Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
A few months ago, I told myself that I was going to step out in faith and quit my high paying job to go out on my own and start a franchise company while turning my focus to serving the Lord. I had to laugh when a month later, my old job called me and asked me to come back as a consultant and travel to NYC weekly.
This opportunity came at a great time as I was trying to get my business started.
Well, the business started very slow. My tithe went from quite a lot to quite a little, still above the 10% usually.
I was worried. I knew I had enough funds to last until about July for both the business and personally. Needless to say, I was a little worried.
But you know what? God never let me down. The opportunity at my former job helped to pay the mortgage every month. It gave me the ability to enjoy my time as my company got started and ministries got started.
But then something happened.
Ministries began to grow.
I wasn’t really planning on that.
I mean, I did. Just not now.
I expected everything to happen in MY time. Why does God have to plan things outside MY time?
John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
I started leading the young adult ministry. Then missions took a turn that I didn’t expect. Now I am on the newly formed mission board at church.
Again I ask, why won’t God work in MY time.
And then I remember the initial reason I left my high paying job. You see, when I left, my prayer was to dedicate everything, the good and the bad, to God.
I am quite sure that I failed a test of some sort. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think the consulting gig was provided to me to see if I would truly give everything to God. To see if I was ready to just make the jump.
I took the thought that God HAD to be providing me this opportunity to get the business started. But that isn’t how the Bible works with regard to stepping out in faith.
I took the role of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus told this dude to give up ALL of his possessions and when he realized it, he went away sad because he realized it would cost too much to follow Christ.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
I’ve been through a tough season in my business. I haven’t been able to tithe as much as I planned on tithing by this time. I am wondering if my tough season could be because I walked away from the promise I made to God to give Him everything.
Jesus told the rich, young ruler that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. There are a couple of things here that need defining before I come up with a plan for the future.
First, a camel going through the eye of a needle. Of course a camel can’t go through a needle’s eye, right? It is at this time that you might be saying that God was alluding to the idea that no one who is rich can ever enter the kingdom of God.
There are plenty of theories as to what Jesus meant by the “eye of a needle.” The Biblical statement from Jesus is similar to one shared by the Persians that talked about an elephant going through a needle.
The first theory revolves around the Needle Gate in Jerusalem. This was an after-hours entrance to the city and was small for security purposes. A camel could only go through it if you stripped it of all saddles and it crawled through on its knees. The main problem with this theory is that there is no evidence that this gate ever existed.
The second theory is that the Greek word for camel (kamelos) should really be the word for “cable” (kamilos). Then it would say that a rope or a cable would be going through the eye of a needle. However, believing this breaks the whole idea of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.
My view is that Jesus is using hyperbole, a figure of speech that uses exaggeration for emphasis. He was no stranger to this form of speech such as when he talked about a plank in one’s eye or swallowing a camel.
Basically, Jesus is destroying the notion that the rabbis held that the rich were blessed by God and therefore were more likely to go to heaven. What makes it difficult for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven is that the rich are typically very proud individuals.
I have to admit, I was proud of the fact that I started a business. I was proud of the fact that I could be rich even before I put a dollar in the bank. It is hard to think that I could have missed my spiritual poverty while chasing physical riches.
But now, let’s get to the second definition needed, the kingdom of heaven. This is a phrase used throughout the New Testament over 77 times in its variations of kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God. If we compare the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, it is fairly clear that these two phrases can be interchanged (Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20).
I like a couple of definitions that other theologians have given. First, there is Graeme Goldsworthy who said it is “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”
Another definition is from Anthony Hoekema who said it is “the reign of God dynamically alive in human history through Jesus Christ….”
This got me thinking. If I would have not been the rich, young ruler, could I have entered into those definitions of the kingdom of God? Would my testimony of God be stronger? Would the ministries be better served? Would my business have been more mature?
I can’t help but think that God’s blessings would have poured out if I would have given everything to Him in the beginning. He never let me fail. I am still paying the bills and tithing, but I can only imagine what would have been if I would have simply been faithful.
James 1:5-7 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord
So here is the plan.
July 6th I am leaving the consulting gig. So the guaranteed income is now gone.
But here is the thing. I am not worried. God has continued to take care of me and He won’t stop now. The business will pick up. I have complete faith that will happen.
But more importantly, the ministries will flourish. I already know that.
I look forward to seeing what God will do. And I am much less scared than I was in January when I left my job originally.
Do you have something you need to give completely over to God? Just do it. Don’t think about it. Sometimes our thoughts betray us. Didn’t that happen to Adam and Eve? They thought about how God could be lying to them and ate of the apple. And what happened? Well, the rest of history as we know it.
I can only imagine if all Christians, everywhere, gave everything over to God completely. We would see such a beautiful society that would shine the light of Christ.
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.