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!"
He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.
That’s the story in a nutshell. The rich young man was holding on tight to things and he was not about to let them go.
So many of us are holding on tight to a lot of things aren’t we? We hold on tight to jobs, families, money, sex, entertainment, freedoms. Holding on tight to these things make it very difficult for us to enter into the kingdom. Why? Because these things that we hold tight to give us the illusion that we can pull it off by ourselves.
Pull what off?
Whatever it is that we are holding on tight to gives us our sense of security.
Let’s try a mental exercise.
Ask yourself this question: “I know God loves me because I have…”
Ok, now go back and be honest about it. What are those things in your life that prove to you that God loves you. If you lost those things would you believe that God loves you any less?
You see, we have to at some point, learn to love God for the sake of loving God. We must get to the place where we have let go of the things that we are holding on to.
Have you ever heard of Horatio Spafford? Probably not. He wrote the hymn, “It is Well With My Soul.” Thanks to the good people at Wikipedia, here’s the story behind the hymn:
This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford's life. The first two were the death of his four-year-old son and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to England with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, to help with D. L. Moody’s upcoming evangelistic campaigns. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
This was his story. This was what happened in his life before he wrote the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. Spafford had lost it all. Yet, he had learned to love God for the sake of loving God.
Friends, take some time today to identify what it is you need to let loose of having a tight hold on. Let us come to the place that we might sing,
“For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.”
Note: Today’s passage was quoted from the Message, that’s Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible. I like it because it shakes me out of my typical reading and makes me notice nuances in the text that sometimes I miss. So, every once in a while you may get the Message instead of the usual NIV.