Then Jesus called the crowd to him, along with his followers. He said, “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing even to give up their lives to follow me. Mark 8:34 (NCV)

It’s one of the ultimate dichotomies of the Christian life. Jesus taught on several occasions that if we want to be greatest we must be least; if we want to be strong in our faith we must be as a child; if we want to see God work in mighty ways we need to give up trying in our own power.

I like how the New Century Version translates Jesus’ words in Mark 8. “If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want.” His words seem contradictory at first glance. Doesn’t God tell us in the Old Testament that if we obey his law he will provide for us? Doesn’t Jesus himself tell us in other places that if we obey him he will be with us always and give us the desires of our heart? Don’t the other New Testament authors challenge us to live Godly lives so we can see him working in our lives?

So what gives? What is Jesus trying to tell us about getting the things we want and/or need?

What Jesus is telling us here is to take a close look at the difference between what the world provides for us and what he can provide for us.

We all want to be accepted and respected. But the world’s standards for acceptance are based on our abilities, our looks, our status, our performance. None of these matter to Jesus. His acceptance of you has nothing to do with your looks, your body shape, your report cards, or the number of awards hanging on your wall. He accepts you because he loves you. You can do nothing to gain more of his acceptance.

We seek security. Security in most people’s minds is measured by the amount of money we have in our bank account, the size of our retirement fund, the size of our house and the amount of our toys. In our struggling economy we’re learning the hard way that money offers no security. Retirement accounts have been wiped out. Once secure careers have ended abruptly. Security doesn’t come from money. Jesus says, you want security? Look at my track record. I’m the same today as I was yesterday. I’ll be the same tomorrow. You can trust me.

We want love. Love, for many people is defined by relationships with other people. We fall into love because love makes us feel accepted. Love gives us security. Love encourages us to be all we think we want to be. But all too often we realize that love relationships aren’t secure. All too often relationships lead to feelings of rejection rather than acceptance. Once again the things we ‘want’ slip from our grasp. Once again Jesus says, “I’ll love you. Your mistakes won’t make me reject you. Even if you are unfaithful to me and cheat on me, I’ll still be here when you come back. There is nothing you can do to make me love you more than I already do. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you.

Acceptance. Security. Love. Give up seeking these things that you work so hard to find. You may find them for a season here on earth, but they will fail you. When you are willing to give up seeking for the things you want and turn to Jesus he will bring them into our life.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus giving up to receive is hard. I seek comfort in so many things that don’t last. Help me to let go of my desires so that you can give me the things I strive to have in my life. Amen.