When my husband and I married thirty years ago, we were very frugal and saved our money. We planned for our future by putting aside money for our retirement, and we had a nicely funded savings account. This practice awarded us the ability to buy our first home. Great plan, right?
In part, this was an excellent practice. However, we had a problem: our faith and trust was in what we built. Our large savings account and our retirement fund all gave us a sense of security. We believed in ourselves for our provision. This security was our little god. And we were faithful to it. Until adversity hit our finances and our little god was gone. Talk about feeling alone, defeated, and lost! We feared, quite literally, for our future.
This adversity was a test for us – a test from God. He wanted to direct our attention to His provision, not our abilities to provide. While being responsible is a virtue, being holy is better. Being holy is depending on the Lord as we live our life sensibly. Being holy sets us apart from the world’s view of success and finds its success in the power of God through our faith in Him alone.
The very first commandment that God gives us is, “I am Yahweh your God … do not have other gods before Me.” God continues to expand on this commandment with the second, “do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:1-4).
Seems simple, direct and easy to follow, right? No.
As we fast forward several hundred years, we see Jesus teaching the same lesson to a very rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23. This young rich ruler asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replies, “Why do you call Me good?” Then Jesus turns to ask this young rich ruler, “No one is good but One – God. You know the commandments:
Do not commit adultery;
Do not murder;
Do not steal;
Do not bear false witness;
Honor your father and mother.”
Aw, the rich young ruler was feeling fairly confident in himself when he heard this from Jesus. He replied, “I have kept all these from my youth.”
We would all probably agree that we are not much different than this young ruler. As I spoke of previously, when my husband and I were first married, we were certainly not committing adultery; murder was the furthest thing from our thoughts – that would have been a detestable act for sure! We did not steal, or bear false witness, and we honored our father and mother. Like this young ruler, these commandments were simple and easy to do. But the next one, the one that Jesus brought to this young ruler’s attention was the hardest for this young man, and for us.
Like peeling an onion, Jesus prodded a little deeper to get to the heart of this man, “You still lack one thing: Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow Me.”
After hearing this, the rich young ruler became extremely sad, because he was very rich. He would have to remove his god in order to follow the One True God – Jesus.
There are many lessons to be learned in this story. But the one I want to focus on is the lesson of total trust in Jesus to provide. What did this young man trust more? His heart was embedded in his treasures. He bowed to its provision. He had gained complete security in what he had built for himself. Giving that up and trusting Jesus was a hard follow!
To follow Jesus is to do many things – to do as He does – to believe who He is – and to trust Him. Not just trust in Him, but believe Him – believe what He can do. To believe He is all powerful, that He can provide; and finally, to give Him total superiority over our lives is indeed a hard follow!
We may be virtuous, yet puffed up. We may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, Savior of the world and we may even confess with our mouth that He is our God, yet we may not trust Him fully. Craig Groeschel, Pastor of Life.Church calls this Christian Atheism. We say we believe Jesus can do all things, yet we live our life as if He can’t.
When everything in this world seems hopeless and empty; when our livelihood is at stake; when our bellies are hungry, our bills go unpaid, and our resources are slim or nil, this is the time when we are backed up against the wall and we are faced with the ultimate question – is Jesus God or not? Will we trust Him or trust ourselves?
My husband and I learned that trusting our resources alone to provide for us was an unstable god. At one point our resources were high, then tragedies such as medical issues, job loss, economy set-backs, and the like hit like a tsunami. Where’s our little god then? How can this menial god help us now? He can’t. The things of this world do indeed pass away. They leave heartache and hopelessness in its wake.
But Jesus! He is different!
As a young married couple and even on multiple times throughout our marriage, we have found ourselves learning to follow Jesus – trust Him, even more, when this economy is unfaithful. Right now, we are facing a great opportunity to trust Him or not. In reality, as things are, the odds are very much against us; yet, God’s favor is for us. And it is His favor we seek. We seek it with a total trust in His provision and His timing for what we need.
We must not pass over the final point Jesus makes in this story of the young rich ruler. Jesus said to his disciples, who were there listening to His conversation with the young man, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 8:27).
Jesus was fully human on earth, but we must not forget that His name was and is Immanuel meaning “God with us.” The full deity of our all-powerful God was with Him on earth and this is still with Him today. Whatever we face, no matter the impossibilities presented; we can trust that they are already overcome by the magnitude of power that Jesus beholds!