"And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, "DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER." And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, "One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me." But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property" (Mark 10:17‐22).
We learn from the other Gospel accounts that this man was rich, young, and a ruler. So he had a lot of money and status – and we see that he was also curious. Notice, Jesus is setting out on a journey, and this guy runs up and kneels before Him. Breathless, he asks, "Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" I find his question intriguing. He was young and rich, why was he thinking about eternity?
Jesus reminded him of five of the Ten Commandments. The guy's response is surprising, "Teacher, I have kept all of these things from my youth up." You'd expect either Jesus to challenge him on this bold claim of spotless obedience since his youth, or Jesus to commend him for keeping the commands: "Good job, young sir. I'm proud of you for being an upright and moral citizen. Thank you for honoring your parents – they must be so proud." But no, Jesus (who felt a love for this guy) cuts to the quick: "One thing you lack; go and sell all you posses, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
The King of eternity asks him to give up everything.
"But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property."
Jesus called him to give up his earthly, temporal stuff for the sake of gaining far, far more. I can't help but think about how alluring and appealing the world can be. How often are we distracted, slowed down, taken in and almost taken out by our desire for snazzy cars, elegant homes, or fat bank accounts? Or maybe it's not the extreme possessions we're after. A decent car, a condo, and a modest savings account can keep us just as distracted. Jesus wants first place in our hearts and our lives. He deserves first place because He's our Savior and our God.
I can't help but think about what this man missed because his possessions and property meant more to him than following Christ.
Bob and I, about a year after we got married, decided it was time to start a family. With that one little decision, a journey of faith began. About a year later, after months of waiting, hoping, crying, and questioning, I realized that we might not ever have children. I never considered this before, and I didn't like considering it then very much either. But, by God's grace, I realized I was holding out for something that might not be God's will.
One afternoon, after learning, once again, that I wasn't pregnant, I knelt before the Lord on the red carpet of our first apartment. I pried open my hands and laid my desire for children at His feet: "Lord, even if I never have a baby, I will follow You." That day the Lord led me to Romans 11:33‐36:
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
For the next several years we endured infertility testing to no avail. Then, while living in Russia, we pursued adoption, but the door was closed. We've always remained open to His direction and leading in this area, but all along the way the Lord's answer has been, "No."
Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or mothers or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present again, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29‐30).
By His grace we are peaceful and content today, we've enjoyed a fruitful ministry over the years. And, (as I mentioned earlier,) we continue to win college students to Christ, build them in their faith, and send them to the world. We don't have two or three children of our own, but we do have spiritual children all over the world – which is a rich blessing. I'm so grateful for the life the Lord Jesus called us to live. It's not at all what I expected...it's so much better.
I'm always intrigued by Jesus' response to individuals who expressed a desire to follow Him. Remember in Matthew 8? One guy said, "I'll follow You wherever You go." You'd think Jesus would welcome such a statement. Or, what about the guy who wanted to bury his father, or the one who wanted to say goodbye to his friends? Why didn't Jesus say something like, "Great! We're traveling to such and such city, so by the time you've finished doing what you need to do, come and find us." But, that's not what Jesus said at all. It was all or nothing with Jesus. Listen to His words:
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24‐25).
Let's break this down and consider what this means for us.
"Let him deny himself." Words like, refuse, renounce, reject are synonyms for deny. What does it look like to deny yourself? Think about your longings and desires as you reflect on this question.
"Take up your cross and follow Me." Recently, as I read this statement, I realized that when Jesus said this, He was on His way to the cross, but nobody else knew. So, the people who were listening to His words knew the cross only as a brutal means of torture and death. The same is true for us, but we also realize it's the place where Jesus demonstrated His indescribable love for us. What does it mean to "take up your cross and follow Him?"
"Whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it." Ask yourself, "Am I willing to lose my life for His sake?" Tough question.
I can attest to the fact that God asks us many times throughout our lives to "open our hands" and offer all kinds of things to Him in sacrifice and surrender. What are you afraid of giving back to Him? What is keeping you from wholeheartedly following Him?
Now, go back to your core call. Up until now you've been using a pencil. Now's the time to write it in pen. First, if you're ready, open your hands. Lay everything out at His feet, all of your dreams and desires, and tell Him you're willing to follow.
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