The Footsteps of A Fool…

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” [1]

Some decisions change our lives forever.  Some decisions will cost of us everything in order to gain just one thing.  The world calls us fools, but the Father calls us faithful.  Loving God requires radical faith–one willing to give up much-desired temporal comforts in order to gain costly, eternal rewards.  It is a constant “death to self” that is usually painful. However, we survive by fixing our hope on the glory that is to come rather than in the painful price that is paid… the paradox is nothing short of a divine conspiracy rooted in God’s grace and love toward us.  He is so good and ready to give everything to those who are willing to lose all for His sake… Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added to you.

The Call of Elisha:

In the 19th chapter of 1 Kings, we are introduced to a man named Elisha. At first acquaintance, Elisha is in his field plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Only the most wealthy of farmers would have had so many oxen at their disposal.  As Elijah, the great prophet of God, passed by the young farmer, he anointed him as a prophet of God.  God had told Elijah (19:16) to transfer his power to this young prophet-in-the-making and he does so by casting his cloak upon him.

Elisha’s response is so fascinating.  He runs after Elijah, and Elijah tells him to go back home.  Elisha responds by returning back home so that he can burn the plowing equipment and sacrifice the oxen.  There was no turning back, and his radical behavior signifies a clear distinction between his former life and this new one. He’s been called as a prophet of God, and he burns every bridge necessary so that he’s not tempted to go back.  In fact, there are numerous times when Elijah–seemingly testing the young prophet’s resolve or trying to spare him the lonely life of a prophet–tells him to go away.  Elisha is persistent in his refusal to depart from his divine calling, because he counted the cost before he ever took the first step.  As a result, God used Elisha as a powerful instrument to proclaim His glory and deliver His grace…

It’s interesting that Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  Serving the King requires a single-minded pursuit. It casts off anything that hinders, retaining only that which aids in that one solitary, glorious mission.  It will be lonely, it will be difficult, but it is the only way to relentlessly pursue the calling of God upon the life of His servant. I wonder what sorts of plowing equipment we need to burn and which oxen we need to sacrifice in order to follow the calling that God has placed upon our lives–are we willing to give it up in order to pursue the selfless demands of the kingdom?

Calling the Disciples:

While walking by the sea of Galilee (Matt. 4:18-22), Jesus sees two brothers–Peter and Andrew–who are fishing.  He calls out to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.  And shortly thereafter, Jesus came upon two other brothers–James and John–who were also fishing with their father.  He called them as well, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.  There is no following the will of God half-heartedly…

This story, like that of Elisha, amazes me.  These men were so ready to leave everything they knew and had invested their lives into in order to follow Jesus.  The moment that He called them to something greater–serving Him–they dropped it all to follow hard after His footsteps.  Ridiculous.  We can hardly fathom it at first reading.  Yet, as we reflect on what is taking place, we begin to realize that responding to the call of  Christ requires a radical departure with our former way of life.  It’s a decision that is all-encompassing.  There’s no turning back and all temptations to do so must be left behind.  Not only is this true of a Christ follower, but it is even more important of one who is called to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.  A man of God is not only known by what he pursues, but by those things he’s willing to give up in order to maintain that pursuit.  He will give up lesser things to gain greater things, the things of this world to gain the things of the next, that which hinders to gain that which helps.

Therefore let us take up our crosses daily and follow Christ. For whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24). We must fix our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith as we cast aside the sin that so easily entangles (Heb. 12:1-3). We must pursue Christ with a relentless, single-minded passion that requires a radical willingness to give up good things in order to pursue greater things.

Such a willingness does not come naturally, and so we must ask the Spirit of God to strengthen us so that we will set our gaze upon the only One who is worthy of our passionate pursuit–in both the joy and the pain.  I am helplessly unable to do this on my own… but God is faithful to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible.  He will neither share His glory with another nor compete for the affection of His children.  If He has to repeatedly crush the idols of their hearts and pry their affection loose from created things, then He will do so in order that they might love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  This is a most brutal love, and yet it the only way for God to remain faithful to His people.  It is His mercy that He implants and sustains our undivided love for Him…  May God do this among us, for we cannot do it on our own.

[1] Jim Elliot, Journals. This can be found in the October 28, 1949 entry on page 174 (Chapter 4) of the 1978 hardback edition of the Journal and on page 108 (Chapter 11) of the 1958 hardback edition of Shadow of the Almighty.  Philip Henry (1631-1696), father of well known preacher and Bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714), was credited with a very similar saying: “He is no fool who parts with what he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with what he cannot lose.”


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