The Heart of the Matter
As I mentioned in my previous blog post about waiting, God dealt with me all day yesterday. I expected nothing less from Him. He is persistent, but gentle. I guess He knew He had to be. In the end He got what He was asking for and I prayed and meant what I prayed. Sigh. However, while I was battling instead of surrendering, He decided to show me a few more things and I thought I would share those with you. Perhaps it will make a difference if you find yourself in a situation where you are trying to decide whether to fight or to surrender. (Hint: If you are fighting with God, you might as well go ahead and surrender or you will be miserable.)
After I wrote the blog post, I called a close friend and read it aloud over the phone to see what her thoughts were about what I had written. While I was crying and trying to explain what God was doing in my heart, I brought up the subject of the story in the Bible we sometimes call the “Rich Young Ruler.”
The story is in three of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I mentioned to her that I felt like Jesus was looking at me and digging deep into my heart to find what I wasn’t giving up to Him. He knew I was waiting and that I was praying for answers and thanking Him for His promises, but He knew I wasn’t happy about it. So, He dug into my heart and pulled that out and showed it to me and said: “I want you to tell me that you don’t mind waiting.” I told her I felt like the young man in that story. He told Jesus everything he had done and Jesus showed him what he felt he could not give.
I really believe that I know how the young man felt that day. God was asking for what I didn’t know I could give. So, we decided to read that story and I read it in all three books. Here is what I found:
Each version of the story has something to add and is a little bit different. In Matthew, the story says the young man came to Jesus and he called him “Good Master.” Jesus proceeds with the question and asks why the young man is calling Him good, when there is none good but God, and then tells the young man that to enter into eternal life he must keep the commandments. The young man asks Jesus which commandments he needs to keep and Jesus lists them for him. Then the young man tells Jesus he has kept all those since he was a youth. He asks Jesus what is still missing and Jesus tells him that if he wants to be perfect then he needs to go and sell what he has and give to the poor and that he will have treasure in heaven and to come and follow Him. The young man when he heard this went away sorrowful because he had a lot of possessions. (Matthew 19:16-26 KJV)
I am running through this because I want to give you an overview of all three versions and then show you what I saw in them. So, let’s skip Mark’s version of the story and move to Luke:
Luke says a young ruler came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to inherit eternal life. He also says the young ruler calls Jesus “Good Master.” Jesus responds by asking him why he calls Him good and doesn’t wait for an answer, but proceeds to tell him that he already knows the commandments and lists them. The young ruler answers the same way saying he has kept all these from his youth. Jesus looks at him and tells him that he lacks one thing and gives the command to go and sell all he has and distribute to the poor and that he will have treasure in heaven and to come and follow Him. The young ruler was very sorrowful for he was very rich. (Luke 18:18-23) However, Luke does not say the young ruler went away. I want you to take note of that.
Now, let’s go to Mark’s version of the story. (P.S. If you are reading this J.A., I am sorry that I got Mark and Luke backwards when we were discussing it yesterday. Usually Luke is the one writing with compassion and emotion. This time it was Mark.)
Mark begins with…Well, let me just copy it here because I don’t want to leave anything out:
Mark 10:17-22 KJV
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Mark starts off with the man running to Jesus. That tells me his need was great. He knew Jesus was his answer and that is why when he knelt at His feet and he called him Good Master. He knew he was lacking something. He had done everything he knew to do, but something was missing.
Jesus still asks him why he called Him good, but He doesn’t wait for an answer. He then begins to repeat the commandments while the man waits. Now, this next verse is what pierced my heart. This man is kneeling before Jesus. He has poured everything out to Him. Jesus lists all the commandments the man already knows and tries to follow, but Jesus is just going through what has already been written. He knows this is not what is missing in the young man.
“And Jesus beholding him loved him…”
He saw the young man in his position at His feet and dug straight down into his heart to get to the root of the problem. Jesus knew what was going to happen. His compassion and His love overflowed for the young man even as He knew what He was about to ask would be the hardest thing the young man ever heard. When I read that yesterday it brought tears to my eyes again. Jesus will let us have our form of religion and holiness and rule following and when we come before Him and tell Him that we have done all these things He looks at us and loves us and then He reaches down into the heart of the matter to find the root of the problem. Mine went something like this:
I thank You for all You have done. I thank You for this day. Please forgive me of anything I have done that is not pleasing to You. Lord, I have thanked You every day for working a miracle in my friend’s life. You asked me to do that and I am doing it. I have written and posted and shared the Living Free videos. I have been open about what this has done in my life. Yes, I struggle and have to ask You for help, but I am doing all I know to do. Why is nothing changing? What do I lack? What is wrong? Why do things seem to get worse in some areas? Please show me what I need to do….
