Most people become fearful when they see some of Jesus’ teaching such as “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” -Lk 14:33or “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”- Jn 12:25
If I were trying to help someone quickly get over their fear of this, I might say, “Hellooooooo, we’re talking eternal life in exchange here….!” But, in some cases that doesn’t seem to be enough for people who are still living according to their natural man, or who have been uninformed by lack of teaching, or misinformed by false teaching. So, let’s consider the following five perspective-changing insights.
• Jesus is asking us to trade up, not give up
• You can’t lose something that isn’t yours
• Nothing you possess will bring true fulfillment
• You lose everything to strangers when you die
• The only way to lasting treasure is through faith
Jesus is really asking us to trade up, not give up.
At first glance of the Gospels, it often seems like Jesus tried to chase people off rather than to gain followers. He often emphasized the extreme costs of becoming His disciple, over the benefits. It soon becomes clear that He is not interested in spiritual “gold diggers”—people who come to Him only because of what they want Him to do for them.
A good first base with Jesus is to understand the real purpose for His coming. The main reason He came was to save us from being condemned to hell and separated from God for all of eternity, not to make us happy, healthy, and wealthy in the here and now. (I Tim 1:15, 1Thes 1:10, 1 Jn 3:8, Heb 2:14).
We love the idea of “free” eternal life, but our flesh or natural man, hates the idea of suffering and of having to give up its spiritual “candy bars”. The flesh is adamant about not losing its false sense of security and artificial happiness! When you fear losing something, recognize that as your flesh waging war against the Spirit (Gal 5:17). You'll feel internal conflict if the Spirit of Christ is in you, and you should recognize that whatever you are afraid to lose is likelyan idol (false god). God sees idolatry as adultery. Idolatry stunts our spiritual growth and robs us of God's very best.
I want to let you in on a little secret though. Jesus does not ask you to give up anything in the natural without having plans to give you something even better in the Spirit. (Jn 4:13-14, Jn 6:35) This is often true in the natural as well. God may close a door or remove something from your life and then, in His timing, replace it with something far better. It may not be what you think, or when you think, but it is always better (Mk 10:28-30).
The sign of the Old Covenant was material prosperity for those who obeyed God (Deu 8:18). We are not under that covenant anymore and God is no longer obligated to provide guaranteed material prosperity in response to our faith and obedience. He still chooses to bless some with material prosperity, but so does Satan who has been given the power to do so (Lk 4:6), so prosperity is not a sole proof of God’s blessing—think Bernie Madoff.
The word success appears 42 times in the OT (NIV) and zero times in the NT. The word prosper appears 80 times in the OT, but only once in the NT (Acts 13:17), and only in regards to the OT covenant with the Jews.
Many still claim the OT prosperity promises and end up frustrated with God. They keep claiming the promises, but external prosperity eludes them.
They fail to see that while God still prospers some, according to His will, we’ve actually been given a better covenant with better promises (Heb 8:6) than just prosperity which never even lasts. Obedient followers of Christ are given the kingdom of God and the Spirit of God to live in them, a level of soul prosperity that no one in the OT ever had. See (Ecc 5:10, Lk 12:32, Jn 7:39, 14:17, Phi 3:7-8)
Unfortunately, this truth cannot be discovered by just reading it. It can only be understood by experience, as a result of having the faith to act on it. (Jn 7:17)
You can’t lose something that isn’t yours to begin with.
Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me. – Job 41:11
People are so afraid of losing “their” stuff or “their” plans if they fully surrender “their” life to Christ. However, even if He takes it all, you can't lose anything that was never yours to begin with.
Satan loves it when we say and think, “mine”. No matter how many times your name is on it, or how many payments you have made, it’s a complete lie to think we own or have control over anything in this life. As soon as we claim “mine” against something God really owns, we have just erected another spiritual barrier between us and Him.
