Giving Up Things
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:7)
We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures ale loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him,and nothing is really safe which is not committed.
Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God’s loan to us, and should never be considered in any sense our own. We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles.
The Christian who is alive enough to know himself even slightly will recognize the symptoms of this possession malady and will grieve to find them in his own heart. If the longing after God is strong enough within him, he will want to do something about the matter. Now, what should he do?
First he should put away all defense and make no attempt to excuse himself either in his own eyes or before the Lord. Let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself. Let the inquiring Christian trample under foot every slippery trick of his deceitful heart and insist upon frank and open relations with the Lord.
Then he should remember that this is holy business. No careless or casual dealings will suffice. Let him come to God in full determination to be heard. Le him insist that God accept his all, that He take things out of his heart and Himself reign there in power. It may be he will need to become specific, to name things and people by their names one by one.
Besides I perhaps the other two words used more frequent than any other are me and mine. The idea of possession is rooted deep within the human heart. Observe if you will even small children and soon you will notice these two words spoken often. Mine, mine mine. Many of the problems in our world stem from possessions and who owns or controls them. From family conflicts to church conflicts to national conflicts to international conflicts, there is at the root this desire to possess and control.
Jesus asks a powerful question, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
In other words Jesus is asking us what’s the more valuable, our possessions or our relationship with God.
We usually think that those who have great possessions are the ones who’s struggle with this issue but in reality it affects everyone at every level. It’s just more noticeable at the larger level. The Bible teaches that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. So what does money represent? Things. The value of things can be compared usually by monetary value. The Bible does not say that money itself is the root of evil but that the love of it is. We can say the same about things. It’s not the things but the love of things that leads to the sins of greed and theft and murder and violence.
Socialism is the ideal that everyone shares equally all the available resources. In a socialist society, everyone is “equal.” The fatal flaw of socialism is failure to consider that not everyone is content with their portion and not everyone is comfortable giving up control of possessions. Many communities have attempted to build around the idea of socialism but none have succeeded. From the utopian communities here in America to the Soviet Union, socialism has failed largely due to this desire to possess and control things. Even the church suffers from this malady. Division and schism are often the result of this desire to possess things or to control of things.
Tozer urges us to recognize this “possession malady” within us. Only God can be trusted with possessing for no matter how well intentioned we may be, sooner or later we will battle this in our own hearts. Is there then any remedy? Yes!
Our scripture asks the question, “What do you have that you did not receive? Our every breath we receive. We have no ability to produce the oxygen our body needs so we receive it in every breath. Nutrients cannot be generated by our bodies, so we receive them from the food that is given to us. But more importantly than food, water, or breath, our salvation is not something we can cause or create. Even the faith to believe for salvation is a gift.
“For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].”
True liberty is freedom from the drive to possess. It is the ability to enjoy the things that we have received from our Heavenly Father as gifts and not through our own efforts. We allow Him to retain control while we enjoy all the benefits. This allows us to rejoice in seeing others blessed even if their blessings are greater than ours. It allows us to enjoy the things of life without fear as we trust our Father to keep all we have relinquished to His care. Can we actually do this? Yes, for God will help us trust Him to give us “all things”:
”For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3
Here’s a personal story. Several years ago while working as a textile technician, the annual salary review occurred. I received a small raise of about 10 cents per hour. At that time, I was involved not only working as a technician but teaching the newer techs the job. As most of you know there really are no secrets so I discovered that everyone else in the department had received 25 cents per hour raises. I must confess that it hurt and it felt unfair. Knowing my heart, I immediately took the matter before God. Please don’t think for one moment that it was easy or without great struggle. I hesitate to share these stories for fear someone will have the perception that somehow I’ve arrived at this deep unattainable spiritual level that’s only for the few. As I sought God in the matter, I asked Him to guard my attitude. It would have been easy to have an attitude or to diminish my contribution to the company. After all they were paying others more, why should I keep doing what I was doing. I sure felt unappreciated. God spoke to me that He was my source and if I would commit things to Him He would always provide for me. What I didn’t know at that moment was that God was at work on my behalf. I didn’t know that the matter had come to the attention of the VP in charge of salaries. I didn’t know that he was investigating the matter. I didn’t know that God had given me favor with upper management. All I knew was I had to relinquish control and trust my Father. I didn’t know that God was going to use this as a witness to my fellow technicians, many who had no relationship with God. As I said before, there are no secrets, so they knew that I had received less than they. Later one of them told me that he was waiting for me to explode so he could categorize me as just another church-going hypocrite. As God kept giving me grace, he also kept my attitude and reaction in check. In a very short time, as my situation was reviewed, the VP decided that with my contribution to the company based on manager and supervisor reports as well as the obvious disparity by my immediate supervisor, he would authorize me a 50 cent raise, double what anyone else received. That created for me a second struggle for I wanted so bad to say, na,na,na,na, what now? O how the pride, the sense of retaliation rose up in me. I was vindicated, my unfair boss overruled, look what I had gained. Then the Lord spoke, “ Did you do this or did I? Did I not say trust me and I would take care of you? Is this not My gift?” So again I had to bring self to the altar of sacrifice and slay it there.
I know that for me, I cannot let the “me and mine” out of the cage. I cannot accept the ownership or control of anything in my life. I must constantly give back to God all that He has given me, whether it’s possessions, gifts, talents, resources, or abilities. I know that He alone can be trusted with control. I must entrust to Him the ministry, the church and my life for I know that all I am and all I have access to comes from Him. What liberty that even on the loss of things, our souls are kept.
Dr. John Thompson