John 12:25 warns if you love your life down here—you will lose it. If you despise your life down here—you will exchange it for eternal glory.
For a long time I understood this instruction from God to mean I was to despise the way I lived in disobedience to Him. I thought if I was really connected with God my disobedience to Him which is so consistent, would grieve me to such a degree that I would despise myself.
My logic flowed from understanding the opposite of this thinking. Those who ignore God have a good time doing those things that displease God without regret or concern (much of the time), so the opposite must be true as well. Those who seek to please God but find themselves constantly falling short must despise themselves for their poverty of godliness.
Yet God in Jesus is not describing this end to His warning. Rather He is calling us to be like Him and surrender our lives for the will of God and the good of others.
Certainly Jesus didn’t despise His life because He wasn’t good enough. Jesus never disobeyed God from birth! Jesus had to die so that all of humanity might live with God for eternity.
Jesus did not love His life so much that He was unwilling to give it as a sacrifice for the redemption of many.
What God wants from us is the same devotion, love and sacrifice as His Son in that we love God first and foremost with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. This love will translate into a passionate pursuit of obedience to God which will often conflict with my natural propensity for self-preservation.
The will of God must come before the will of me and every time I surrender to God’s will I demonstrate my love for Him and my despising of my own life.
God doesn’t want me to feel bad about myself, He didn’t, He wants me to give myself to His work and to the needs of others despite feeling otherwise.