We are stewards and we must understand that God literally, not figuratively, owns every single thing we’ve ever had or will ever have. (Ps 24:1)
In spite of this, God is so unbelievably kind that He gives us temporary use of His resources and then says, "Now go use this to invest and store up treasures for yourself in heaven." (Mt 6:19, Lk 16:9) This is amazing…what kind of God is this?
Nothing you possess will bring true fulfillment.
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” – Ecc 2:10-11
Nothing we possess brings any lasting fulfillment, and when our focus is on stuff we never have enough stuff (Ecc 5:10). We constantly feel the need to buy something new (even small things). When the Spirit of Christ is not in us or we are missing out on sweet fellowship with Him through neglect, sin, or disobedience, we are left with a deep hunger in our soul that demands to be fed.
Upon your full surrender, God took your request seriously. As the suffering came, so did your sincere cries to Him for help. Soon, He began speaking to you in very personal and dramatic ways.
Soon after you surrender, a dramatic set of circumstances ensues which causes your entire life to fall apart. Your family, career, finances, home, hobbies, friends and even your reputation are all lost. Your dreams are shattered and all that you have ever known and found your happiness in, is gone.
How would this make you feel? Even though it is not at all likely that this would ever actually happen to you, the idea of surrendering all to Jesus sounds pretty terrifying at this point doesn’t it?
The stuff we purchased the last time we had that hunger no longer does it for us, so now we need something else. As we accumulate more and more stuff, it requires more time and resources to use and maintain them. Do not be fooled; there is an intentional evil purpose behind this. Satan, who the Bible says is in control of the whole world (1Jn 5:19), exploits our hungry souls. In the end, he is the only one who wins if we do not break free from this deceitful trap. (2 Cor 11:3)
Jesus pleads with us to trust and obey Him so that He can give us life to the full—a true peace, rest, joy and contentment that all the wealth in the world could not equal, and that rises above any level of loss or suffering we mightface in this life.
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.”- Phi 8:3
You will lose everything to strangers when you die.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ -Lk 12:20
I think many “Christians” who love their “stuff” would be cut to the heart if they could see their “estate sale” before they actually die. They would see complete strangers (some almost like vultures) descending on their beloved home, pilfering through and swallowing up their most prized possessions for pennies on the dollar.
Your estate sale and my estate sale are getting closer each day. Perhaps we should consider now the treasure principle in (Lk 12:33, Mt 6:19-21, Lk 16:9), and begin sending some treasure to heaven ahead of us, where we can enjoy it forever, rather than merely losing it to strangers.
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. – Lk 12:34
(Feel the fear when you read that? That’s your flesh raging against the Spirit. Jesus can help you crucify that fear!)
The only way to lasting treasure is through strong faith.
We come into the world with a bent away from God, not towards Him. Our focus is on the natural man, self-sufficiency, and temporal satisfaction NOW.
However, as a Spirit-filled disciple under the New Covenant, having received the kingdom of God within us, Jesus commands us to be wise enough to focus on and prepare for our time in eternity.
In order to receive God’s best for us, now and in eternity, we must seek Him with a faith that is willing to take risky actions of obedience, wait patiently when it hurts, and to keep going even when circumstances completely contradict our faith. These prove our faith to be genuine. 1Pet 1:7
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Heb 11:6
Most Christians know what they need to do and they know it requires faith to do it, but they remain paralyzed by fear and miss God’s best blessings.
Strong faith is built on seeing God come through for you; not just by saying you have faith. If you will obey God in the small or obvious matters that He has brought to your attention, in His timing, you will see His loving-kindness and faithfulness to you. Each subsequent action of obedience will yield greater amounts of God’s blessing and soon He will have an unshakeable track record of faithfulness in your life.
Putting it all together:
Because we want to feel good now, we spend most of our time striving to possess things that we’ll never really own and that won’t provide lasting fulfillment, but instead bring stress and responsibility. And instead of obeying Jesus’ command to trade it all up for lasting treasures in heaven, we death grip it until our last breath, whereupon it is all taken from us anyway, and given to people we never even knew. This is foolishness.
“He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot, on Luke 16:9