“Jesus, what must I do to have the best year ever?”

Seems like an appropriate question to begin 2018. Reminds me of a similar question a rich young man once asked Jesus. Mark records in chapter 10 of his gospel that this man approached Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus instantly responds by asking why the young man called him “good” when no one is completely good except God alone. The entire conversation would have taken a totally different direction had the man replied, “That’s right, Jesus. None is good except God alone and you are God which is why I called you good.” But alas, that was not the case.

At any rate, Jesus then recounted the portion of the Ten Commandments related to how people should interact with other people and the young man confidently stated that he had faithfully kept all of them since boyhood. Then Jesus got to the heart of the matter and told the man he lacked but one thing, which could be remedied by selling all his goods, giving the proceeds to the poor and then following Jesus.

Jesus brought the whole matter down to an issue of trust. Actually, misplaced trust. Would the young man recognize that he was trusting in his riches, that money had become his god and source of fulfillment, and then be willing to transfer that trust to Jesus and worship Jesus as God? Well sadly, in this instance, the young man left sad and disheartened, having chosen to remain more dependent on currency than Christ.

Interestingly, the response from the Lord to the contemporary question, “Jesus, what must I do to have the best year ever?” will likely be the same: “Where is your trust rooted?” Unfortunately, many of us will not even get close enough to Jesus to ask the question, much more wrestle with the answer. We tend to maintain a “minimum safe distance” from God. A close friend sent me an excerpt from a blog he follows (www.gatherministries.com/wire-2); let me share it with you.

Have you gotten to where you stay at a “minimum safe distance” from God, for fear of what he might ask – what assignment he might put on your heart, what calling he might put on your life? Do you ever worry, if you allow yourself to get too close, he might leverage his position to press you to become … say … a monk in the mountains; or a missionary to Africa; or evangelist at your work; or confessor to your friends; or something else, equally disrupting to your plans?

For many of us, fears like these characterize our relationships with God. You see, we know the plans we have for ourselves – plans for good things ahead – and we trust ourselves to know what’s “good.” So, we’re wary of potential disruptions, even from the God we love.

King David wrote, though, it’s precisely when we close the distance to God that we actually discover what we’ve been looking for, all along:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:4-5)

Not the “boredom of your heart” or “annoyance of your heart” or “frustration of your heart” – the “desires of your heart” – what you’ve always wanted, but haven’t found. Again, the key is trust.  We must trust that the God of the universe might know better what is, in fact, “good” for us. And we must trust the he wills our good and knows how to bring it about, even if it is through a painful process, like asking the rich young man to give it all away in exchange for the very thing he was looking for.

So, here are some thoughts for 2018:

  • Dare to move beyond the minimum safe distance and become desperate to be with Jesus
  • Ask the Lord to reveal to you the things or people you trust more than him (and write them down)
  • Do something that simply doesn’t add up simply because God asks you to – because with God nothing is impossible.

Pastor Jim