Lord, that’s too much!

While reflecting on the theme for this blog, I was drawn to the lives of Saul and David, the first and second kings of Israel, as biblical analogues for the value of consecration. One became king shortly after he was anointed, while the other spent years in exile, enduring character-building trials before he assumed the throne. Guess which of the two didn’t lose his crown? Their story is apt because everyone who believes in Jesus is anointed and called to declare the excellencies of God [1 Peter 2:9]. But how will we fare with that calling? How prepared are we to fulfil our commission? Will we be like David or Saul? 

Jesus once said: “Many are called, but few are chosen…” [Matthew 22:14]. Ever wondered what determines who’s chosen? Jesus made that comment at the end of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, alluding to a guest kicked out of the banquet because he didn’t meet expectations. That parable reiterates that God has standards which He never lowers to accommodate us [1 Peter 1:16-17]. As such, if we desire to be counted among the few, we must be intentional about answering the call [2 Peter 1:3-10] – just like an athlete is deliberate about his preparation for the Olympics [1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 2:5]. Ultimately, following God’s plan for our lives will cost us something, and many are terrified about that price. But what if consecrating ourselves for God’s call is akin to letting go of the lesser to lay hold of the higher? What if consecration wasn’t just about giving up the bad for the good but also included giving up the good for the priceless?

In a book I read recently, the author made some observations about the story of the rich, young ruler I’d never seen [Mark 10:17-23]. The young man had kept the Law from his youth, which isn’t something many could say in Jesus’s day, and although he had enormous wealth, he knew there was something superior he lacked. Sadly, many of us aren’t even that self-aware. However, when he approached Jesus for instructions to obtain the priceless, he couldn’t relinquish what he already had. As the author pointed out, God wants us to prosper [Psalm 35:27]. So, Jesus’s request wasn’t designed to strip the young man of his wealth. Instead, Jesus requested a loan from him [Proverbs 19:17] – essentially offering the young man an unrivalled investment opportunity. As the author also pointed out, Jesus, having told him to give away his wealth, added: “…and Come, Follow Me” – a phrase He typically used to call His apostles. Who knows, maybe Jesus was offering the rich young ruler an opportunity to replace Judas.

God’s call is never on our terms. That can be unsettling for those of us who want to be in control of our destinies. I believe Peter had the same thoughts as he watched the rich, young ruler walk away disheartened. Peter had already left his business, and much more, to follow Jesus [Mark 1:16-18], so he could relate to the difficulty of leaving the good to pursue the priceless. Interestingly, when Peter’s apprehension prompted him to ask Jesus about the reward for his sacrifice – even though Jesus had already assured Peter of a reward when He called him, Jesus didn’t rebuke His friend. Instead, Jesus assured Peter that there was a sumptuous reward on earth for anyone who leaves everything to follow Him [Mark 10:29-30]. In other words, Jesus makes every believer the same unrivalled offer He made the rich, young ruler and Peter [Matthew 6:33]. But will we respond like Peter or the rich, young ruler? Will we be like Saul or David?

With the benefit of hindsight, most of us would rather be Peter or David. Yet, neither man knew how their story would end. They answered their respective calls by faith in God and His word. Like us, they also had reasons to walk away like the rich, young ruler, but ultimately, they didn’t give in to fear and unbelief. Scripture shows us two things we must do if we desire to consecrate ourselves to emulate them [Hebrews 12:1]: First, we must lay aside every weight which slows us down in the pursuit of destiny. These weights aren’t necessarily bad things. As Paul reminds us, not every lawful thing is helpful to the believer [1 Corinthians 6:12]. The Bible doesn’t expand on weight because it’s different for each person. So, each person must identify what’s a weight in their life and ruthlessly eliminate it. For the rich, young ruler, his wealth was his weight. What’s yours? Are you ready to lay it aside? Or is Jesus asking for too much?

Secondly, we must eradicate that besetting sin which easily trips us up. If the first part of Hebrews 12:1 deals with covetousness, the second part addresses character because, without character, we’ll struggle with longevity. Like Saul, if we don’t address the sin that repeatedly trips us up, it will eventually result in moral failure and cost us our crown. Again, Scripture doesn’t expand on besetting sin because it’s different for each person. So, it’s our responsibility to identify and eradicate ours. 

Interestingly, covetousness and character flaws are often insidious, but we cannot fulfil destiny without addressing them. So, God Himself calls us to submit to His pruning – an act of consecration that allows Him to cut away whatever doesn’t glorify Him in our lives so that we can bear much fruit and have a great destiny [John 15:1-17]. But that pruning is uncomfortable, so the real question is: will you allow God to perfect what He’s doing in your life or quit before the end of training? Don’t answer too quickly. The pruning, like major surgery, hurts even though it’s life-saving. So, count the cost first because the flesh will actively oppose you as you reach out for the priceless [Luke 14:25-33, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27].

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