Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by all the striving, working, chasing, and doing? Always trying to earn your way to the top or earn the love of a friend or family member, continually working to be good enough for this or that? Me too, friend. This thought of striving and doing is probably one of the most significant challenges I face far too often. By nature, I am a doer and I don’t necessarily believe it’s a bad quality to have; however, I often misuse this quality God gave me. The upside is that when God gives me a vision, I usually take off doing all I can to make it happen. You’ve heard the saying, pray as it depends on God, work as it depends on you. I have that part down, but the downside is I often try doing all the right things to earn Jesus’ grace. In my pursuit to do enough, it also causes me to get a little self-righteous and dependant upon myself and my accomplishments from all my striving. All this striving is crazy because God’s grace is free! Why do I try paying for something that’s free? I sure wouldn’t walk into a retail store with a free coupon and demand to pay full price. Am I right!?
Perhaps you can relate, maybe you’re also a doer and it’s been a blessing when it comes to the promotion at work, or chasing your seven kids around all day. Or perhaps even as you lead your small group each Wednesday night. Doing isn’t wrong until we make grace about what we do rather than whose we are. In Luke 18, Jesus tells us that rather than doing more, we are to let go of everything and follow him. This thought goes against what I’ve believed most of my life; I was raised to be a good girl, a rule follower. And I think that’s good, we as Christ followers have to live in such a way that illuminates Jesus in our life. But rather than do more or be good enough, Jesus calls us to sacrifice, to let go, and to follow Him. Let’s look at Luke 18:18-30, in the Message.
One day one of the local officials asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good – only God. You know the commandments, don’t you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother.” He said, “I’ve kept them all for as long as I can remember.” When Jesus heard that, he said, “Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go. Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God’s kingdom? I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a rich person into God’s kingdom.” “Then who has any chance at all?” the others asked. “No chance at all,” Jesus said, “if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” Peter tried to regain some initiative: “We left everything we owned and followed you, didn’t we?” “Yes,” said Jesus, “and you won’t regret it. No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children – whatever – will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!”
Did you catch what he says in the very first sentence? What must I do? He had the same mindset we most often carry around. What can I do, Lord, to earn the grace and eternal life you offer. This man being a Pharisee was likely raised to follow the rules or laws, so Jesus was acutely aware He would probably answer saying he had kept the commandments. Jesus goes ahead and names a few to get it out of the way and moves on to the real issue: letting go. You see, this rich man was doing everything right, but in his striving it caused some self-righteousness to well up inside of him. He became dependant upon himself and his wealth. Jesus recognized this and so He tells the man, sell all you have and follow me. Let go of it all, stop striving and working and follow me. Stop letting the chasing and rule-following steal your joy and follow me, pursue me. But we see the rich ruler went away sad; he wasn’t willing to surrender everything to Christ. He wouldn’t let go of what he had to gain what Christ had to offer.
When I depend on myself, I usually wind up very sad like the rich ruler mentioned in Luke. On my own, I can never be all I need to be. I must let go of what I have so I can have what Christ can give. Jesus is the only way to find joy and peace in the midst of the doing. Following rules and being good isn’t even possible if we leave out the grace of God. We will end up exhausted and angry. So as you go, I encourage you to let go of the striving and recklessly pursue Jesus. It’s only ever been, just Jesus.
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)