Written by a Reaching & Teaching missionary
How would you feel if one day you were sitting in a restaurant, and you noticed that the server was going around collecting other people’s leftovers and bringing them to you? You would probably be upset! I don’t think any paying customers would be okay with this. When we go to a restaurant, we expect freshly prepared, hot food, not leftovers that someone else left behind.
Now, let me shift the focus a bit. What if we woke up, slid into our clothes, ate breakfast, brushed our teeth, rushed out to work, worked all day, fought our way home through rush-hour traffic, took the kids to soccer, cooked supper, watched television, and then offered a few minutes of silent prayer as we drifted off to sleep? What do you think God’s response to this might be?
Or what about if we paid all our bills, got groceries, went to the movies on the weekend, bought some new clothes at the mall, and then had a few extra bucks left to throw into the offering plate at church? Do you think the God and Creator of the universe would be satisfied with such leftovers?
The other day I was meeting with my local friend Billy for prayer and Bible study. In our prayer time, he asked me to be praying for one of his employees, Jim. For several weeks, Billy has been sharing the gospel with him, but Jim was hesitating. Billy tried to discern why, and he learned that Jim was unwilling to accept Christ because of the worldly ambitions that Jim was currently focused on.
For Jim, his family, jobs, and school were his priority. It didn’t sound like he was opposed to the idea of believing in God and accepting His Son, but he just wasn’t ready now. He wanted to live his life and maybe give God the leftovers one day. Sound familiar? I will serve God after I graduate, or after I get married and have kids, or maybe after I retire, but not now. Sometimes I wish I could just grab people, shake them real hard, and awaken them to the reality of how dangerous it is to live this way.
One of my prayers for all of God’s children is that we would learn how to live ready to give God everything. That we would stop serving God the leftovers of our time, energy, and possessions and give Him the best. I’m not talking about every person giving everything away and moving to a faraway country, but I’m talking about people who are willing to live with a loose grip on this world: people who are not just looking for the minimum requirement of what they must give, but people who ask, “How much of my life can I give away?” We need to be people who take Jesus seriously when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37). The call of Jesus is a call to “Deny self, take up our cross, and follow.” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like leftovers to me. Jesus asked two important questions in this passage that are worth looking at:
First, Jesus asks “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Then He asks, “What can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:37). To trade eternity with God for a few years of good living in this world would be like a kid trading an entire candy store for a single piece of candy. Sadly, this is the way of so much of the world. This is a great tragedy. God calls us to his eternal kingdom, but we can’t seem to let go of the temporary treasures and trinkets of this life. We gain and cling to things we can’t keep, and in the end, we miss out on the greatest treasure ever given.
Jesus tells a story about a man who found this great treasure in a field. So, what did the man do? He buried it in that field, sold everything he had, and then bought the field. To him the treasure was more important than all his possessions. If we have truly made Christ our treasure, we have tasted and seen that He is of eternal value, then we should gladly give up this life to follow Him.
This leads me to a final troubling question. If Christ is the greatest treasure given to humanity, and I believe He is, then why do so many people keep giving him the leftovers of their lives? Why does the average American spend ten minutes a day with God and four hours watching TV? Why do we live as if this world is of great importance and Christ’ kingdom is of no value?
I will first tell you that this is not a new problem. Jesus speaks to the issue with a parable in Luke 14:12-24 about a man who gave a banquet and invited many people. What happened after the invitation is truly sad. Jesus said, “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come,’” (Luke 14:18-20).
It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to see that these excuses are quite lame. “I have bought,” and “I have married,” are both past tense statements. For the most part, you do not buy anything first and then go look at it. Besides that, if they have already bought them, then they can go look at them any time. And the man who married a wife, well, they’re already married. It’s not like they are having to postpone the wedding to go to the banquet. These are just a few of the many excuses that all of us have as to why we don’t quickly and obediently give God the best of our lives. If Christ is truly our treasure, then we will not make excuses or delay because of our worldly ambitions. The call to follow Jesus is an immediate call. We must never answer Him with a, “Wait a moment,” or a, “I need to do something first.” Our call to follow Christ is the most important thing ever. He deserves more than just our leftovers; He deserves our lives.
So, my prayer for all of us is that we would have our eyes opened to the importance of giving our lives more fully and faithfully to the service of God’s kingdom. As believers, we are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We are called to put our hands to the plow and not look back. Father, help us to lay aside our worldly ambitions and dreams to follow our heavenly call. Forgive us for tossing you our worldly leftovers, and may we surrender to you all our lives for your service. God, help us all!