As much as I am excited for the busy upcoming summer season at Oakridge and everything that comes with it, I also have a sense of dread concerning its quickly-approaching arrival. You see, summer camp means long days and short nights of sleep. It means quickly eating a meal before going off to run the power bouncers in 90-plus degree weather. It means having to share living space with the summer staff and having to work out a shower schedule. It means staying late to finish up dinner dishes and to clean the dining hall. It means having to run snack shack at 11 o’clock p.m., when I would have rather been in bed two hours earlier. In short, summer camp means death to self—death to what I want and my desires, so that I can serve God and others. Certainly every day of the year presents opportunities for one to die to one self, but the summer season definitely multiplies those opportunities. With less sleep, the flesh, or the sinful nature, is more likely to act up, and it is easy to just think about oneself instead of thinking about others. Well, I’m sick and tired of washing dishes, so I’m just going to take a fifteen-minute bathroom break, and maybe they’ll be done with washing dishes by the time I’m back. That is the way that the flesh thinks. Unfortunately, that is how I’ve sometimes thought.
How can one trade selfish thinking for unselfish thinking? If the natural tendency is to think only of oneself, how can one succeed in thinking about others? The answer is to abide in Christ. What does that mean though? It is easy to throw out “Christian-ese” terms, but not really know what they mean. Abiding in Christ means spending intentional time alone with God. It means spending time reading the Bible and letting its words soak in deeply, so that one has God’s mind on things as one goes through the day. It means spending time in prayer, both speaking to God and allowing Him to speak.
I always used to hate it when people would quote Isaiah 40:30-31, since it just seems to be overused. Yet, its words ring true: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (NIV 1984). The only way to be able to effectively serve at summer camp and die to self is to find strength by hoping—by abiding—in Jesus. I am preaching to myself here. It is easy to make excuses and think, “Well, I’m tired, so I won’t spend time with Jesus tonight,” or “We read the Bible as a staff. Plus, I heard the message at chapel tonight. I’m good.” But DO NOT be convinced by the excuses. Those are just lies trying to pull one away from what one really needs in order to die to oneself and have success in camp ministry—an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.
So then, when one is confronted with the thought of going to the bathroom in order to duck work, one can pause and pray. One can think about what he or she read in the Bible that morning and use that to fight against the temptation to indulge in the flesh.
Yes, the approaching summer season will mean that I will have die to myself everyday and instead live to serve God and others, but God has granted me the way to do that via an abiding relationship with Jesus—a relationship that is built through time spent in the Bible and in prayer.
“I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:31).
“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” (Philippians 2:17).
“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)