Some would find my speaking about this ironic or comical. At which I would find most ironic and comical. But that’s the cynic in me speaking. Best to leave his vapid self, dying and forgotten.
When I ruminate on what our culture lacks, and I am a part of that culture, I find this ideal pushed to the forefront of my mind for these many recent years. And though I hope to persevere and accomplish that characteristic which I so long for, I know I am only human. Regardless of my inadequacy, I recognize the absence of such a moral value. There are among us, more and more giving up, and thus, manifesting the very essence of who they are regarding this necessity. This thing we admire and wish others carried more of, yet we ourselves know is at the bottom of our character. In a world full of charlatans, insecure sycophants, and self-indulged whiners, we have given up on Faithfulness.
Humor me for a moment, as I reference something seemingly off topic. In the Gospel according to Matthew, he describes in the nineteenth chapter, a young, rich ruler who comes to Jesus and enquires of Him what are the most important attributes to gaining the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus replies and the young man admits he has already accomplished these things (some would say he must be exaggerating or lying—but he is young, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt this once). Jesus then pushes the young man further—“sell all of your possessions and follow Me.”
There’s something about living in the free and prosperous West, and no matter what your political leaning, ideal, belief, or paycheck, you have a plethora of reasonable options to live and make do, far better than anyone in Jesus’ time—You and I are young, rich rulers! And with those options comes knowledge. And with that knowledge comes self-sufficiency. And with that self-sufficiency comes an absolute and terribly insecure lack of necessity for Jesus or God. What in the world do you even need Him for, if not for joy, peace, love, and purpose?
And I believe that many of us can check the boxes and say to the god made in our image that we have accomplished all that is required of us to gain the Kingdom.
And the God who made us in His image would reply, “Sell all you have and follow Me.”
Need breeds Desperation.
Desperation breeds Surrender.
I remember, both fondly and forlornly, watching my seven-week-old son get medicinally placed into a coma. Fondly because of the wonderful miracles that ensued. Forlornly because of the heartache and hellish 26 days following the procedure. One Friday, I sat on a bench against the window, looking at the sun drift into the evening, listening to the beeps and rhythms of all twelve machines fastened to my son. I spoke aloud to God. I begged Him, again, to get my son through this, but I promised Him that no matter what, I would trust Him and follow Him all the days of my life, even if that meant my worst nightmare came true. He came through for me. Harvey is healed. But I haven’t forgotten my promise to Him either.
That sort of desperation is necessary in us, if we are to find true Faithfulness.
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, His most grueling and painful prayer that we know of. Meanwhile, His friends dozed off as the night turned to early morning. Three times, He had to wake and beg them to stay up and pray for Him. He was desperate to find faithfulness in the people He loved.
So let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’, ‘no’.
Every yes is a no. And every no is a yes.
When I want Josh, Kyle, Antonio, and Michael over for poker on Friday night, it is a “no” to something else. Here, spending the evening with my family. Now if I’ve spent the week filling my figurative tank up with lots of family-time, it may be a good thing for me to say “no” to them, and “yes” to my friends. But if I spent my week at work, in ministry, a business trip, or school, then I must ask, “what is my priority?” Understanding that all of those other things, which may be good, have been saying “no” to my family again and again, even if I don’t recognize it at the moment. Or if the time I spent today “relaxing”–maybe I gave four hours of it to wandering through YouTube, instead of anything meaningful. (There is no such thing as “free time”. Even your ‘no’ to duty is a ‘yes’ to procrastination and indolence.) It is all costing us something. And with that “yes” to “relaxing” comes a “no” to something else—let’s say, learning a skill or achieving a piece of the puzzle that is your dream. (Though don’t be disillusioned, I am not saying that “relaxing” is a negative thing. Only that often, we cater to it, rather than asking what are we benefitting from it.)
So with that ‘yes’, that is also a ‘no’, that you gave to God, give it as ‘yes’ and never replace it with a ‘no’.
If God tells you to do something, do it. And do it until you can’t any longer. Or until He tells you to stop. If God gave you a dream and put a purpose in your heart, chase after it with everything in you. What do you need to start saying ‘no’ to, in order to start saying ‘yes’ again? And don’t be deceived, people will try to coax you away from your dreams all the days of your life. And the sole reason they do it is because they sold their own for a cappuccino.
What is better—to live a life on the edge of disaster, or a life of comfort, coffee, and slowly dying in a bed wondering if you could go back and take a chance on adventure?
When someone tells you to quit, they quit on you. When someone can’t see the joy in you pushing further than your knowledge or understanding can give—into the place of “selling all you have and following”—then they are not your people. And one thing I have learned greatly in this season. People can front for a long time, appearing to be with you and for you. But if you start chasing your dreams and abandon all reason, following the Spirit of God and nothing else, the knives, pitchforks, and comment sections will come out in the full force of gossip, vitriol, and manipulation.
Of course, there will be fear! Who said this life would not be scary? I think that’s a prerequisite for stepping out of the boat. But where is the Peace? Peter’s Peace was walking on the water amid crashing waves.
Fear will be on every side. Should I stay or should I go? (Thank God for The Clash).
Stop asking what is more or less scary. And start asking yourself where you find Peace. For God shods the feet of the righteous in Peace. And with it, you walk into battle and war with the Spirit of Fear against you. You can walk through that Fear, too, you know. You can get to the other side of it, where there is the Spirit of God. And where the Spirit of God is, there is Freedom.
Follow peace, not Fear.
So now, we look at the long (or short?) list of things we’ve said “yes” to—our marriage, career, child-rearing, mortgage, religion, dream, aspiration. And what do we find—in the slow, methodical routine of boredom and loss of appetite? Have we lost our hope, enthusiasm, or exhilaration in the things we said ‘yes’ to? At one point in time, these were the adventures of our former selves. And though our reality may not have met the expectation, we must commit to the ‘yes’, until we have no other option, or until God says otherwise (however, for the self-entitled layman looking for an easy out, He never says “yes” to your divorce).
Our excitement, or lack thereof, is not the problem with our faithfulness. It is merely our perspective. Shift it again, and look at what you have. Hold tight to the dreams of God. Chase after that which seems impossible. Write down the blessings that He has given you—the bird’s song, the insect’s chirp, the wind’s blow, the sun’s shine, the kiss of your spouse, the laughter of your children, the breath in your lungs, and the hope of tomorrow.
Remain true to Him, for He remains true to you. And start questioning what are you saying “yes” to that is giving up all sorts of “no’s” to the things that really matter, so that you and I can become more faithful to the things that matter, and with that Faithfulness, we can change the world.