Pat Riley, a basketball coach famous for inspiring his teams to win, once said, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either IN or you’re OUT. There is no such thing as a life in-between.”
In sports, commitment is the difference between success and failure, but the principle does not apply only to sports. One of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, became rich because of his commitment to make money through investing. Fritz Kreisler, thought to be one of the greatest violinists of all time, was famous for his striving for excellence, constantly playing the violin and composing for it. Joe Girard, known as the world’s greatest salesman, discovered that success comes from wanting success so much, that you are willing to work harder than everyone else and work constantly to achieve it.
If we consider our commitment to serving our Lord, there is no such thing as a life in-between. We are either committed to the Lord or we aren’t. If we are more interested in earning money or excelling at sport or music, or preoccupied with a hobby, we are not dedicating ourselves to our Lord. Jesus did not say that we should not serve God and mammon — he said we cannot.
If we spend our time pleasing ourselves or seeking man-made goals, we are not committing ourselves to serving our God. In the Psalms we are told, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; Trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass. “ Solomon tells us “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”
What did Jesus mean when he said we must take up our cross and follow him? We have to give up what we want and be willing to endure hardship to do what Jesus wants. He is asking us to commit to serving him. From the Phillips translation, “If anyone comes to me without ‘hating’ his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine. The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple. If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn’t finish it!’… So it is with you; only the man who says good-bye to his possessions can be my disciple.”
Jesus makes it clear that to be his disciple requires total commitment. We are “out” — not his disciples — if we don’t “hate” everything else. The word “hate” does not have the usual sense of loathing, but means that the love we have for our parents, wife and family pales in comparison to the overwhelming love we have for Jesus. Our first priority, the love of our life, must be our love for our Lord. The promise Jesus gives is that by giving up our worldly goals and committing ourselves to him, we will be granted life, eternal life in the kingdom. Jesus tells us, “For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it.” There is no in-between; if we are not in — striving to serve our God with all our being, we will find ourselves out — outside of the kingdom of God with no hope of eternal life.
Unfortunately there are many who go through life uncommitted. They are wishy-washy, bouncing back and forth from one thing to another. James tells us: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James also said: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Are we committed? To what? Not only do we need to be committed, but also it is important that we commit ourselves to the Lord. We are to seek first the kingdom of God. The promise of eternal life will not be given to those who do not seek it. Many people are committed, but to the wrong things. The Warren Buffetts, Fritz Kreislers and Joe Girards of our world are excellent examples of total commitment to goals that at best bring fame and fortune for a brief time
What are we doing to show our commitment? If we have trouble thinking of any good works we have done, have we done any? Nehemiah asked in prayer, “Remember me, O my God, for good.” What good are we doing that God can remember us for? Even though there is nothing impossible with God, it is still impossible for Him to remember our effort to serve Him if we make no effort. Our work of service to our God does not need to be spectacular or full of heroic feats, but we do have to do something. Jesus tells us, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
How many elderly have we visited lately? How many widows have we helped? James tells us, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Jesus gives us a picture of the judgment seat: “Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ ” We pray that we may hear those words spoken to us. But Jesus does not stop there; he explains, “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ ”
Let us look at the examples of people who are highly committed and apply them to our walk to the kingdom. Let us be like Warren Buffett, but invest our time and resources into helping the needy and sharing the gospel message. Let us continually strive to serve more perfectly like Fritz Kreisler practiced his violin, by studying the word, working to serve others, and seeking opportunities to serve. Finally, let us desire the Kingdom so much that we work harder and longer in our Lord’s service, as dedicated to selling as Joe Girard is, but selling the good news of the gospel of Christ so that others can be saved.
Let us resolve to show the Lord our commitment to Him by the good deeds we are doing to serve Him and care for His other children. As Jesus said, “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Robert J. Lloyd