Lately, I’ve been wondering about the things that I have had to let go of to be able to follow Christ. There have been a few things that I have put down very easily because I could clearly see that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I have also thought about the tears I have shed when I have realized that something or someone has held me back from what Jesus has commanded me to do and I had to the unthinkable. A few relationships have dissipated because they didn’t agree with me or everything didn’t align with my relationship with God. I can’t particularly say that I wanted to stop being someone’s friend, because who knows what God could do in their lives, but I also have seen that there is no seed that wants to flourish there… at least not through me.
Regardless, we each have things in our lives that we need to let go of. It’s part of our walk with God as we have to be “not of this world” and as we leave our past life that was not devoted to God.
How much of a Sacrifice do you commit to?
As I thought about this, I remembered of a certain ministry that showcases people that have to let go of things in their lives to follow Christ. Have you heard of the ministry/organization called, “Voice of the Martyrs“? If you have no idea who they are, you need to change that and make sure you visit their website and sign up for their free, monthly newsletter. Basically, they provide support to people that have decided to follow God, but they are raised in a family, community, and country that does not want anything to do with Christ. These people are usually from third-world countries where they are not born into a nation with opportunities like myself and some of you.
I can’t compare my life to theirs because the things that I have let go of have not been close to size to what they have had to drop. Sometimes, they have had to give something up without a choice, because of their decision to follow Jesus.
Recently, I was listening to the DadTired podcast where Saeed Abedini was interviewed. If you don’t recognize that name, he is the Iranian American Christian pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for 4 years. He was imprisoned for threatening “national security” for sharing his Christian faith with Muslims. He was on the news in 2016 when he was released from prison under of the authority of the Obama administration.
In this interview, he talked about how he came to Christ through an encounter with God when he was a Muslim. He talked about how he shared his faith and helped spread God’s word to thousands of people in the Middle-East. He later moved to the US but realized that God wanted him to go back and continue to witness to the Iranians. While on a trip to Iran in 2012, he was detained and held on trial by the Iranian police.
The Success God wants us to achieve
In this interview, Saeed Abedini says that in the Western world, we are taught a bad idea of what it means to succeed. Paraphrasing, he says that culture tells us and forces us to be successful and if we are not successful something is not going right. This is also a lie that we come to believe in the church. Coming to the United States, we are brainwashed to pursue the American Dream. The American dream is a belief that the United States holds equal opportunities and the freedom to be able to achieve whatever we want. A life of promotions, new and better possessions, new jobs that produce more money, a house for our family, and so on. This is what we believe success to be.
Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
I have heard various things from this verse. I have at some point also believed the lie that God blesses us through success when thinking of this verse. I have come to believe that this verse is referring to some of the things that I stated above. That is a fat lie, though. God’s kingdom will not grow when you are given the job that pays so much or when you get a promotion. God’s kingdom and glory do not increase when we are able to buy the new car or house.
So going back to the interview with Saeed, he mentions some truth that we need to realize. Jesus was not really successful on the cross as our culture tells us what success is. He lost everything. He did not gain anything from the moment he foretold that he was to be betrayed.
Jesus lost his reputation.
Jesus lost his freedom.
Jesus lost his home.
Jesus lost his friends.
Jesus probably lost his money and his job as a carpenter.
He looked like a real loser according to the American dream.
We need to look at our culture and ignore what it tells us to do. Success does not bring any sacrifices. So going back to what I first talked about, what have we given up to follow Jesus? We need to learn to sacrifice things. I am not telling you to drop everything and go on living on the streets. I ask this because I have recently looked at my life and wondered what I have in my life that is holding me back from ultimately pursuing God. We won’t sacrifice things for God if we seek and have worldly success as our means to live. This culture of the American Dream is not from God. When you sacrifice, learn that you will never get something back from the world. You will sacrifice time that you will never get back.
Saeed lost his family because of the love that he had for God. And to continue with the verse in Matthew, what is added unto us is provision. The previous verses in Matthew 6 talk about having fewer worries and being less anxious. We should not be worried about what we will have next because God already provides what we need when we seek Him. People think that if we do something from God, he will give us success at work or in the family. They take this verse out of context. Many people that you read from in the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter and website come with stories where they lost so much and, yet, God still provides. He will provide.
These are a few thought I had in my head when I realized that what I had to let go of are not worth anything in compared to what we get from God. In doing God’s will, I must realize that things around that may change, but only to make sure that God’s vision and will for us exceed anything else. What God has you leave behind is definitely different from some people you hear from at your church or around the world, but it will be worth it. Think about where God has taken you so far.