WEEK FIVE: RELIANCE
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
If you haven’t seen any of the recent “letgo” commercials, I hope you take a moment to watch a few on YouTube. “Letgo” is a cell phone app in which one can post a photo of an item for local sale. The ads are humorous! One commercial shows a man dangling from a truck that is balancing precariously on the edge of a cliff. He is holding on to the truck with one hand, but also holding his prized bowling ball with the other hand. He won’t let go of the ball, even when his life is in jeopardy! His friend saves him by taking a photo of the bowling ball and posting it letgo. The very next moment, a mountain climber appears who is interested in purchasing the bowling ball, and the man is spared. (All of the letgo ads show people who are reluctant to let go of their possessions, even when they are in extreme danger.)
What great parables these commercials could be! People do not want to deny themselves their prized possessions. They continue to hold on to items that are actually hindering them from getting to safety. These possessions are even going to prevent them from living unless they soon relinquish them. I think Jesus would appreciate the commercials in light of his call for us to deny ourselves and follow him (except he would tell us to give those possessions away, not sell them)!
In the verses just before this passage, Jesus tells Peter that he is setting his mind on human things, not on the divine. When our focus is too much on worldly things, we miss out on the joy of kingdom living now. If you and Jesus were talking together, what would be the one thing he would ask you to relinquish? What might you need to deny yourself in order to more fully rely on Jesus? What things burden and hinder you from following him, freely and unencumbered?
Certainly some of our possessions can be distractions and hindrances that we should relinquish. But Jesus is also telling us to deny ourselves of certain ways of living and being. Our self-centered, self-reliant nature may need to be culled of behaviors and attitudes that are holding us back from truly living. We may need to relinquish such tendencies as our need to control.. our need to be right… our full schedules… our critical nature… our need to achieve… our worry… our need to be first… our need to have it all… our judgment… our grudges… our guilt…
It’s funny; the characters in the letgo commercials don’t seem to recognize how ridiculous they are being. The man clinging to the bowling ball is told, “You don’t even bowl any more!” Could this be true of us?! What are we hanging on to that is no longer useful, that no longer serves any good purpose, but only weighs us down and holds us back? I wonder how many belongings and ways of being we would relinquish if we took the time to truly examine them for their worth and necessity. What might you relinquish today?
What is your bowling ball?
You have shown us and taught us that the only way to truly live is for us to deny ourselves and follow you. Help us to examine our lives well, and help us to discern those things that hinder us, weigh us down, and hold us back from readily following you. And then, help us to relinquish them- once and for all. Amen.