I am a bargain shopper. I will scour the internet for months looking and waiting for the best deal on items that I want. In fact, I almost never pull the trigger on anything unless it is at least 50% off of retail. So, I’m always asking the question, “how much does it cost.”
So today, when the pastor at our church introduced his sermon with the question, “how much does it cost?” he had my attention.
We were digging into Matthew 19:16-30, where Jesus speaks to the rich young man. It was a familiar story to me, so I was anticipating the direction of his sermon as I sat in church. What I didn’t anticipate, was how it would speak to me directly.
The rich man asks what he must do to get into heaven, telling Jesus that he keeps all of the commandments. Jesus then tells him to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor; then, to come and follow Him. At this, the man went away sad, because he had great wealth.
It is a great moment that illustrates the cost of discipleship. The two questions are:
- How much does it cost to follow Christ?
- Is the cost a good value?
Ultimately, the cost of following God is our idols.
An idol is something in our life that we give value to, time to, and worship to. It could be money, family, social status, job status, relationship status, cars, athletic pursuits….anything that we give our heart to. In fact, the warning from Matthew 6:21 states that, “wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also.” What we value above all else is our idol.
In order to follow Jesus, we have to give up our ‘idols.’ If we don’t, we can’t worship Jesus with our whole heart. And if we don’t do that, we won’t receive the actual ‘value’ of being a disciple. Even though Jesus appears to be asking us to make a sacrifice to follow Him, He is actually giving us the advice that would lead us to live the best, most valuable, awesomest life on earth and in eternity. He is giving us the best deal! But ohh…..does it seem hard through our limited scope.
By telling the rich man to go and sell his possession, Jesus got right to the issue at hand – the heart issue – and this message got to my heart as well. It got me to thinking about what idols existed in my life. Now, I’m sure there are millions of letters, notes, blogs, etc. that have conversed on this subject. Hopefully this doesn’t find itself lost in an ocean of “churchy” confessions, but can actually touch someone who is passionate about worldly pursuits at the same time that they are passionate about serving the Lord and doing things for the kingdom.
Because, our pastor also said, money and wealth isn’t sinful, and nowhere in scripture does it say that it is. It is when we love money (or anything) more than God, that it becomes a sin (and like I said before, this isn’t even as much a ‘dictator God demanding his name to be worshipped — I mean He is Holy and perfect and His Name does demand that — but it is also a command that is made out of love – God knows we will be most satisfied in life when we are most satisfied in Him).
But the fine line remains: how do we fit these “things” – money, athletic talent, desire to move up in our job, family, work, etc. – into a life where God owns our whole heart?
Is it noble to pursue gifts and talents? Is it a noble pursuit to become the best athlete, teacher, coach, doctor, mother, TV show host, etc. possible?
Is it noble to be financially responsible? Or to accrue a desired amount of wealth?
Let’s go back to the passage to answer the question. Notice how Jesus doesn’t tell the man to give money to the poor. Had he done that, the rich man probably would have written out a check and given it right on the spot. The issue in this man’s heart wasn’t an unwillingness to help out the poor financially. The issue was making the radical step of caring more about Jesus than about his wealth. The issue was shifting his identity from his wealth to placing his identity in who he is in Christ. I think this is the risk we all are afraid to take.
We live in a world where it is easy to put our self worth in our nice little home, our nice little family with our wife and our kids. Or to put our value in how much money we have saved for retirement. Our to put our value in our 5k P.R. (guilty of this, sadly) or our body fat percentage (ugghhhh….). Some of us have put our value in how good we are at work – how many state qualifiers did we get, how many “Superior” ratings did we get, how much have our districts’ test scores gone up, how soon did I become the V.P., etc. We feel like there is almost too much at stake to just go, “Yeah I’ll give all that up and become like a dirt poor fisherman who has nothing (like the disciples) and follow you Jesus.” Many of us go to church, give our time and money to the church, pray everyday, etc. But we still don’t daily walk in a way that says, “my ultimate value = who I am in Christ, regardless of anything else.”
So, it is what is in our hearts that determines whether or not it is noble to pursue gifts, talents, athletic, jobs, money, etc. And really only you and God know what is going on there.
So, what is the value of giving up everything to follow Christ?
