Read His Words Before Ours!
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein has always been one of my favorite books. The childhood story of a boy befriending a tree and growing old with the tree has always captured my attention. When the boy is little, he enjoys swinging from her branches, eating her apples, and sitting in her shade.
As he grows older, the boy doesn’t visit the tree as often, but when he does, he often comes with grown up problems like needing money and a home. To help the boy, the tree gives her apples, her branches, her leaves, and her trunk until she is nothing left but a stump. When the boy is very old, he again visits the tree, but he is tired from the weary weight of the world. The tree is happy to give the boy one last gift, a place to sit and rest on her stump.
The Tree demonstrates sacrifice and a joyful pouring out of yourself that runs deeply contradictory to our individualistic, self-serving culture.
For me, this story vividly demonstrates the glorious gospel.
Jesus, “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead He emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when He had come as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
This kind of emptying of ourselves isn’t something we’re comfortable with.
We see the cost, and we run the other way, gripping tightly to what we value in the world, unwilling to make the kind of sacrifice that asks us to let it go.
Yet, time and time again, when Jesus calls us to follow Him, He asks us to leave behind people and comforts we hold closely.
It’s not that Jesus is greedy, doesn’t value our relationships, or the lives we have built around us. He cares deeply about us, our common everyday moments, even the hairs on our head, but He knows that only when every part of our lives are surrendered to Him, can live truly full lives. When it comes to following Him and doing the work He has crafted for us, we must hold loosely to the fading things of this world lest they become idols standing in the way of true obedience to the One True God.
In John 2, we read the story of Jesus clearing the temple of the market merchants and money changers. What a clear physical and visual message Jesus was sending! He came to change the world for each and every person starting with removing our idols. As Jesus overturned the tables, He made a clear statement about people who claimed to worship God mixing up the worship of Him with worshiping the things of this world. Making idols of money and earthly possessions have no place in the Kingdom of God. Emptying the temple of the idols of commercialism and money cleared the way for Jesus to do real ministry that was meaningful and personal.
We cannot follow Him,
if we will not remove our idols.
When Jesus asked the men in Luke 9 to follow him, they hesitated, pulled back by their earthly duties. Jesus firmly challenged them to focus instead on the eternal importance of spreading the word about God’s Kingdom.
The things of this earth will fall away and fade,
but the kingdom of God will remain forever.
Like the man Jesus encountered and the Giving Tree, we are called to give up the things culture insists are all-important, the comforts we crave, and the idols we bow down to.
When we find ourselves as a stump,
stripped of our self-righteous pride,
and finding all comfort in Christ…
When we have allowed Jesus to make our lives a place for weary souls,
weighed down by the heaviness of the world,
to find rest in Jesus…
We will live our fullest life in Jesus alone
as He works through us to build His Kingdom.
It’s not easy.
It’s not comfortable.
It’s not going to be popular.
But that which we gain is more valuable than anything else we could possibly imagine.
What is Jesus calling you to remove in order to follow Him more fully?
Will you join me in praying for the strength and courage to
follow Jesus and remove the world’s allures from our lives?
Let’s stand together, friends, as we follow our Savior in whole-life surrender!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!