I was at a certain store (one which I probably frequent more than I should) yesterday, and noticed the sale table. It said: “50% off lowest marked price.” Price tags are such helpful little things, aren’t they? By them we are made aware of what we can and cannot afford; they set a standard of expectation around monetary value; they ensure that all who make purchases in stores are treated the same. But I can’t help considering, at the same time, that there is one particular price tag that often goes unnoticed.
“If you will here stop and ask yourself why you are not as pious as the early Christians were, your own heart will tell (read: convict) you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but simply because you never thoroughly intended it.”
I remember reading that quote a number of years ago – I can’t remember who spoke it, but it’s one that’s stuck with me. It lays out a challenge, and it’s a challenge that I’m all-too-often wanting to take up, but distraction or half-heartedness or ignorance or inability just seem to keep me from really doing so (oops – I guess those last two can’t be keeping me from it, as the quote itself intimates). But consider those who have sold out their own interests for the sake of following God (read: for the sake of true piety).
Moses built a life for himself, after meeting up with the Midians. He had a family, a job… a place in this world (which, Michael W. Smith suggests, gives a reason). When God took hold of him, Moses resisted. He didn’t want to go to the unfamiliar, to challenge the king of Egypt, to take the nation of Israelites under his wing – he made excuses for why he shouldn’t go. But ultimately he did. But it wasn’t an easy journey.
Elijah had lots going for him. He was God’s prophet, and when he spoke he was speaking God’s words, and God honoured them. At Elijah’s word there was a drought for three years in Israel. At Elijah’s word fire fell from heaven. At Elijah’s word rain fell again on that dry and parched land. Yet Elijah knew they weight of the burden that was upon him, and he went out to the desert and asked to die. Yet when God sent him out again, Elijah forsook even his “right” to die according to his own terms, and went.
Being God’s man (or woman) isn’t easy. Abraham never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises to him. Moses never set foot in the Promised Land. Samuel had to relinquish his position of authority. Jeremiah spent time in the bottom of a cistern. Jesus’ first disciples/apostles were all put to death. Let there be no mistake: if someone is going to get in on this, there’s no turning back.
Some people like to do things half-heartedly. But being God’s people is about selling out to Him. Think of the Israelites, for their story is our story. Delivered from slavery in Egypt, they were faced with a choice: would they return to slavery in Egypt (an option that they considered a surprising amount of times), would they be slaves to their own passions and desires, or would they be slaves to God who had delivered them? And we are faced with these same options, as those who have been delivered from slavery to sin. Will you sell out your interests to God, who has purchased you, or will you steal yourself back from Him for your own ends?
We used to play poker, at Tom’s, while waiting for our whole group to arrive for movie night. Some played conservatively – hoping that by betting small amounts they would last longer in the game. Some played a little more liberally – hoping that by winning slightly larger amounts they would last longer in the game. Rarely did anyone go all in. Going all in is risky. You can win it all or you can lose it all. It’s a risky endeavour. In cards you never know what the other players have, which can be scary. But is going “all in” with God the same? I submit that it isn’t. We have some promises and guarantees that suggest that it’s not just a safe bet, but not a bet at all – if we’ll go all in, we’re guaranteed the payoff.
But that takes a few things. We’ve become accustomed to being half-hearted about faith. We need to be encouraged for going all in. As far as going all in is concerned, we’re talking about selling out ourselves and our investment in our own interests for the sake, instead, of God’s interests – and this means entrusting our interests to Him. Someone who only half-sells out isn’t called a sell out. They’re called “deeply committed…” and I think we’ve had enough of that in the Church. What we need are sell outs. In war, one side can’t half-surrender to the other – if it’s to be called surrender, it has to be complete surrender to whatever terms are made. In the same way, we cannot half-surrender to our Lord. We must learn to fully yield ourselves to His terms and His plan for us. If we’re not going “all in,” then let’s be honest about what we’re doing instead: it’s not surrender; it’s not trusting Him with our selves and our futures.