who are losing their hold on this life, I appeal to make a right disposition of your Lord’s goods before you fall asleep in Jesus. Remember that you are God’s stewards. Give back to the Lord His own while you live. Do not fail of attending to this while you have your reason. As age comes upon us, it is our duty to make a disposition of our means to the instrumentalities that God has established. Satan is using every device to divert from the Lord’s cause the means so much needed. Many are binding up their talent of means in worldly enterprises, when the cause of God needs every dollar to advance His truth and glorify His name. I ask: Shall we not lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven, in bags that wax not old? I would especially urge the aged who are soon to make a disposal of their means to remember those who have ministered faithfully in word and doctrine. Place your means where, should health and life fail, they can be invested in the cause of God. Thus they will be put out to the exchangers and be constantly accumulating. . . .
“Let your hearts be true to Jesus. Although you may feel that you are the least of all saints, yet you are members of Christ’s body, and through Him you are identified with all His human agencies and with the excellence and power of the heavenly intelligences. None of us liveth to himself. To each is assigned a post of duty, not for his own narrow, selfish interests, but that the influence of each may be a strength to all. If we really believed that we were individually a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men, would we not as a church manifest a very different spirit from that which we now manifest? Would we not be a living, working church?”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 295, 296.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. When we consider God’s goodness to us, how should it cause us to respond?
2. In what specific ways should I exercise greater self-denial for the good of others?
3. In what aspects of life do I need to reflect more effectively the apostle’s dying daily?
4. How can children be taught the joy of self-denial?
5. As we advance in years, what appeal continually echoes down to us?