“I Would Do Anything for…” was the title of the sermon I shared Sunday at my church. While not specifically a “Memorial Day” message, the main emphasis of the teaching did directly apply to the moment of tribute we offered in remembrance of those who gave their lives for our freedom. Those men and women truly were people who were willing to “do anything” for their country.
However, this sermon, which was part of our “Ideal Family” series, was focused on the distinct difference between “desire” and “will.” We desire many things – from nicer cars and bigger houses to more satisfying marriages and stronger, healthier families. And that desire is sometimes so strong we boldly express it as, “I would do anything for….” whatever “it” is. Sadly, though, the reality is that we rarely have the “will” to follow through with what it actually takes to acquire “it.”
This was the case with the young man who approached Jesus to proclaim, “I would do anything to have eternal life.” Jesus replied, “Really? Anything? What have you done already to pursue this?” The man quickly recounted the “good” behaviors and patterns of his life, the manner in which he had kept the commandments of God. Jesus then told him he only lacked one thing, which was very exciting to the young man – just more thing and he would have eternal life! The young man’s desire was at its peak – until Jesus explained what the one thing was: “Go sell everything you have, give it to the poor and come follow Me.” At this point it all fell apart. The man would “do anything” for eternal life – but he wouldn’t do that – and so he went away sad. (my paraphrase of Matthew 19:16-22)
I would imagine we all want better marriages, happier families, a closer relationship with God, less anger and shame in our lives, etc. And I’ll bet many of us have even said on more than one occasion, “I would do anything to have…” But when the Lord excitedly draws near to let us know how to obtain those things, it all seems to fall apart since what He most often tell us to do is “release the things you love most for yourself and you will be able to grasp what you desire.” Regrettably, like the young man who approached Jesus about obtaining eternal life, we often walk away sad, too, because we just will not release what we so tightly grasp for ourselves. We would do anything for…but we won’t do that.
One last thought. What if in response to the declaration, “Jesus, I would do anything for You!” the Lord simply said, “Really? Would you let church be about Me and not you? Are you willing to release what you love most about church for yourself and make Me the focus?” Allow me to share a short quote from Alex Murashko, the pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC:
- “We (church community at large) only care about our own needs being met because a spiritual narcissism has invaded the church,” he said. “There is a consumer mindset that has crept into the church and it’s not megachurches selling out the culture. The consumer mindset, the narcissism is within the believer, so you hear things like, ‘I need to go where I am being fed’ as opposed to feeding ourselves or maybe feeding someone else. We talk about ‘I need to go where I am ministered to’ as if that’s the goal of the church instead of you being the minister. We talk about, ‘Well, I just walked out of a worship service and I didn’t get anything out of it,’ which is heresy because the worship service has nothing to do with what you get out of it, the question is did God get anything out of it?”