I am starting to really discover that the man who has nothing in himself can truly have all things in Jesus Christ. This becomes most clear to me in the area of my own self image. I tend to suffer from a huge confidence and inferiority complex.
My ‘issues’ trace all the way back to grade school when other kids regularly picked on me from everything to my name to my stature to being a geek or even a goody-goody. These attacks caused me to look down on myself. I started listening to the lies of the enemy and even believed many of them. These attacks began a war that I still fight today.
At times, the fruit of my labor and the praise of men are all too important to me, yet I somehow miss the sound of Jesus singing over me. I wrongly believe that the commendation of Jesus is just not enough for me. I hunger for the praise of men. Oh, this wretched craving can taint even the best of motives.
Pride creeps in and begins replicating itself, growing like a cancer. Pride can be the most destructive of all sins because we may not easily detect it. Pride can wrap itself around our heart causing us to see evil intent where there is none. Pride can lead a glorious being to madness…even the outright rejection of God.
Ultimately, even a ‘righteous’ man must come to the conclusion that surrender is the only option. God wants all. He wants ‘our’ pocket books, ‘our’ self worth, ‘our’ feelings, ‘our’ rights, ‘our’ time, ‘our’ future and dreams – everything. Whatever we hold back is what will crush us in the end. Jesus said that he who tries to save his life will lose it. The only way to live is to give everything away.
Own nothing, and you can have all things in Jesus. This seems so un-American because it is. The modern western culture is built on the lies of pride and selfishness. When we give our lives to God, we are only giving to him what rightfully belongs to him in the first place.
Many of the Bible heroes had to discover this lesson the hard way. Even godly men will look for earthly results when spiritual fruit is what God desires. What happens when we sing about surrender or giving all to God, and He then takes us at our words? Moses endured the whining and childish behavior of the Israelites for years. But he did not get to enter the promise land because of one act of frustration and anger. It seems so unfair, but God held Moses to a higher standard. David did not get the right to build a temple for God. His hands were bloody from war, God said no to one of David’s greatest desires.
Jeremiah did not what to be a great prophet. God called him to speak to the Israelites and promised to be with him. Jeremiah took this to mean that the people would respond to the message. Quite the opposite happened. He was publicly humiliated by being put in the stocks. He was imprisoned and thrown in a dark dungeon. Then he said to God, “You tricked me!” God responded showing the prophet his faulty thinking. Jeremiah, the great prophet of tears, learned to let go of even his preconceived ideas of how things were supposed to be.
The New Testament is full of people who lost all for the sake of God’s glory and the kingdom. All of the apostles were killed for their faith except for John and Judas. And according to Church history, the Roman Emperor tried to kill John, but God spared his life so that he could receive the vision that became the book of Revelation.
While I have never been thrown in prison or tortured for the cause of Christ, God does ask me to pick up my cross and follow His lead. The Lord has been working on me by allowing the comments of other believers to pick at my self worth. Careless comments here and there tend to rattle the sense of satisfaction that I get from ministry.
A few well-timed criticisms of something that I care about or spend a lot of time working on can reveal my true heart motive. When criticisms lead me to become angry or depressed, it shows that much of what I am doing is done for the praise of men and my own personal sense of accomplishment. Negative feedback causes me to think, ‘How dare that person say that to me’ or ‘Well, I guess I won’t ever do that again if people don’t appreciate it.’
Then I hear God asking, “Oh, you thought this was all about you?” In a friendly yet ‘sarcastic’ tone I hear the Almighty say, “I thought you gave me your life? That does include your feelings and right to be bitter because others don’t like what you do for me…right?”
I realize that I am caught throwing a pity party and nobody seems to be dancing. God smiles and holds up a document. He says, “This is your signature at the bottom of this covenant giving me title to everything? You didn’t forget about it did you?”
Kind of like the kid who knows he messed up but doesn’t want to admit it, I scuff my feet and look at the ground. I sheepishly say, “No Sir. I gave you everything.” On the inside I am kind of mad at God for not torching my brother or sister in Christ. And I am not happy that God is holding me to my words. But I know He is right. I have a choice. I can hold onto my anger and bitterness or yield it over to God and let Him be my shield.
The more that I am honest with myself, the more I see my own sin. I was too focused on me and what I get out of serving God. Doing the only thing that I know how to do, I run to God, kneel at His feet and ask for forgiveness. As I walk toward the Father, He lovingly gives me a look that says everything is going to be alright. Yielding all to the Lord, I once again find the freedom in letting all things go yet having all things in One.