Does that sound familiar? Perhaps not, but that is me. Then Jesus looked at me and He loved me. Right there in all my emotionalism. He saw me…meaning He saw into my heart just like He did that day with the rich young ruler. And He sees that I have asked Him what else He requires, so He just goes for the heart of the matter….I need you to tell Me that you don’t mind waiting.
You see Jesus loved the rich young ruler and He knew everything about him. He knew that he was rich. He knew that he had possessions. He knew that his security lay in those things whether they were connections he had from his wealth, relationships he had, stuff he collected, or whether it was the security of the lifestyle he lived. Jesus knew the man was in a position where he could keep all the commandments and still live the life he wanted to live in the comfort of his wealth and possessions. He wanted his way AND eternal life. The heart of the matter was what he held dear and could not imagine living without. Jesus went straight for that because He knew the young man held all that above serving Him.
So…Jesus told him to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor and to come and follow Him. All of the versions say the young man was sorrowful because he had great possessions, wealth, etc… Mark says he went away grieved because he had great possessions.
Luke does not say he went away and I am hoping that in his grief he stayed somewhere on the sidelines because Jesus immediately went into the parable about it being hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
The disciples and those around Him were astonished and begin to question and Jesus tells them about the dangers of trusting in riches. Then Mark says:
“And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)
But that is not all. Peter then says to Jesus that they have left everything to follow Him. And Jesus says:
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30).
Somehow I cannot help but wonder when Jesus looked upon them that He was looking for that rich young ruler. I cannot help but hope that somewhere in his grief on the sidelines the young man heard the rest of what Jesus had to say. I hope he did not walk away with only half of the promise.
Jesus challenged him by getting to the root of his problem. He saw his heart and he spoke directly to it. Jesus had to know that young man would give up anything and everything to follow Him. He had to know it just wasn’t following a bunch of rules, but that the young man’s heart was truly sold out to Him. He had to know that no matter what He asked, the young man would be willing to do it. Jesus had to know that young man meant it when he called him “Good Master.”
I like to think the young man was still there and he heard what Jesus said in those next few verses. I like to hope that he didn’t leave defeated and hopeless. Luke did not say he went away, so there is a little loophole for my hope because if he stayed, he would have realized that Jesus doesn’t take anything away that He will not restore a hundredfold. Those verses prove it. That is not just talking about in heaven, but in this present life as well.
It reminds me of Job. We read forty-one chapters in Job where everything is taken away. It took me a while to realize what the root of Job’s problem was…it was pride. He considered himself a righteous man and self-righteousness is as filthy rags according to the Bible. God had to get to the heart of the matter with Job, so He allowed the captivity to come and the losses.
But, we have one chapter that gives us the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say. God restored everything, twice as much to Job. In Job 42:10 it says:
“And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
The word “captivity” stands out to me because of all I have been reading and watching lately. Job was bound by pride. The rich young ruler was also bound by pride and possessions and things and relationships and connections, etc… Neither were willing to give them up for God.
God knows what our hearts are holding back. He gets right to the heart of the matter. We are captive to those things we do not surrender to Him. He can only do so much with us when we are not completely surrendered. It is only when we realize and hold nothing back that He can come in and do what He needs to do.
God will never be indebted to us. If He takes something away, He will provide something else. If we give to Him, He will give back to us more. I want to believe the rich young ruler stayed around to hear the rest of Jesus’ message to him that day. I know Job stayed around and when God showed him where the root of the problem lay, he repented.
I have given my impatience to God. I was finally able to tell Him that I don’t mind waiting. I will continue to tell Him that each day and refresh it in my mind to keep my priorities straight just like I will continue give myself to Him again each day, so that I will be reminded to stay in full surrender to His will rather than my own.
I pray there is something in this that you can use, but if not it will serve as a reminder to me there is nothing worth holding onto if it comes between me and Jesus. He is a jealous God, but when we completely surrender He will come and give back to us far above what we held and considered precious and thought we could not let go.
I don’t mind waiting on you, Lord.
Until next time,