God is faithful to break us down to points of decision. He touches an area of idolatry in our lives and we have to decide to let go of the thing. We come to one juncture, where God asks to take away a big personal crutch, and we ask: Can I really let go of this? If I let go of this appealing thing, what will my life be like?
What is the risk of not letting go? We may even take it down to: Is God really real? Is Christ real? Paul once said that if Christ’s teachings were false and Jesus was not raised from the dead, and the encouragements from God’s Word were for this life only, then Christians were to be pitied because we have given our lives to that which is a lie and there is no do-over ( 1 Corinthians 15:17-19). Either Christ is not real and we can, therefore, live for what this world says is important and meaningful, or Christ is real and we live for Him—and His life is contrary to the things of this world. It can be a painful process.
Counting the Cost
Christians walk in dilemma, especially if we have never counted the cost of following Christ. On the one hand, we have made a commitment to follow Him, on the other hand, we fail miserably at doing so. When this question of surrendering everything introduces itself, our minds race to find staying conviction, or we may even contemplate denunciation because the call to surrender seems too risky. We commit to walk closer with God, to read more books, to carve out more time for devotions, to find a church. Or, we subtly decide we are going to continue to do our own thing and set our own path because we fear His unknown. The interesting thing is, we leave God out of the equation either way. We focus on what we are going to do, not on what He is doing—what He has promised to do.
Were the disciples all in? It appears that it took them awhile to “get it,” to the point where Jesus flat out asked them who they thought he was and Peter is blessed forever for his answer (Matthew 16:16). And, Peter got to see the truth that what Jesus said about himself IS real. Peter was on the mount of transfiguration. He saw that there is life after death: Moses and Elijah were there! He saw with his own eyes that Jesus IS the Son of God and Peter heard that truth from God’s own mouth (Matthew 17:1-8).
The disciples also received a lesson about this when, one day, they met a rich young man. The man wanted to know what deed had been left undone that would assure him of eternal life. Though the man admitted (in his ignorance or pride) that he had kept all the commandments, he knew there was still something missing. We’ve all been taught if you break the first three of the Ten Commandments, you’ve broken the others, because the first three are a litmus test of our relationship with God—from which obedience to the other seven flow. Jesus tried to show the young man that the young man had been serving another god, had made and bowed down to a false god, and had not loved the one true God. This young man was unwilling to give up his god of wealth to follow and serve the God of all wealth. He counted the cost, and walked away (Matthew 19: 16-30). Did the young man fear the unknown if he gave his stuff away? Did he fear the risk giving up what gave him security? We don’t know, but we do know that his decision caused him to turn his back on Jesus. No trust there.
When We Are “All In”
After the rich young man walked away, Peter reminded Jesus that they (the disciples) had given up everything and had followed Jesus. Peter asks Him what they would have in the kingdom of heaven as a result of their decision. Jesus is so wonderful here and he tells the disciples that anyone who counts the cost and gives up everything to follow him, “will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
God knows we need examples to live by because we will never be “all in” this side of heaven; think Peter’s denial. So, He gives us passages like 1 Peter 1. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we frequently find ourselves willing sin-slaves, just like the rich young man of Matthew 19. Jesus asks us to “risk” our lives, the one life we are given on this earth, for a life with him. This is the crux of faith and trust in God: we give up our reliance on things that are seen, and hope in what is unseen. It is our daily choice to trade in our gods, for God who has made the ultimate trade—His son, on the cross, in our place. Bet your life on it!
Patricia Curtiss (M.Ed.) attends St. Petersburg Presbyterian Church in Florida with her husband, Steve, where she has served as SundaySchool teacher/Women’s Council chairman/praise team singer/nursery worker. She is taking a sabbatical from a high school English teaching career to nanny her twin grand-nieces and to practice the discipline of devotional writing. Patricia and Steve have 4 sons and are expecting their first grand-child in September!