Letting Go of the Eternally Useless
by Rick Warren
"For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever." 2 Corinthians 4:18
As we prepare for our Decade of Destiny, it is important to remember that life on earth is just a temporary assignment. Knowing that should radically alter our values and fix our attention on the things that are eternally important. "What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever." (2 Corinthians 4:18b)
As C. S. Lewis observed, "All that is not eternal is eternally useless."
It is a fatal mistake to assume that God's goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it. The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry. Never focus on temporary crowns.
Paul was faithful, yet he ended up in prison. John the Baptist was faithful, but he was beheaded. Millions of faithful people have been martyred, have lost everything, or have come to the end of life with nothing to show for it. But the end of life is not the end!
In God's eyes, the greatest heroes of faith are not those who achieve prosperity, success, and power in this life, but those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve faithfully, expecting their promised reward in eternity.
The Bible says this about God's Hall of Fame: "All these people died having faith. They didn't receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth ... That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God." (Hebrews 11:13, 16b)
These great people died in faith, certain of a better home in heaven. Your time on earth is not the complete story of your life. You must wait until heaven for the rest of the chapters. It takes faith to live on earth as a foreigner.
But, the truth is, you will not be in heaven two seconds before you cry out, "Why did I place so much importance on things that were so temporary? What was I thinking? Why did I waste so much time, energy, and concern on what wasn't going to last?"
When life gets tough, when you're overwhelmed with doubt, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember that you are not home yet. At death you won't leave home—you'll go home.
by Jon Walker
"Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do." Matthew 7:21
Being a disciple of Jesus doesn't mean simply agreeing with Jesus or even heading in the same general direction as Jesus. We're not called to follow Jesus in the abstract. It is not like we're negotiating a contract, where we come to an agreement in principle. Think of it like this: you can agree smoking is hazardous to your health, but it means nothing until you stop smoking.
The call of Jesus is to Christ himself. We are called into a relationship. We follow and obey the person, the only begotten son, the author and perfector of our faith.
Jesus calls us to a level of intimacy that can only be sustained by his constant presence in our lives. Discipleship without Jesus is no discipleship at all. We may not understand all that discipleship involves or all that it will cost us, but Jesus calls us to take the first step, and, through that obedience, we develop the additional faith necessary to take the next step.
His call is a command for you to comprehensively and absolutely walk away from the way you do life now so you can follow him down an exclusive path through the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus wants you to know him and, through that relationship, He will empower you to live an extraordinary life, full of grace and truth. He calls you to a miraculous life, one that requires edge-of-your-seat faith to follow him, where you find yourself asking in joy, "What's next, Jesus? What are you going to do through me today?"
Jesus Knows You Can Have Exceptional Faith
by Jon Walker
“Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.” Mark 11:22-23
We often speak of a radical faith in Jesus and what we mean is an extreme faith where someone is committed to Jesus to the exclusion of anything or anyone else. We think of someone who sacrifices everything, who irrevocably alters his or her life in order to follow Jesus. The sacrifice is so significant that there is no turning back to the old way of life.
We are amazed by this sacrifice and we tend to think these people have an unusual and exceptional faith. Yet, the truth is their exceptional faith is what Jesus expects of us all.
In a sense, we’ve been lulled into believing there are two tiers to discipleship – there’s the basic plan and then there’s a premium package for the more pious. We think there are only a few among us -- monks, missionaries, and ministers – who are called to be more saintly while the rest of us must settle into an average discipleship.
Jesus, on the other hand, saw it as a matter of fact that his disciples would be able to develop a noteworthy faith. He said, “Have faith in God.” He didn’t say, ‘Only some of you should have faith in God.’ His command to have faith includes you and me. And, because he’s told us to grow in faith, we can not only be certain we can develop greater faith, we can also know he is working to help us become more faithful.
Jesus says our faith is based upon our trust in him. We will see the power of God working through us when we believe it will really happen and when we have no doubt in our hearts. As Pastor Rick teaches, our faith increases through our obedience to Jesus.
Jesus calls every one of us to develop an exceptional and extraordinary faith. He won’t allow us to settle into a ‘discipleship’ where we think Jesus may mean what he says but we’re not sure; or a ‘discipleship’ where we sort of agree with Jesus and sort of live according to his commands. He knows God created us for so much more.
For us to confidently live out our Decade of Destiny, we must learn to trust that Jesus really means what he says and that he will do what he says he will do. Instead of trying harder to be a faithful disciple, we must learn to trust him more.
That trust will allow us to see the kingdom of heaven like the man who finds hidden treasure in a field. He re-sorts all of his priorities because nothing is as important as buying the field. Our trust in Jesus will make us like the shopkeeper who finds a rare pearl and realizes everything else he has pales in comparison and so he never looks back to the things that once were important (Matthew 13:44-50). You will be someone who is characterized by an extreme faith.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18
Jesus looks at the law with an eye toward the end of days. He is on a mission to bring us back into community with the Father, to get us through the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven, and his view of eternity keeps him focused on the unity of the law. He knows the whole law must be fulfilled, even to the smallest letter.
To echo the apostles, “How can anyone possibly do this? This is humanly impossible!”
But that is the very point. It cannot be done, which is why the Apostle Paul called the law ‘a school of Christ,’ where we learn that trying to earn or maintain righteousness is impossible and so, in our broken state, we come to Christ and declare our dependence on him (Galatians 3:21-19).
But, this doesn’t mean the law has been abandoned or abolished. Jesus fulfills the law and, when we step into his grace, we satisfy the law because we are wrapped in the righteousness of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul says the “law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, [sets us] free from the law of sin and death. What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did.” He sent Jesus to fulfill the law, “so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to human nature” (Romans 8:2-4).Our focus must always be on Jesus, the Word of God, as we live according to the Spirit.” And, within that intimate relationship, we learn to trust that Jesus take care of the details, even the smallest details of the law.
... Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!" Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?" Matthew 14:29-31
The call of discipleship is to follow after Jesus, even onto the water. In a sense, Jesus beckons, "Come closer to me. Be my disciple and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I am the only way, so I require you to focus exclusively on me in your obedience."
Then, to underscore the need for this single-minded obedience, the Bible tells us that Peter became distracted. As he sees the wind whipping across the waves, Peter takes his focus off Jesus and he begins to sink into the water. His obedience is now double-minded - and he provides a profound object lesson in what happens when we try to serve two masters.
Here is the way of little faith: We want to walk on water; yet, we insist on being able to focus on whatever we want -- sometimes Jesus, sometimes the wind and waves; sometimes Jesus, sometimes our careers and casual pursuits; sometimes Jesus; sometimes "the sin that so easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:1).
When we choose to focus on our cares and worries, we elevate our anxieties to the same status as the promises of Jesus. But, which is more important, which should demand our greater attention - the ability of Jesus to care for us or the concerns we have about our circumstances?
And so, rather than obeying the commands of Jesus, we demand he tolerate our distractions and double-mindedness. We live within a mythology that says we can somehow follow after Jesus, yet pick and choose what commandments we will obey -- and when we'll obey.
But, if we want to walk on the water with Jesus, we must hear his directing us, 'Don't look at the waves; look at me.'