GOD’S INCREDIBLE QUESTION
God asked me a question recently that blew me away. He asked me if I am willing to not be loved for Him. Jesus says that anyone who wants to come after Him has to deny his own life and dreams, take up the cross (the stuff that’s impossible to do except through the strength of Christ!) he is given, and follow Him. I have always wanted to be loved. Who doesn’t? I call myself a follower of Jesus Christ, but now I was being put to the test.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 NASB
I had already lost most of what I ever wanted in life. I was living as outside my comfort zone as I thought imaginable. I had already lost my family, friends, my personal dreams, the lifestyle this world teaches us to desire, and so much more. Now, God was asking me to go one step further. Would I lose the whole world for Him? He was asking if I love Him so much that I would willingly, knowingly, allow myself to be disliked, hated, rejected, and even persecuted in response to making Him absolutely number one in my life.
“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 NASB
The Lord had asked me the ultimate question. The Bible says anyone who hangs onto his life will ultimately lose it, but the person who lets his life go and hangs onto the Lord will gain his life at the end of the day.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35 NASB
The Lord was asking me if I would sacrifice something that most human beings would virtually die for – to be loved and accepted. Now the Lord was asking me if instead of being willing to virtually die to be loved by people in the world, if I would instead die to that desire and place my entire life in His hands – even if I had to pay the price through being disliked, hated, rejected, persecuted, tossed aside, put away, ignored, talked about, gossiped about, abandoned, hurt, and all that goes with it. Yes, even if I would end up exceedingly alone because Jesus isn’t so popular in this world.
God calls followers of Jesus to be holy as He is holy. He calls us to be set apart, consecrated, sanctified, purified, cleansed, and prepared as the Bride of Christ for the day we enter into heaven with Him. This isn’t very popular in our world. I live a very unpopular life. I was always unpopular as a child, as I was a shy studious, much afraid, and ashamed little girl. But that unpopularity is nothing compared with the unpopularity of being so in love with Jesus Christ, and so dedicated to following Him, that I would be willing to give up the things of this world – people included – in pursuit of Christ.
“Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16 KJV
I will never forget the time I gave my ex-husband a choice. The Lord had told me to ask him to make a decision between God, me, and the marriage – and the choices he was making at the time. I wrote him a letter – one of the hardest I have ever written. For I knew that I might very well lose him as a result of standing up for Christ and the way we are called to live. Do you know something? I lost my ex-husband. And I lost the marriage. But I gained Christ. I gained the knowledge that I was doing my best to live in God’s will even at the expense of losing someone I so desperately loved. God wanted to know this. Whom did I love most? Myself? My dreams? My ex-husband? Or Him? God?
When my ex-husband chose to divorce me, God put it on my heart that I would so love him and so forgive him that my one desire would be that my ex-husband would look back and not see the marriage at all. My desire would be that my ex-husband would see Christ. God said that if I really loved my ex-husband, I would sacrificially give up my own dream about this man and my marriage and want more than anything else that my ex-husband have a relationship with the Lord. Some years later now, my ex-husband stays in touch with me and talks to me about God’s Word and how he is being drawn to the Lord.
Whom did I love most? Originally, my ex-husband and myself. Now, God. And God asks me that question every day of my life, in a sense. Every day, I am faced with choices. God’s way, or the world’s way? The love of the world, or the love of Christ? The popular way of doing stuff, or the way of God. Being loved by the world, or loving the Lord? Who truly matters most? Words are nothing, aren’t they? At least in this case, anyway.
“THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.” Matthew 15:8 (NASB)
Because I can say YES to God, and then turn the other way. But God didn’t ask me to speak my answer to His question in a simple word – YES. He didn’t ask if I simply love Him. He asked me so much more. He asked me if I love Him most. And He asked me this by asking if I would give up the desire to be loved by the world in chasing after Him? Oh, I could say “Yes” so easily. Just a word. But then the tests would come. And they do. They come daily.
Am I here to please man, or am I here to please God? Do I honor God with my mouth only, or do I honor Him with my life? Do I fear human beings and their responses to me, or do I fear the Lord? The Bible tells us to fear God, not man. The Bible calls us to please God, not man. The Bible calls us to worship God in spirit and in truth. This is no small order.
“Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:42-43 underline added for effect).”
In fact, we will lose our lives by doing this. What does that mean? It means that in pursuing Christ, we will lose our own way of doing things, our own dreams, our own desires. But do you know something? As I stand behind my YES daily, as I don’t just say YES but do YES, as I am not just a hearer of God’s Bible but have learned to become a DOER, I understand how I gain life by losing my life.
23“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23-25 NASB).”
How do I gain my life by losing it? Because day by day, while my flesh dies away, my spirit becomes more and more alive as I gain the life of Christ – His life lived in me, His life lived through me. And more and more, more than I ever could have imagined, this is what I want most. His life. His way. His love. Him.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20 NASB).”
For whose glory? Not for mine. Not for the world’s. For God’s. For His glory. The glory of the One with whom I will spend forever. And, at the end of the day, these things that once mattered so much to me, like being loved and appreciated and validated and affirmed and accepted and confirmed by the world around me, they will mean nothing.
Because I will have everything, forever. And, I already do. Because I have Him.
My Lord, my love. My forever.
16“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”