As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:16-20
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:21-22
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Following Jesus means saying “yes” a lot. Yes to his kingdom. Yes to his rule. Yes to partnering with him in his work. Yes to loving him with your whole being, loving your neighbor, and loving yourself. Yes to making disciples. Yes to being one.
But it also involves saying “no” sometimes. No to your sin nature. No to the allure of the world. No to distractions, idols, worry, fear.
John Maxwell has said, “You’ve got to give up to go up.” And I think that’s really true.
It’s not that we’re to set the terms of our own sacrifice and give up as much as we can. That just results in worthless religious activity.
But we are to let go of the things that hold us back. Jesus has a way of targeting these on the big screen of our souls but ultimately it’s up to us to pull the trigger. The disciples chose to leave their nets and take up their cross; no one made them.
“No” can feel big until you contrast it with “Yes”:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31
You see, in the grand scheme of things, NO pales in comparison to YES. Viewed objectively, no is a no-brainer because what we get in exchange is so much better.
But this isn’t a purely rational proposition, because our idols and our comforts and our familiar and our control have a way of wrapping around our hearts and choking our desire for the things of God.
We rationalize, we compartmentalize, we sweep it under the rug until one day we come to the end and realize just how much it cost us.
I don’t know what your no’s are, but here are some questions to keep in mind:
- Is there anything pulling your heart away from Jesus?
- Is there anything you’re clinging to?
- Is there anything that consistently trips you up?
- Is there anything that’s more yours than his?
If so, why not just be honest with God about it? At worse, he’ll invite you to say no. At best, you’ll trade it for a far greater yes.