Showering is my time to think, pray, and untangle life’s questions. Maybe it’s the soothing nature of the falling water or the solace I find in the quiet that inspires me. In any case, I can drain even the most robust hot water heaters amidst my musings.
A few years ago, I entered my watery holy place when I let this prayer slip out, “Lord, I’ll do anything for you!”
Without warning, God’s immediate response was “Anything?”
Oh no!, I thought. Was He really listening? Did I really mean it? Would I really do anything for the Lord? Or, was this simply an emotionally-driven flippant prayer? What would happen if I was willing and prepared to do anything for God?
Are you scared to ask this question? I am sometimes.
If we were that obedient, then what? Would He make us marry someone we really didn’t want to for His Kingdom’s purposes? Or, would He twist our arms spiritually to pack some ungainly wardrobe into a coffin and ship us off to Africa? Or, would imbue an unrelenting guilt upon us for all the stuff we own and force us to list it on eBay?
Those were my own greatest fears, and I think I’m not alone. When we read Scripture, there’s many clear examples of Jesus asking His committed followers to take drastic(?) steps. Let’s look at a few of them.
Abraham: Emigrated to a New Land
God called Abraham to pack his possessions, gather his family and travel about a thousand miles to Canaan, making several stops along the way. In Genesis 12:1-2 we read:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
If called by God, would you gather your goods along with your family and begin driving to an unknown destination?
Jesus to the Rich Young Ruler: Give Me Your Wealth
This financially-minded dandy was ecstatic to validate his spiritual life before the Rabbi. The Bible says he ran up to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). After passing the initial test, Jesus told him, “’One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (v. 21, emphasis mine).
Then, “…At these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property” (v. 22).
Are we to mirror this budding big cat and place an everything-must-go sale sign in our front yard? Wouldn’t it show true dedication to God if we released the nice house, investments, and the 65” flat-screen TV?
The Apostle Paul: Give His Life
Unlike the rich young ruler, the Apostle Paul isn’t one who held anything back from God. In fact, his model-like dedication to Christ cost him much. Simply look at 2 Corinthians 11. During his mission trips to spread the Gospel, Paul was flogged five times, laid on the verge of death, beaten three times with rods, shipwrecked and escaped bandits. He also went without food and water often (vv. 23-28).
Is this, then, what it means to give everything to God—we must suffer physically for the Gospel? Should we plan for martyrdom?
Jesus: Leave Your Family
Jesus seems to have held a nonchalance toward his earthly family even from an early age. Later in life, during a healing time, they desired to speak to him. His reply? “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48).
Furthermore, when speaking to his disciples, Jesus tells them “…No one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life'” (Luke 18:29).
Certainly, many people would admit that leaving their family would be a huge sacrifice for God. Do we receive more heavenly rewards, therefore, when we jilt family and friends behind for His greater good?
Extremism is Normal
In all of these teaching moments from the life of Abraham, to the young ruler, to Paul, and to the words of Jesus, God will always be in the business of challenging us where we’re not giving everything to him.
As we have seen, it can be extreme. Does it have to be? By definition, to be a Follower of Jesus means that you’re already a radical. Remember, you follow the leader of an ancient Near East sect who died through the state’s capital punishment system who rose from the dead.
God’s challenges to us can be major or minor—whatever it looks like is up to Him. In any case, however, if your spiritual walk is constantly cushy, it’s probably a tell-tale sign you struggle with spiritual atrophy. As the song Faith My Eyes, by Caedmon’s Call, goes, “I mistake my happiness for blessing.” Don’t mistake a perceived blessing for spiritual lethargy. Experiencing the regular joy and freedom of repentance is a positive sign you’re not suffering from this disease.
Read Lamentations 3:40:
Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the Lord.
God often works in baby steps. But also keep in mind that God certainly might ask you to move your family, give everything away, suffer, or leave behind cherished relationships to follow him. We can’t automatically rule it out because it seems too drastic.
What is your faith costing you? Are you tightly controlling one unsubordinated area of your life? Will you let the Spirit in here, too?
A decade ago, I worked in the IT field at a Christian college. It was a stable income and I heartily absorbed the chapel services, the knowledge from the professors, and the closeness of my relationships. My house was located in a beautiful wooded lot across the street from the campus. The corner lot was gorgeous. Japanese Maples, fifty-foot Red Oaks, and picturesque spruce trees surrounded my home.
Towards the end of my graduate degree, however, I sensed God’s pull on my heart to resign from my position and to minister around the world. To me, there either had to be a practical outcome to my studying theology, or I’d to imprison it to the ivory towers of academics. So I left. Six months later, from New Zealand, I arranged for my house to be sold.
Indeed, my life has never been the same since then, and I’ve never regretted it.
The Heart of the Issue
Whatever God is calling you to do (or not do), He desires your heart, first and foremost. Your heart is your inmost being. It’s where you mold your will. Each heart is a mini-beating engine that drives not only our blood, but also actions. In other words, it’s where you ultimately decide what you will or will not do. It’s disposition is always being trained to love, serve, live in faith, or to be selfish, hate, and live in fear. Our hearts process how will we think about ourselves, others, and God. It is who we are.
After Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:29, God states,
Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
If there’s any doubt to the primacy of the heart in the Christian life, listen to the greatest commandant stated by Jesus Himself: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27).
A heart that loves Jesus loves Him with everything we have, everything we do, and everything we are.
Ask the Right Question
So what does it mean to give God everything? It may be disappointing, but that’s invariably the wrong question. First, God owns it all anyway. He owns everything because He created all of it. Psalm 24 states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (vv. 1-2).
He doesn’t need your stuff, or for you to move to Djibouti, or find a gruesome way to become a martyr. He needs your heart. Not for His sake, but for yours. Most people wouldn’t do anything “radical” for Jesus unless they were fully committed to Him anyway.
The abdication of your own throne may be found simply in staying married to your wife, going to counseling, tithing at church, or resolving an outstanding conflict with a family member or friend. Giving God everything isn’t mostly grandiose actions.
The right question is, then, what parts of your heart has God’s goodness not entered into yet? Where in your life right now do you need the light of the Gospel? You can invite Him into that place right now.
A Prayer to Give God Everything
Lord, I allow You into every area of my heart. If I’ve never fully surrendered to You and Your ways fully, I do it now, in Jesus’ name. Father, do with me, my life, my family, my ministry, my career, my finances, my hopes and my dreams as You like. I’m here to serve You—You’re not here to serve me. Thank for you dying for my sins, Jesus, and I repent for those areas I’ve held back from you. I will renew my mind in accordance with Romans 12:2-4. Thank that I can rest as your son or daughter, and desire to live my life to honor You, bring You glory—for my joy and to advance Your Kingdom.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.