“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, we have left all we had to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no-one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come, eternal life.”
(Luke 18. 24-30)
Many of us are familiar with the sad story of the rich young man who came to Jesus seeking assurance of eternal life, and who went away downcast, because Jesus challenged the stranglehold which his wealth had on his heart – he could not let it go, it had become his god. That is the point of the hilarious picture of a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle – it is simply impossible, laughable and to be dismisssed. In human terms that is… and that is the point which Jesus made to those who questioned how anyone could be sure of salvation if even a rich and law-abiding person could not. With God in the picture, everything changes!
It is God who can do the impossible. By his power at work in hearts and minds, he transforms people so that they recognise the idols which are dominating their lives, and brings them to a point where they can surrender everything to God as rightful king and lord. The proper names for these things are repentance and faith, and they are not once-in-a-lifetime experiences either. It is true that for many people there will be a particular occasion when they know that a decision has been made, to follow Jesus, to accept forgiveness for past sins, and to trust him for the future. But it is also true that as disciples, we spend the rest of our lives working out in each new situation, what we need to repent of and what it means to exercise faith in God as our trustworthy heavenly Father!
I think that I have a bad habit of forgetting what Jesus says in the passage I quoted above – that it is God whose ability and strength is the issue, not mine! How often do I look at a situation and feel overwhelmed, unable to cope with what is being asked of me?! If God is sending me along a particular path, then He is also providing the resources which I will need as I go – and I need to trust Him to be faithful, and to recognise the things which are holding me back.
The disciples pointed out to Jesus how much they had given up to follow him – and his response is a staggering promise, which holds good for all disciples, that no one will be the loser as a result of their obedience to God’s call on their lives! Do I believe him? When I am faced with the loss of something – or someone – precious to me, do I trust God to provide for the gap which will be left in my life?
How often do we ask God to show us in advance how he will replace what is lost, repay what we feel we are sacrificing?! That is not to trust him, that is not faith in the promise, and I need to guard against such an attitude when I am facing up to the prospect of obedience resulting in loss.
I know that God gives good gifts to his children, but also that everything I am and have is a gift from his hand – not deserved but freely given. I hold all things on an open hand, not in a closed fist, and must learn to say with Job -“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1.21)
My God is Lord of the impossible, and in any time of sacrificial obedience, I can and must trust him to do just that, to turn what seems an impossible sacrifice into one which I make gladly for his sake, and one which he will more than abundantly make up for, in the ways which he knows are best for me! Blessed be the name of the Lord!