“I wonder if for many of us, the only thing stopping us from living the life God created us to live—the life of our dreams—is to let go of a life so good that it betrays the great. Are we willing to give up all the things we have right now to be able to obtain that which God longs for us tomorrow?”
Erwin McManus, Wide Awake, p. 106
Learning to say no to good things is a mark of maturity and is a skill that is necessary for success. It is also a skill that is not easily developed. Many of us fail to see how pursuing good things prevents us from actually fulfilling the call God has placed on our lives.
One of the biggest lies that our generation has believed is that it is possible to do everything. It is not. Each one of us has a limited amount of time, and every time we choose one thing we are saying no to something else. Once we accept this reality, we can then prioritize our lives and begin to spend time on the things that truly matter. We need to lay down the good, so we can experience the great.
In Matthew 8:21-22, Jesus encountered man who wanted to follow him full time:
Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.” (NLT)
What stopped this disciple from truly following Jesus was not something evil, but something that was good, showing respect to his father. Yet, that decision kept the man from experiencing the life God created him to live.
I believe that same is true for us. The obstacles that prevent many us from fulfilling God’s call are not sin and addictions, but good things. “I will give more of my income God, but first let me get out of debt.” Or, “Lord, I will serve more once the kids are out of the house.” Or, “I will be faithful in worship, but first I need to get my new business established.” Over and over again we find excuses on why we cannot follow Jesus in exactly the way he asked us to follow him.
One of the lessons we learn from this passage is that the good things in our lives will work themselves out. His father would be buried even if he was not there.
We can give and still pay off our debt. Yes, it will take discipline and sacrifice, but it can be done. We can serve while working and raising a family. It requires priorities and schedule, but it can be done. We can start a new business and still find time to connect with God each day. Yes, we may have to schedule time for it, but we schedule other things that are important to us. We can’t let good things steal our worship and obedience from God.
I wonder how much of life we miss because we are not willing to trust God and follow Jesus in every area of our lives? The choices we make prioritize the good and push out the great, and in the process we miss out on the very thing God wants us to experience: abundant life.
Following Jesus is difficult. It requires us to make some tough and, at times, unpopular choices. It requires us to give up the security of what we know for the future that we don’t know. It requires us to step out in faith even when no one else will come with us. It is this type of faith that is required to live the life God created us to live. It is this life that we truly long to live.
It is easy to get distracted, to allow good things to consume our lives, and to hold on to dreams far too long. When we continue to find our life in good things instead of following Jesus where he leads, then we will miss out on the abundant life God created for us.
What is holding you back from truly following Jesus? What difficult choices do you need to make in order to be present with Jesus today?
If Jesus is truly Lord of our lives the only thing we can do is to sacrifice the good, so we can follow him to the great. No questions, no whining, just do it. The life we were created to live is waiting on the other side.