When our attention is captured by a great truth, the question becomes just how seriously will we take that truth. What changes to our faith and lifestyle are we willing to make? What if those changes will lead to a better, more fulfilling life? What if those changes require us to give up something we love and hold dear? What are you willing to do to experience life?
Making Changes for Dietary & Spiritual Reasons
As part of my current course of study, I was required to attend a workshop retreat. I remember the facilitator introduced himself by recounting some of his personal background. I guessed him to be a man in his late 50s. I was struck when he mentioned that, as he had gotten older, he discovered that “food stuck”. An interesting turn of phrase, I thought, also chuckling to myself. He was trying to say he had decided to make changes in his lifestyle and diet, which now included becoming a vegetarian. Yuck!
People will make changes in their lifestyle, especially when necessity demands it. Yet people will also make changes in their lifestyle when faith encourages it. For example, Howard Thurman, an African-American author, theologian, and civil rights leader of the 1800s, told the story of when his mother was visiting him in Washington. He noticed one Friday she was not eating. Adroitly he enquired about her health. Politely she evaded his questions. Finally she divulged that “for more than twenty years she had never eaten any food on Friday”. The memory of what had happened on that day was so stupendous that she not only recalled the events and thanked God for His Son, but she used as much of each Friday as possible to deepen her spiritual life.
Both my workshop facilitator and Horward Thurman’s mother had an insight that came to them unexpectedly. Their eyes and ears were open, we might say, and they were quite amazed at the truth they learnt. As a consequence, they made changes in their lifestyle. They learnt especially to hold on loosely to experience life.
This World is Passing Away
The apostle Paul wrote,
The time is limited, so from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they didn’t own anything, and those who use the world as though they did not make full use of it. For this world in its current form is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29–31)
Jesus’ death and resurrection had convinced the apostle, that, “this world in its current form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:29-31; cf Mt 24). We should not live, therefore, as if only this moment matters. How we live now does indeed matter but it also matters into eternity. Therefore, the apostle instructed, we should hold relationships (1 Cor 7:29), emotions (1 Cor 7:30a), possessions (1 Cor 7:30b), and ambitions loosely (1 Cor 7:31).
Must one break up a relationship to be a friend of Jesus? Yes, if that relationship is harmful emotionally, physically or otherwise, and leads you to ignore your faith and do things you ought not do. Eating excessively (being gluttony) or not eating sufficiently (e.g. anorexia) or sexual immorality (e.g. sex outside of marriage or with someone of the same sex). It’s better not to have begun such a relationship. If it now distracts you from friendship with Jesus, then hold it loosely enough to break it off.
Must one set aside an emotion to be a friend of Jesus? Yes, if that emotion is harmful and keeps you from hope and peace, etc. Now, I understand, of course, our brains can betray us and our bodies can fall into a chemical imbalance, but this is the exception. If, for example, the fear of rejection prevents you from going to bed earlier on a Saturday night so that you will be able to join others at church on Sunday morning, then that fear must be set aside and your lifestyle change to support what it important.
Must you give up a possession to be a friend of Jesus? Goodness, I’m sure I don’t have to explain how easy it is for a something one owns to become an idol. As beautiful as your car or motorcycle is, maybe you spend too much of your time polishing its chrome. As big as your house is, maybe you have put yourself into too much debt and can no longer afford the essentials of life. As large is the sum of money in your bank account, maybe you have put so much time into your work or business that you have neglected your family and your faith. “You cannot serve God and money”, Jesus once said (Mt 6:24), and he was not wrong.
Must one reject an ambition to be a friend of Jesus? Yes, if that ambition glorifies only oneself and does nothing to contribute positively to the world around you.
When the apostle Paul wrote, “for this world in its current form is passing away”, yes, he was referring to the coming time when God will renew the earth. Yet, he was also referring to the beliefs and values and behaviours promoted by the people and systems of this fallen and sinful world. We only hold onto our relationships, emotions, possessions, and ambitions tightly because we operate according to the principles of this world.
Only Initially Painful
When Jesus promised, “anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it” (Mt 10:39), these are what he meant: our relationships, emotions, possessions, and ambitions. While initially painful, their loss will result in a better life now that ‘will only get better with age’. Jesus promised a free, full, and forever life to those who love, trust, and obey him. What will you have to change in your faith and lifestyle, or even give up, if need be, in order to experience that promise? Remember, we choose in what to place our faith and on what to base our lifestyle, but the hope and peace the Lord provides far surpass all others.
I know you’re not going to give up anything for an idea, no matter how passionate and convincing I can be about promoting that idea. My raising this issue, however, will hopefully provide you an opportunity to reconsider this idea and seek for insight from God. Truth leads to inevitable change in one’s faith and lifestyle for the better —holding loosely to the things of this world enables you to let God come close, provides a surer foundation in this life, and will prepares you for the life to come.
Experience the Life Jesus Promises
Will you let God draw near to you? He already knows you, through and through, so there is nothing to hide. If you can open your eyes, ears and hearts to see, hear and know the Lord, then you will experience him and all he has intended for you. Hold loosely, therefore, to the relationships, emotions, possessions, and ambitions encouraged and promoted by this fallen and sinful world, so that you might step into the free, full, and forever life promised by Jesus.
Are there any aspects of your life troubling you?
Could this be the Spirit of God trying to get your attention and draw you into a freer and fuller life?
 Jones, G. Curtis, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN, USA: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986).