"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." ~ Mark 10:29-31
It's a sobering footnote to the account of the rich young ruler - a less-than-comforting word of comfort at the climax of a crescendo of sobering declarations: that it's hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God ... that with man, it is impossible to be saved; but with God it is possible. It's the answer to Peter's desperate cry for affirmation: "We've left everything to follow you!"
It was true for them. Is it true for us?
Do we believe that it's still hard for the rich to enter God's kingdom? I don't know about you, but I sure don't live like I believe it. I have so much stuff that I've caught myself thinking about renting stuff so I can buy more stuff to stuff with all of my extra stuff.
Do we believe that with man - trying to direct his own steps; trying to weave his own robes of self-righteous white and ending up with only filthy rags - with man, it actually is impossible to please God? but that with God, all things are possible? I still find myself thinking from time to time that I can beat all the bad stuff, do all the good stuff, understand all the incomprehensible stuff, live all the tough stuff, believe all the incredible stuff, and be right about all the right stuff if I just try a little bit harder.
What a bunch of ... stuff.
Without God, it's impossible.
But does it always cost home, family and possessions to follow?
As nearly as I can tell, yes. In one way or the other: either you give everything over to God that you have - willingly, cheerfully, gladly - and be delighted to use whatever He lets you use for His glory; or He will eventually take it away from you. He'll do whatever it takes to help you fulfill your commitment to follow His Son and journey ever closer to Him.
At the Pepperdine Lectureship last week, Angi and I taught the chapter on kenosis - emptying one's self in order to be filled with the equipping Holy Spirit - from Darryl Tippens' book Pilgrim Heart as an example for leading small groups. One of the folks in our class was a dear lady who had been emptied by God, and she believed it was because He loved her so much and that she had never emptied herself of the kind of life she wanted to lead. It had cost her health, her job, and almost the life of a beloved daughter to a suicide attempt.
As many times as I have read Job before that moment, I had never really thought about God letting Satan empty that beloved old patriarch so that He could fill his child with blessing.
Expect persecutions, Jesus prophesies. And when they come, James adds:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." ~ James 1:2-4
Ouch. Giving up everything so that you will lack nothing. That's pretty much what Jesus expected of that rich young ruler, wasn't it?
No wonder there are so many of us Christians.
And so few of His disciples.