C. BE WILLING TO LOSE IT ALL
Jesus made it very clear in Mark 8:34, 35 that the criteria for following Him is to deny self, take up the cross and be devoted to Him with no private agenda for self. If we understand this divine summons to deny all, we will have no problem fulfilling the divine demand that we “come away.”
It is not difficult to realize that the accomplishments, the success, honour and blessings of Abraham rested on the fact that he was willing to lose it all, to give up all, including his one and only son in his old age.
Gandhi was a man with a passion for the teachings of Jesus Christ but unfortunately, he did not become a Christian. He could not because he realized that the white people who came to India to preach Jesus did not live like Him. He was himself so convicted by the teachings of Christ that he decided to put them into practice.
He renounced everything and vowed that he would fight his enemies with love and not violence. For years, he walked the streets of India and begged for food. He turned his left cheek to his enemies when he was slapped on the right. Most of the time, he looked tired and worn out. He owned nothing but by the time he died, millions thronged his funeral. The rich and the popular, the mighty and the renowned, dignitaries, kings and queens came from all over the world.
What was the secret to Gandhi’s success and popularity? He was willing to lose it all.
Wasn’t this true of our Lord? He was willing to lose it all, including His own life. He literally denied all, becoming poor so that we might be rich.
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
In the end, He gained back everything, with interest.
He was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (Revelation 5:12).
All these came only after He had been willing to be slain, willing to lose even His right to live. Yes, our Lord’s supremacy and glory rest on this basis: He was willing to lose it all.
Throughout the centuries, men and women have tried all ways and means to obtain power and riches _ fighting, cheating, manipulating, etc. God teaches us that the way to power and riches is through being willing to lose.
Are you willing to lose it all? Whether you like it or not, able or not able, the demand of the Bridegroom is sounding out loud and clear, “Come away! Come away from it all!” If you do not yield to this demand, you will never SOAR; you will never have the joy of feeding on the heritage of Jacob in high places.
Jesus taught us that the kingdom of heaven is likened to a merchant who, when he finally found a pearl of great worth, was willing to sell all that he had so that he could purchase that one pearl.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matthew 13:45-46).
We Christians have found that one pearl of great worth. Are we now willing to sell all that we have, willing to lose it all, to give up all, including marriage, career and children (if He so requires) in order to gain this Pearl of great worth? It would have been utter foolishness for the merchant to merely rejoice over that great pearl, wanting to possess it yet not willing to sell all that he had in order to raise the money to buy it. Many Christians are like this. They know they have found it _ Jesus, our Pearl of great value _ yet they are not willing to lose it all for Him. To be indecisive is the worst situation to be in.
I remember spending the three years in Bible School pleading with God, every morning at 5 am, to release me from full-time ministry. I had no desire for full-time ministry as my ambition was to be a fashion designer or an interior decorator. Every evening at 5 pm, I would plead with God to change me if He would not release me from ministry so that I could serve Him with a free heart and mind and not be indecisive.
I knew that if I were to serve Him, there would be no turning back. I also knew that what I do for Him must be done not only with my whole heart but also with my kidneys, liver, intestines, etc. If I were to serve Him, I wanted to do so with passion, intensity and the totality of my being. I would not serve Him and keep one eye open for a husband or daydream of a family of my own. No. No. To be divided in this way would not do for me.
Many ladies in ministry today are divided. They are unproductive because the ministries that they are in right now are just something to hold them up temporarily while they wait for Mr Right to pop up. I have raised up lady workers and I have had many different ladies working under me all these years. I have come to one conclusion: it is easier to raise up men than ladies!
The world trusts in its knowledge, scientific advancements, doctorates and degrees in education. I am afraid that this has also affected many in ministry. We go after degrees and doctorates but do not know what faith and prayer are anymore. We have become mentally swollen and spiritually shrunken. Today, instead of doing what the apostle Paul did, willing to lose everything for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, we can be tempted to do the exact opposite. If a balance could be struck, it would be beautiful. It is not easy to find someone who can pursue his studies and still find time to spend in the presence of God (but thank God we do have such people).
I remember the kind gesture of Professor John Williams some years ago. He told me that every year, his institute in New York confers an honorary doctorate on people who are truly worthy recipients. One such recipient had been Charles Doss who had composed the popular song, “He is my everything.” The professor invited me to Kenya in September of that year for the conferment of a doctorate in recognition of my works and accomplishments. I remember praying about it and instantly hearing an answer from the Lord.
“Everything that has happened in your life and ministry is just a result of the demonstration of the power of My Spirit.” That was all. I was not told to go or not to go _ I was told only the truth of why I had succeeded _ it was a demonstration of His Spirit’s power. Now, how could I go and be conferred with a doctorate if all that I had done had nothing to do with me?
I couldn’t, I shouldn’t and I didn’t. The next morning, I thanked the professor, told him that I was deeply honoured but I would not be going to Kenya for the conferment. That should have settled the matter.
Unfortunately, a few weeks later, my carnal self played up and said, “It was a fool’s decision to reject the doctorate. The blessing and reward of the Lord came and you did not even know how to enjoy it.”
I decided to call up a friend and shared this with him. He told me, “Walk far away from it, Susan. Be happy that you have been honoured but lay down that doctorate. Come away from it _ be willing to lose it. You don’t need it to prove anything. Jesus in you is all-sufficient. You made the right choice in letting it go.”
A lady with her own doctorate told me, “You should have gone for it. Times are changing. When you go overseas for ministry, people will not listen to you if you do not have a doctorate.”
How sad. Not for me, but for them. If people will only come and hear me because I have a doctorate, they are the wrong group of people for me. I have no intention of ministering to such people. I want to minister to those whose hearts are in the right place, wanting more of God. I do not want to waste time speaking to anyone whose sense of value lies not in the things of the Spirit but in a degree or a doctorate.
More than one person has asked me whether I regret losing that doctorate. Definitely not! I have not missed anything. My ministry is just as fruitful and effective. The doctorate would never have made my ministry effective but it would have affected me if I had taken it up _ it would have made me vain.
Please do not get me wrong. I am not against doctorates and degrees or the conferment of titles. I am merely saying that we must know where and how to draw the line. Study is good and every minister should be doing his own on-going study of the Word. Only watch out that you do not study until your head swells and your spirit shrinks, until you see a demon in the face but call it a “complex” or a bad habit and do not know how to deal with it.
“Look from the top,” says the Bridegroom to His bride. Yes, look from the top and let us get God’s perspective on the whole picture. What does He say?
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgement and righteousness, in the earth: for these things I delight, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Yes, may God soon raise up a generation of men and women right across this nation who will be willing to lose it all, whatever it may be. May they be standard-bearers who will both understand and know the Lord: that God is a God who relishes the exercising of lovingkindness, judgement and righteousness.