One morning while we waited for Ricky to bring our breakfast, Stan asked, “You ever think how often people say that they can’t do such and such, when what they are really saying is that they won’t do it?”
“Can’t versus won’t,” I replied. “Yeah, I’ve seen that a lot, especially when I look in the mirror!”
“I know all too well what you mean,” Stan said. “Many times I have been just like the fellow in Matthew’s gospel referred to as ‘the rich young ruler,’ except I’m not rich, young, or a ruler!”
“If you’re not rich, young, or a ruler,” I replied, “in what ways are you like him?”
“Let’s do a quick re-cap,” Stan said. “You probably remember the story, but there was this rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus gave him a list of things, the young man said, in essence, ‘Been there, done that’.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “and then Jesus told him there was one thing that he needed to do.”
“That’s right,” Stan replied, “Jesus told him that he needed to sell all that he had, distribute it to the poor, and follow Jesus.”
“It’s like Jesus was telling him what he needed to do to be a disciple and to have a personal relationship with Him.”
“Right again,” Stan said, “and when the young man heard what Jesus said, he became sad because he was very rich. He left and, as far as I know, he was never heard from again.”
“So,” I said, “the young man missed eternal life and all that it means because he couldn’t do what Jesus said.”
“This is what we mentioned earlier,” Stan replied, “it wasn’t so much that he couldn’t, but that he wouldn’t. The young man didn’t have so much stuff that Jesus couldn’t have helped him divest his assets if that is what the young man had chosen.”
“It seems to me,” I commented, “that maybe it was that the young man was more interested in keeping what he had, rather than getting what Jesus offered.”
“Just like a lot of us,” Stan replied. “Jesus tells us what to do to be a disciple, but we are too quick to say that we can’t do that, that He’s asking too much of us, when the fact is that we are choosing not to do what He says in denying self, taking up what He has for us to take up, and following Him.”
“Following Him,” I said, “wherever, however, and whenever, which is always.”
“Not always easy,” Stan commented, “but look at the alternative of missing out on all that is available by changing the ‘can’t’ to ‘can’ and the ‘won’t’ to ‘will.’”
Bible verses to consider:
The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property. Matthew 19:20-22.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your provision of life eternally with you when my time here is completed. Thank you for those who brought me to the truth so I could accept your free and gracious provision. Thank you, too, for the truth of discipleship that is to occur while you leave me on this side of eternity. I confess that too often I do not do what you require for being a disciple, in that I do not deny myself, I do not take up what you have for me to take up, and I do not follow as you intend. Please forgive the foolishness of not being a disciple wherever, however, and whenever you have for me. Please help me in following every step of your lead just as you intend. Thank you that I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Have you accepted God’s free and gracious provision of life with Him eternally when your time here is completed? If no, why? Consider what it keeping you from that and ask yourself if it is worth being separated from God for eternity. If you are a Christian with the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing with being a disciple? If you sense the need to truly deny yourself, truly take up what God has for you to take up, and truly follow wherever, however, and whenever, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?