“ Then Jesus told his disciples, ”If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
There are many obstacles that test your motives, your character, and your commitment to the cause of world evangelization and Christian service. The most common of these is marriage.
Don’t accept the third date! You might ask for or accept a second date with a person to be polite, but the third date may well encourage one or both to get ideas about something more serious. And nothing deflects from God’s highest will like emotional involvement with one of the opposite sex, resulting in marriage to the wrong person. In fact, the female/male attraction is almost too strong for the Holy Spirit to counter! This is an exaggeration, of course, but I put it boldly to make the point that you should not become emotionally involved with anyone who does not already have the same level of passion for the Lord and the lost world that you find in your own spirit. You wish to engender that spirit in your friend? Ask God to provide someone else to do it if there is the slightest stirring of romantic attraction in your own spirit or the possibility of that stirring in the other person. I have personally seen scores of young people blocked off from God’s purposes through a poor choice of friend resulting in a road-block marriage.
Money can block you off from fulfilling God’s purposes in two ways – a crushing debt or the fear of raising financial support for Christian service. The best way to get out of debt is not to get into it! Better to take a little longer getting an education than to end up with a debt that makes the day of freedom to pursue service recede beyond the horizon of hope. If you already have a large debt, bend every effort, make every sacrifice necessary to retire that debt and escape the bondage!
The head of the largest mission board in the nation I was visiting was visibly upset as he showed me graphs of the work. Notice, he said, the rapid increase in the number of new missionaries who drop out before completing their first year of service. He assured me this phenomenon was not in missions alone. I asked if there were any explanation, any common denominator. “Well,” he said, “They all are of the me generation.” He was right and wrong. Wrong in that self-orientation is not new, not limited to any particular generation since Eve made her self-oriented choice. But he was right in that this century is unique in ultimate commitment to self as the only honest approach to life. Self-fulfillment is the goal and when the Christian does not find fulfillment he would be dishonest to himself and thus doing wrong to hang tough and pursue what he had begun.
So fallen human nature and contemporary culture conspire to detour us into a dead end. The life that begins with self-affirmation and aims at self-fulfillment, said Jesus, will end in total loss. Rather, true life begins with the opposite – self-denial – and aims at God’s fulfillment. What an incredible paradox! Aim at self-fulfillment and lose it all, aim at God’s fulfillment and find your own.
Some Christians flatly reject what they know to be God’s will for them and in rebellion break fellowship and wreck their lives. But many more drift out of vital touch with God through neglecting time with him, his book and his people and through compromising with the values of our age in little choices along the way. Where once he or she was hot for God, going for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, a coldness has seeped in. A love for self or for this world grows stronger. There is only one way to get off this dead-end detour back onto God’s mainline and that is to turn around and head back toward God, repenting of all sinful attitudes and actions, and pleading with him to restore the clear vision and the passion for him and a lost world.
What blocks your progress toward maximizing your kingdom effectiveness? Of course, don’t divorce your spouse, rather be careful in your choice. True financial freedom is found in spending less than you have. Steward well. Go for fulfilling God’s plan not your own. Obey! Though the stars fall, do right. Pray this for yourself and your children and grandchildren.
Accelerate toward full speed with God, avoiding every roadblock and enticing detour, and finishing the course designed for you with the strength he has pledged to supply.