Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“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 10:23-31
“Lord, I gave up everything for You,” I prayplained (complaining prayer) one morning two years ago on my way to work. I really had nothing to complain about but I proceeded to whine a bit more. “I gave up a good newspaper job that I loved in order to go to seminary, I gave up a journalism career to finish school, and I accepted a pastor position that didn’t cover my bills. Now I’m stuck in life’s spin cycle. Why did you put me through all this?”
He didn’t answer right then. He didn’t need to. I didn’t deserve an answer.
As with a lot of complaining, there was a small pill of truth smothered in a roll of emotion. I did leave various jobs while pursuing the Lord. But was I left on the street? Un-blessed? Without hope? Not even close! God took care of me every step of the way — even through some hardships — and kept me rolling forward, even when it felt like I was spinning my tires. I DID leave some things. But in God I had everything I needed to be complete and satisfied.
Now I’m about to leave most things here in Texas to follow God once again. Even with the knowledge of His protection and provision, I still find myself a bit divided. It’s hard to disconnect oneself from his or her possessions. Leaving family, leaving work, leaving life as I know it. But Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it.” He said, “Follow Me.”
Simon Peter was a man with a lot to lose. Husband, son, brother, businessman (maybe a dad?), Simon had a lot going on in his life. When brother Andrew ran from the Jordan River to Bethsaida one day, Simon should have known his life was about to change. “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew exclaimed, and he dragged his brother to see Jesus (John 1). When Jesus saw Simon, He did something very strange. He looked at Simon and immediately changed his name. “You are Simon son of John,” the teacher said. “You will be called Cephas (Peter).” What a day! But Peter didn’t immediately follow Jesus. How do we know? In Luke 5:1-11 we find the fisherman back at work in his boat when Jesus walked up. A small crowd was following the teacher by this point, testament to the power of word-of-mouth, so Jesus needed room to teach. He got in Peter’s boat and taught from an improvised platform. After the last “Amen,” he had a suggestion, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter was gassed. Tired. Worn out. He at first questioned the suggestion but then trusted the unproven teacher. A miracle happened, the nets were filled to overflowing, and business partners James and John helped draw in fish. Simon Peter was floored. He knew right then that Jesus was sent from God and that he — Peter — was unworthy of being in His presence.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11)
I love this story! It’s not stoic and stale. It’s so real. With Peter it wasn’t, “Follow,” and, “OK.” It took a little longer, with a miracle to seal the deal.
Peter and the other disciples each paid dearly for their decision to follow Jesus. There were persecutions and trials. Each paid with this life, with the exception of John, who died of old age. So where was the blessing that Jesus promised in Mark 10? For Peter and the disciples, a part of the blessing came in the form of the Church. Thousands of people were added to Peter’s “family.” Community provided fellowship and joy. Needs were met by the gathering of believers (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37). Indeed, God rewarded Peter and the others for their devotion. But did he get his fishing business back? Not the way he might have thought!
I wonder if the blessings we receive for following the Lord aren’t the blessings we expect. What I mean is this: we oft think of the material realm when we think of blessing but God enjoys rewarding us in the spiritual realm. We think “stuff,” God thinks “soul.” Sometimes that reward comes through the Church. I’m leaving most of my stuff here in Texas, either having sold it or stored it. When I get to Scotland, I anticipate needing a bunch of things. Like, most things. I’ll need simple items like bedding and towels, kitchen utensils and maybe even some furnishings. I have all that stuff here in Texas in abundance. But I’ll probably be relying on believers in Scotland to help meet my needs. And in helping me they are blessing me.
I love that about the Body of Christ. We bless each other by helping and providing for each other. If someone is shunned by their family for following Jesus, surround them with a new family. Show the love and acceptance that they need. If someone loses something for the sake of Christ, bless them doubly.
Leaving stuff behind is tough to do. But it is often the price of discipleship. Even if you aren’t forced to sacrifice family, home and job, the Lord asks you to be willing to leave them if necessary.
— Be God’s.