they will know us by our love.
Well, we ended the last devo with 3 questions.
- do you think it is possible to pursue the American Dream (to want the house, the wife and kids, great benefits, leisures, retirement, a reputation for success) and to follow Jesus at the same time?
- does Jesus fit in among the other elements of the life you are pursuing, or is He the life you are pursuing?
- He is saying, “Follow Me.” Are you hesitating to fully leave it all behind? If so, what is holding you up? If not, what does “leaving it all behind” look like in the culture of the American Dream and in the culture of the consumeristic church of the west?
The responses back thru facebook and email were great. There are definitely some of us grappling through this.
One warning I wanted to give – don’t think dualistically about this. In other words, either you have to be poor or you can’t follow Jesus. I am not saying that He is saying that. He had followers who had much. But what they owned did not own them. And they were free-handed with it, sharing with all who had need. Treated their stuff like it wasn’t theirs.
Today, I wanted to give another example of someone who gave up everything and then ask a few questions. Take a few minutes to read about Paul in Philippians 1:20–2:4.
20 I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! 21 Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. 22 As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. 23 Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better 24 . But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. 25 So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. 26 You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. 27 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, 28 not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. 29 There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.
30 You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Now, just for context, would it change the way you read that if you knew that Paul wrote it from prison with guards watching him 24/7? Not like a vacation trip to Rome, Paul suffered even getting there and continued to suffer while there. He made much progress with the Gospel of Jesus, though. And he wrote this letter to the church of Philippi challenging them to live beyond self and be grateful for the joy that comes from a life given up.
Did you notice what Paul said in Philippians 1:21? In the more wooden translations, it reads:
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Could I say that with honesty? Do I actually view my life as not my own, as so identified with Christ that even if I died physically I would consider it greater life? How could I? Because it would be more Jesus. Not face to face now. Face to face then. And that’s what heaven is about. Not so much the streets of gold or a big house. But Jesus. Jesus. It’s about Jesus.
It’s like, if you are married, what you felt like longing for the wedding day to come. You lived for that wedding day. You couldn’t wait for the date to arrive and the chance to come to seal the deal and be together in every way. That’s the metaphor. We are waiting for a wedding feast when our Groom (Jesus) returns for His bride (the church). And we long for the day. To see Him. To seal the deal. To run into His arms.
To live is Jesus. To die is more Jesus. More of the long-awaited groom.
Unless I already have so much of the stuff of this world that I don’t long for the stuff of heaven.
Paul also challenged the Philippians to put the interests of others above themselves. He then goes into this beautiful hymn about how Jesus did exactly that – gave up everything for us.
He is not asking us to do something He has not done. GIVE UP EVERYTHING. He did.
What would I lose? Here is something to consider – what am I giving up everything for?
- to actually spend more time relating to my family and less time just providing for them?
- to actually have the time to be a friend to my neighbor?
- to embrace Jesus and His ways of giving more rather than getting more?
Time. Giving up everything may be less about being a steward of my money and more about being a steward of my time. Less about being poor financially and more about being rich relationally. With God and with others.
Think about it. It takes time to make more money. It takes time to invest in your career. It takes time to achieve the American Dream. Then, you get to retirement and what do you have? Lots of stuff. And you may also have the close relationships with wife and kids and possibly grandkids and friends. But the more common scenario is that you don’t. You have the stuff, and now you finally have the time to build relationships with those that matter most, those you were working so hard to provide for. Or better said, repair those relationships.
I AM NOT SAYING YOU CAN’T BALANCE HARD WORK AND FOCUS ON FAMILY. You can. But we need to be more honest about the time we spend giving to the career that 1000s of others could do, while we steal from the time spent as a spouse and parent and friend (which only one person can do). I am the only dad for my kids. The only husband for my wife. No one else can do that.
So don’t get frustrated processing this GIVE UP EVERYTHING, thinking it’s ridiculous. It’s okay to pursue the American Dream, isn’t it?
Not if you cheat your relationships.
Just be honest about what’s getting your best. Does your job get your best creativity or your family? Does your wife get your best attention or the client you are trying to lock in? Does your kid get your best mental energy or the leftovers from a hard day? Does your friend / neighbor know you love him / her or that you are a hard worker climbing the career ladder.
Again, there can be balance. THE POINT IS THIS – BE HONEST ABOUT HOW YOU ARE USING YOUR TIME. How you use your time is the biggest evidence of what you live for. What you are giving up everything for.
Come back to what I wrote earlier:
Think about it. It takes time to make more money. It takes time to invest in your career. It takes time to achieve the American Dream.
You know this is true, too. It takes time to make more intimacy with your spouse. It takes time to invest in your relationships. It takes time to achieve “on earth as it is in heaven” on your block.
Remember this – God intends for you and me to follow Him and live engaged on His mission daily. His mission is about love – loving God with all you have and giving love away into your neighbor. That’s how we learn and live the ways of Jesus, as we put the interests of others above our own. As we GIVE UP EVERYTHING in order to cultivate “on earth as it is in heaven.”
THE BOTTOM LINE_are you gonna miss out on anything if you get to the end of your life with rich relationships? But you know good and well that you would die with regret if you spent more time cultivating riches than you did rich relationships.
The final devo of this series will be out Saturday. Hope to see you Sunday as we wrap up the series with a panel discussion as well as some practical thoughts to apply the teachings of GIVE UP.