It’s so easy to get bogged down in the quick sand of all that I’ve been through – to stay in the confinements of being a victim, building walls around myself and my life determined not to let anyone else hurt me, thinking things will never get better. But here’s the problem – if I stay here I’ll continue to sink and suffocate. I need help getting out of this sand. Thus the reason I have a counselor, but I know in my heart she is only as effective as I allow her to be, which means I have to actively work with her to pull myself out of the victim role and despair. The only way I can do this is with hope.
Speaking of hope, I listened to this great Steve Brown sermon on how one can be a Christian and be successful. I know Steve isn’t perfect, but I happen to think he’s about as close to God (or maybe Santa) as it gets down here – if nothing else by just the sound of his voice.
Here’s the link to listen:
Steve was teaching on the story of the rich, young ruler. I’ve heard it many times and reached the same conclusion each time; that the emphasis is on not allowing riches to come before God. No doubt we shouldn’t allow riches to come before God, however this does not mean God frowns on our successes or even being able to make money. Rather, God wants us to know that a relationship with Him leads to more success than we ever knew was possible and many times in ways we haven’t thought of.
You’ve probably heard the story, too. The rich, young ruler comes to Jesus and asks Him what he could do to have eternal life. Notice he is thinking erroneously, too. Obviously, he’s a doer and a successful one at that. He wants to know he is doing all the right things so he can earn the ultimate treasure – eternal life.
Jesus first response I’m sure had the rich, young ruler breathing a sigh of relief.
Luke 18:19-20 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’”
The rich, young ruler was shaking his head and probably exclaiming “Yes!” to himself.
Luke 18:21 ESV
And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”
But Jesus next words I’m sure had him raising his eyebrows.
Luke 18:19, 22 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
What in the world? The rich, young ruler had worked his way to the top. He’d earned riches and success and he’d done it obeying the ten commandments. What more could Jesus want? Sell everything he’d worked for and give it away to the poor! Those who hadn’t earned anything! If the rich young ruler would stoop so low as to cuss I imagine he’d have had a few choice words…
I think I’d have walked away sad, too.
As Steve says in the sermon being a Calvinist sometimes it’s easy to conclude from this story that all of life is suffering – giving up everything and following Christ. We like to talk about how God takes the bad and works it for the good, how persecutions produce patience and more godliness. Christ suffered and we will, too. All of this is true, but –
On the difficult days when I’m feeling lost, lonely and afraid things will always be this way I need some HOPE. I need to know there is something to live for ON THIS EARTH. Am I going to spend the rest of life here gaining all the character through suffering only to die go to Heaven? If that’s the case, take me home today, Lord! What’s the point in staying here?!?
I find great comfort in the story of the rich, young ruler in the sense that obviously the prerequisite to a relationship with Christ is not doing it all right. Rather the prerequisite is not trusting in all I’ve done right and coming to God empty handed and trusting Him to lead me…but to what? More suffering?
Peter wanted to know there was more to it, too. “Hey, Jesus, we’ve done all that. Now what? ”
Jesus’ answer in Mark gives us an idea of what to expect.
Mark 10:29-30 ESV
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Jesus promised Peter that there would be hundredfold blessings HERE AND NOW and in the future. Before I get ready to join the prosperity movement, I’m going to pay attention to the words WITH PERSECUTIONS. I think I’ve had a taste of those lately, but thank God that’s not all that there is.
I’m so grateful for Jesus’ answer, because it gives me the blessed hope to carry on. My counselor has also assured me God is going to bring good out of this season of my life – and GOOD HERE. I may feel like I’m in the quick sand now, but IT’S NOT GOING TO LAST FOREVER.
One day I won’t feel so alone anymore.
It’s just a season and seasons will pass. One day this long dead cold of winter will be gone and bring forth the life of spring.
Psalm 30:5 ESV
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.