Imagine, for a moment, asking God what He wants from you. Not sarcastically or angrily. I mean genuinely seeking what the Master and Creator of the universe expects from you. This is a healthy exercise that can produce fruitful results if you are honest with yourself. Now imagine that, not only were you asking God what he wanted from you, but He was in the flesh, right in front of you. One man had this opportunity. Throughout the three gospel accounts of this interaction, (Matthew 19: 16-30, Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30) we understand that this man was young, wealthy and a ruler of some sort. This, of course, leading to the unavoidable coining of “The Rich Young Ruler”.
His exact question was “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”. Jesus told the man that he already knew the answer to that (Luke 18:20). They both knew the law of Moses. The young ruler knew he shouldn’t steal or murder. He even knew that he must love his neighbor as he loved himself. The young ruler confirmed this by assuring Jesus that not only did he know these things, he practiced as such. At this point, the common observer may be quite impressed with this young man. After all, he sure did seem to have life figured out. Not only was he uncommonly wealthy and of a high status, he was a faithful man of God. He was a man who managed to obey the commands of God. Jesus, however, was not so swept away. Scripture teaches us that Jesus doesn’t need men to tell Him what they have done. Jesus is a discerner of hearts (John 2: 24-25).
Jesus’ answer cuts to the root of the problem. “You still lack one thing.” What a sobering thought. One thing could keep you from heaven. One thing could eternally separate you from the Lord of Hosts. What was that one thing? Jesus told him to sell all that he had, give the proceeds to the poor and to follow Him. Is that the one command that the rich young man overlooked? Did he somehow not know that it was imperative that he not own anything if he were to inherit eternal life? Of course not! That wasn’t His point. Remember, Jesus is a discerner of hearts. To fully understand the point of Jesus’ answer we must first look at what the rich young man did next. He “went away sorrowful”. You see, the young man’s problem was not that he didn’t understand. It wasn’t that he could not do what Jesus commanded. It was simply that he would not do it. He lacked willingness. He lacked the true dedication to God. Instead, his dedication was in his own selfishness.
We are like this young man more often than we care to admit. How often do we know we are wrong or know what we should do and simply aren’t willing to do the right thing? Sometimes, we don’t want to put ourselves out there. It could be embarrassing, after all. It could mean we have to face rejection or ridicule. It may mean drawing unwanted attention to yourself. Sometimes, we don’t want to make a certain sacrifice. We would rather be comfortable and in the wrong than inconvenienced with a clean conscience. Paul said in Romans chapter 7 “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”. We have all felt this way before. We know what we should do but we don’t do it. Instead, we do what we know we shouldn’t do. What is Paul’s solution? “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1). Paul spends the first portion of Romans chapter 8 urging us to not be carnally minded. Paul tells us we must be spiritually minded. This is no easy task. We are constantly surrounded by carnal things. In our world today, we must do all we can to combat carnal thoughts and actions. This may include starting your day with a prayer. Maybe it would help to sprinkle bible study throughout your day or week.
Paul assures us that, if we stay focused and spiritually minded, the reward will be more than adequate. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:13). Don’t let one thing stop you from spending eternity with your Creator. Next time you get down on your knees or have moment of solitude, ask God “What must I do? What do I still lack?”. Maybe, in a moment of clarity or divine inspiration, your shortcoming will be revealed to you. Most of us, however, probably already have our suspicions as to where we could improve. Maybe that is why we don’t ask the question. We are afraid that those all too familiar flaws of ours will pop their ugly head up. Paul encourages us to deal with those flaws but he also assures us that God understands our innermost inadequacies. “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8: 26). What a comforting thought. We are not alone in our struggles. God Himself, understand us. We must rely on Him to give us strength and guidance as we grow and improve.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine” – John Maxwell