Relinquish Your Grip
So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife and disagreement between you and me, nor between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, because we are relatives. Is not the entire land before you? Please separate [yourself] from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or if you choose the right, then I will go to the left.”
Genesis 13: 8-9
To Abram, newly returned from his misguided venture to Egypt, how precious must have seemed the land which God had given him! Now, however, he was to learn an important new lesson, namely, not to grasp at its possession. “But surely,” he might have reasoned, “ so precious a gift ought to be seized and held at all costs!”
And so do we reason when God gives us His gifts. But Abram saw that he must relinquish his grip. His nephew Lot should be given first choice of all he wanted.
This is a lesson we must all learn. Can we trust God to keep for us what He has given, never laying hold on it ourselves in our natural desire for possession? What God gives, He gives! We need not struggle to retain it. Indeed if we grasp it fearfully and hold on, we may risk losing it. Only what we have let go in committal to Him becomes in fact really ours.
Paul, in his letter to Timothy tells us that what we commit to God’s care, He will keep.
“This is why I suffer as I do. Still, I am not ashamed; for I know Him [and I am personally acquainted with Him] whom I have believed [with absolute trust and confidence in Him and in the truth of His deity], and I am persuaded [beyond any doubt] that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day [the when I stand before Him].”
Almost from a child we try to grasp and hold on to the things we have been given. “Mine, mine,” is no strange response when we’re threatened to lose what we claim as ours. And that response usually comes from fear of loss. We are afraid if we let it out of our sight it will forever be lost.
The spiritual principles of the Bible are most of the time opposite of the “normal” ways we approach life. The truth is that most things are like jello- the tighter we squeeze the more they slip through our fingers. Take love, for instance, those who try to force or pressure someone to love them, the more they actually push them away. Misers heap up and store up all the wealth they possibly can. They usually never benefit from their accumulated wealth. I’ve known a few who were extremely wealthy and wore worn out clothes and shoes, lived in almost shacks, and drove old pieced together vehicles. The more they accumulated, the worse their state of being became. How sad that such need and fear controlled their lives. They might have been alive, but they never truly enjoyed living. I’m not advocating that we swing the pendulum to the other extreme of frivolous and lavish living especially when we try to live above our means so that we can impress others. But I am saying that God has given us a life to enjoy.
Let’s look at Abram and see if one of the wealthiest men in the world can teach us something. Abram who became Abraham, placed his trust in God above all else. We are introduced to him when we read of his journey from the land of his ancestors, leaving everything behind to seek the place God was leading him. What he teaches us is that we will never find what God has for us until we are willing to let go of what we have now.mThis is not an easy decision to make. God was asking Abram to leave all that was familiar, his friends and family, and to begin a journey toward an unknown destiny.
It was not an easy journey and it was often plagued by failure and diversion. On at least two occasions, Abram and Sari found themselves in danger as kings wished to have Sari as their wife. On both occasions, Abram failed to acknowledge Sari as his wife and God had to intervene to keep His promise. That’s our story. Our journey with Christ is often the same. Often when we’re faced with challenges or obstacles, we can find ourselves acting from doubt and fear. But just as God was faithful to Abram, He will also be to us. Our most important task is that of learning to trust God with our lives, our families and our possessions.
By the time we come to the story of Lot and Abram’s herdsmen and their quarrel over grazing lands, Abram has begun to learn to trust God’s provision. Culture would have dictated that Abram being the elder and the position of leader to have first choice. Lot wouldn’t have been surprised if Abram would have taken that opportunity. I can only imagine his surprise and perhaps the herdsmen’s surprised looks when Abram gives up first choice. You see, Abram had learned a secret that we need to learn: wherever we are with God will always be a place of blessing even if it looks like desert to everybody else.
When we give up everything to God and trust His care, our future is more sure, but if we choose to hold it tightly to ourselves, then we become the protector and keeper. Jesus told us something important about this matter:
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
What He is saying to us is that the devil and his forces are constantly harassing us to steal what God has blessed us with. The devil works to kill our faith and our sense of peace and joy. And he works to destroy our relationship with God and others. And believe me, he is good at his job. The psalmist tells us that our only hope and help is in the Lord:
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,”Let Israel now say, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our sideWhen men rose up against us, Then they would have [quickly] swallowed us alive,When their wrath was kindled against us; Then the waters would have engulfed us,The torrent would have swept over our soul; Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.” Blessed be the Lord,Who has not given us as prey to be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers;The trap is broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord,Who made heaven and earth.”
Look at what Paul wrote to Timothy again. He tells us that the only sure way of preserving what God has blessed us with us to give it back to God for safekeeping, trusting that when we have a need, He will supply. We often quote Philippians 4:19 and yet somehow miss the source of supply. Here it is again:
“And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
First Paul calls Him “my God” indicating a personal relationship making this promise only for those who have committed their hearts to the Lord. This is not a generic promise to any and all, only to the children of God,
Second, Paul tells us that God “liberally” supplies- “fill until full.” No hint of God scrimping or holding back blessing but instead “heaping up, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” And He does this not just for some need some of the time, but for every need all of the time.
Third of all, Paul tells us that God isn’t limited to our resources nor even the resources that can be found in the world. His resource is found in “His riches in heaven.” In the Old Testament, we find God replenishing a widow’s flour and oil daily without anyone bringing it by. His source wasn’t limited to any natural supply, only by His own limitless ability.
Finally, Paul says, every time God provides for our need, Christ is glorified because we have relinquished our grip on the things of this world so that we might embrace Him all the more.
I remember participating once in management training in a trust exercise. We were instructed to turn our backs to our partners and on the signal from the facilitator, we were to fall back, trusting our partner to catch us. That was extremely difficult for me. I wanted to look over my shoulder to make sure they were actually there. I wanted to put my hands behind me and grip the just in case they couldn’t hold me up.
And we have a difficult time letting things go and trusting the God who provided them to also keep them. May we discover the place that Paul was in when he penned those words: “I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.” God can be trusted to keep. Can we be trusted to relinquish? Abraham did and became the father of faith. Paul did and authored two-thirds of the New Testament. Neither of them could have experienced such incredible things until they relinquished their grip on what they had and where they were. Neither will we.
Dr. John Thompson