“Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
Andy Andrews, in his novel The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective, introduces us to Jones, an older man of indeterminate age, who pops up and into the lives of people in a southern beach community, dispensing “perspectives” on their life situations, providing each of them with hope and new directions. It is a feel good book, with each scene presenting a story with two futures: one future, offered by Jones, points towards new beginnings and prosperity of spirit; the other future is a continuation of the protagonist’s current attitude and situation that are leading to darkness and sorrow.
I enjoyed the hopefulness of the book; all who received Jones’ advice were changed. But I could not help thinking that in real life Jones’ batting average would be much, much lower. Can’t we all think of times when we ignored good advice? What springs to your mind when I say any of the following words: diet, exercise, relationships, financial stewardship, pride, envy, integrity, and patience? Can’t we all say, as Pogo (Walt Kelly’s cartoon character) said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us?”
Stubbornness is part of the human condition, as is an aversion to change. We are quick to see the need of others to change, and slow to see such needs in ourselves.
Sometimes our refusal to change has eternal consequences. Consider the encounter between Jesus and the rich young ruler. The account in Mark reveals the young man was desperate to meet Jesus (he literally ran to Jesus, falling at his feet). His need was urgent; eternity was on his mind as he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Imagine his disappointment when Jesus told him what he already believed: follow the commandments. You see, he had already done that, and it hadn’t worked for him any more than it works for us. Besides, his heart had betrayed him that he had not truly kept the commandments because his doubts—his sadness, persisted. Jesus, loving him, offered him the truth saying, “One thing you lack… come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
But all the ruler heard, all that he focused on, was, “sell everything and give to the poor.” And since he had much, and was a slave to it, he departed sorrowful and without the very thing he was seeking.
God does not always confront us with eternity; sometimes our refusal to take good advice just robs us of God’s best. Jesus says to us “follow me.” It is very good advice, and to follow Him is to obey Him. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21a). He also said, ”Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). Ignoring Jesus’ words is unwise, like building a house on sand.
Sometimes I live on beachfront property—a nice, wide, sandy beach.
One morning, out of nowhere, my mind quoted “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1b). Sin is disobedience to God. George Carlin made a comedy routine about people’s “stuff,” making fun of what we so often value that is value-less to everyone else. Some sin is like that—it becomes so comfy-cozy it clings to us like a soft blanket. Here are three examples of sin that we refuse to shed in sheer disobedience to Scripture.
- Anxiety. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matthew 6:25a). Jesus’ bold statement was based upon the Father’s love for His children as well as the Father’s supreme power over all of His creation. Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Anxiety is a natural human emotion and can serve a good purpose, but to be in a constant state of anxiety demonstrates a lack of faith in God. Only God has the power and authority to deal with whatever is creating our anxiety, and only God is good enough to do so.
- Gratitude in all circumstances. Attached to the admonishment of “being anxious for nothing,” Paul said, “but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Did you ever hear the joke about the person who prayed for patience and got more problems in order to gain the perspective needed to demonstrate a patient attitude? Sort of a spiritual “Murphy’s Law.” We are not wired to be thankful for difficulties—yet the Scripture is clear on this point. A grateful heart is open to receiving words of healing and grace, open to possibilities, and aware of God’s goodness.
- Unforgiving spirit. I’m not being the one to throw the first stone here, but didn’t Jesus command us to “forgive others as we have been forgiven?” Read Matthew 18:21-35 to hear Jesus’ warning against an unforgiving spirit. Unforgiveness punishes only you.
Not all advice is good advice, unless it comes from God. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Offer to God your willing spirit of obedience, even in the little things—the sins that cling so close—and enter into His rest.