In return, verse 29 says we get 100x whatever it is that we gave up on earth, in heaven. In other words, the only way I could realistically have the same number of skis to choose from in my fleet as Jesse Diggins is to donate just one pair to a needy person, or donate my Fischer Speedmax Skate Ski fund to missions!
We also get eternal life with Jesus, which seems a lot better than eternal life in hell, just saying.
So, in this life, we are getting relationship with Christ, which he says will actually give us the greatest pleasure anyway. We are also getting eternal life in heaven – that’s a biggy…a great deal really….and we are sacrificing 85-110 years (if you are Jackrabbit Johanssen) of idolizing worldly pursuits above all else (which, by the way, doesn’t even guarantee satisfication, even at the highest level…..even guys like Michael Jordan still are sitting in their mansions fuming over the fact that people still are arguing over whether or not Lebron James might be better than him). It’s a good value, for sure.
Another thing that we get, which wasn’t really mentioned in the sermon, but I thought of it anyway, was the presence of a purpose in life! That is so huge. When we are living for God, everything we do has a purpose that will live on for eternity. If our purpose is to be the richest man alive, that dream dies when we die. If it is to be a great parent and love our kids, that dies when we die. If it is to start a college and have it named after us, that dies when we die. Even if it is to end world hunger – that dies when the world dies. But if our purpose in life is to glorify God, that will go on forever, and we will be rewarded and brought joy in that goal – FOREVER. The saddest thing I think about when I interact with non-Christians – even super awesome, unique, passionate non-Christians, is the thought that what they are doing with their lives ultimately….ends up being wasted – in an eternal sense. Guys, that is super sad. In my coaching philosophy, which I have posted on my sight, the Playing with Purpose part has to deal with this in a ‘secular’ way. Basically, I have to encourage everyone to “find their own purpose” because if they believe in it and believe that it is true, they will fight way harder to strive for excellence. But, deep down, I know that the person who has created a false truth and a temporary purpose, though they may strive for success, will have their work be shown for what it is – 1 Cor 3:13:
their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
When the world is obliterated and we are all standing in line on Judgement day waiting for our verdict, there is going to be one thing and one thing only on EVERYONE’s mind: what did I do for God and what is my standing with God….please let it be….good.
So, as I obsess over sports and pour countless hours, emotional energy, gallons of sweat, and wear and tear on my body into the pursuit of athletic excellence, let it be the prayer of myself and other people who are equally passionate about a pursuit in their life, that our number one prerogative always stays the same: bringing glory to Christ. Let our identity be found in him, so that we can be like Randall Cunningham, who walked away from the 30-27 1998 NFC Championship game without shedding a tear because he knew what was really important, and let us not worship any idols.
Because to be honest, the line, especially with sports, is very fine. Trying to truly maximize your potential, even in the name of giving yourself a platform to proclaim the gospel to other athletes or followers, can look a lot like idolizing, obsessing, and worshiping a totally worldly pursuit. The amount of dedication that is put into it, especially for the “everydayathlete,” means sacrifices have to be made in drastic ways elsewhere. Often times, I have to stop and ask myself what my motives are. I have to have a gut check – actually, a heart check.
One of my strategies is to pray during my actual workouts. I’ll even be blunt and honest with God, telling him what I hope to get out of sports – to be great sure, but more importantly to spread the gospel. If I put in the same hours as Michael Phelps, and he gets 22 gold medals, a lifetime of wealth, while I get just a single opportunity to bring one person to Christ because they looked up to me and what I did as an athlete….then it has all been worth it – if that’s where my heart was to begin with. So I’ll open my heart to the Lord, because that is part of building the relationship with Him anyway. He already knows what I want and long for, but He wants me to tell Him. He wants me to ask for it – to align my heart with His plan. Psalm 37:4 is maybe the best verse ever for people who struggle with the balance of passionate pursuits and living for the Lord:
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
We could write a whole book about that – but I think you can put the connection together.
Is what you are striving for truly worth it? If it is only gold medals, than it isn’t. Only things done for the Kingdom will last. What is the desire of your heart? Are you delighting yourself in the Lord first? Let’s press on towards that – Search for Truth. Play with Purpose. Strive for Success.
Credit to Bo Hutches at Living Water Bible Fellowship in Alamosa, Colorado for the inspirational sermon today!