Find the Rainbow in Every Storm

Topical Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17

You and I are fallen people living in a fallen world. Success is not the avoidance of problems but learning how to redeem them. It is not a race run without stumbling, but a race completed by those who get up when they fall down. A famous CEO said on the news recently, “Leadership is solving problems—nothing else.” Faith is not the absence of fear—it is the decision to act when we’re afraid. It is learning to find the rainbow at the end of the storm.

Does a flood have you running for cover today? Are you camped out on an ark, trying to survive? Swimming in a rainstorm that won’t end? Why did this happen to you? How could God be loving and allow this, or even cause it? What do you do now?

We’re not the first to ask our questions, of course. But someone was. Let’s ask him for help today.

Meet Noah

“Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 8). “Favor” is the Old Testament’s word for “grace,” God’s love for his creation. He wanted to give this “favor” to all of mankind, but they would not accept his mercy. As we will soon see, they rejected every opportunity for salvation.

On the other hand, Noah positioned himself to receive such grace. Note that Noah “found” this favor—he did not earn it. Here’s how he “found” it: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (v. 9). His righteousness did not earn God’s favor, but it put Noah in position to receive what God wanted to give. He was by no means a perfect man—remember his drunkenness in Genesis 9. But he responded to God’s grace, for himself and his family. So can we.

Noah built his Ark for a hundred years in the face of ridicule and rejection: God “did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others” (2 Peter 2:5). Across these hundred years Noah did all he could to warn others. But everyone excepting his own family rejected his message and the grace of God.

And so a Flood obliterated all human life on the planet except for Noah’s family, and every living organism (presumably excepting fish, which are not mentioned). This is the record Genesis has left us.

Did the Flood really happen?

You remember hearing about Noah’s Ark when you were a child. Colorful pictures of a wooden boat with a tent-like roof, smiling animals parading two-by-two, an elderly, benevolent grandfather watching over the scene with his family. The stuff of nursery walls and church preschool rooms. A nice children’s story.

Is there a fact behind the fable? A real, universal flood? A real ark? I took seven pages of notes on this subject in preparation for today’s message. To summarize them:

There are fossil deposits around the world which seem to indicate a catastrophic event which caused massive, nearly instantaneous death, probably by flooding. Skeletons have been found in fissures located in hills 140 to 300 feet in height, cemented by calcite which must have been deposited under water.

Two hundred and thirteen different flood traditions have been found in cultures from all over the world. While there are marked differences in the details, all record a universal flood of cataclysmic proportions.

Noah’s Ark has been found to utilize exactly the right proportions for surviving such an event. The seventy thousand individual animals and species on board would comprise no more than 50 percent of the available space, leaving room for people, food, and provisions.

And the Flood was clearly divine in origin and end: “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7); “God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth and the waters receded” (Genesis 8:1).

If God created and ended the Flood, could he not superintend all that transpired in connection with it? Could he not transport the animals, keep them alive, and restore their habitats when they disembarked? Could he not return the earth to its antediluvian function so as to further his creative purpose for the Flood’s survivors?

Why the Flood?

A second, more difficult issue is raised by the Flood: How could a God of love do this to his creation?

Bill Moyers expresses this perplexing question well: “I would suggest that this is why a lot of people today cannot abide the Bible, or the faith, and they can’t come to terms with a God who would do this. We cannot avoid the question of God here because what God has done, so to speak, is to wipe out everybody in New York City—eight million people, except for the eight people sitting in this circle—because God’s unhappy with them.”

Why would a God who is love (1 John 4:8) send a Flood which would wipe out nearly all of humanity? And why would he include the rest of his creation, animals and life forms which are obviously innocent of sin?

Consider these facts:

One: Humanity was given an opportunity to accept his grace. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” to the world for the century he spent building the Ark.

Two: Death is inevitable for sinners, whether it comes “naturally” or by divine intervention. God’s word is blunt: “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Death comes to all who sin, for “the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Three: The Flood is not the only time in the Bible when God was forced to send his judgment against sinners. The children of Israel were instructed to destroy the Canaanite civilizations which inhabited their Promised Land; Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to ashes as well. If we cannot accept the Flood as divine in origin, we must discount much of the biblical description of God’s wrath and judgment against mankind.

Four: Those who refuse to accept such judgment must obviously reject the doctrine of Hell. And yet the eternal destiny of those who refuse God’s forgiving grace is taught clearly and consistently in Scripture. Critics of the Flood judgment eliminate much of God’s word with their rejection.

Five: The death of “innocent” animals and other life forms killed in the Flood was the necessary result of God’s judgment against humanity. There was no physical way to kill only humans. All other animals would have died eventually, some in just a few days or hours (cf. the insects).

So, what can we learn from this tragedy?

The Flood warns us against sin and its consequences.

For instance, consider Jesus’ warning: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:36–41). From Noah to today, we have known that sin leads to death, and that no one is safe from God’s judgment.

God will never end humanity in this way again.

“Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11). The Flood has made clear the effects of sin. Its purpose has been accomplished. Now we die individually for our sins, rather than collectively.

While the earth will not be destroyed by flood, it will come to its end one day.

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some of you understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:8–10).

We must be ready today.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:11–14).

Those who awoke on the morning of Noah’s Flood did not know that their last day had dawned. When you woke up this morning, you had no such expectations for this day, either. Neither did those who died on 9/11. Neither will those who are living when the Lord returns and the world as we know it ends.

You may go to him today, or he may come for us all. We are one day closer to the end of history than we’ve ever been before. I don’t know that history will end today. But I don’t know that it won’t. And neither do you.


Noah’s Ark can be yours today. Just as Baby Moses was saved in an ark (the word for “basket” in Exodus 2:3 is the same as Noah’s “ark”), so you can be saved in the “ark” of Jesus’ grace. Note that only one door was available to all who entered Noah’s Ark. In the same way, there is only one way into the ark of our salvation: Jesus Christ our Lord (John 14:6).

Why only one door? Because only one is needed. Every animal and creature could fit through Noah’s door, just as every human on this planet can come to God through Christ. To come to God through Christ, you need only ask Jesus into your life. If you will confess your sin to him and make him your Lord, he will make you God’s child today.

And if he is, he will never leave you or forsake you. The end of Noah’s story is good news for us all: Every storm ends with a rainbow. Whether you can see it or not. We’ve read the end of the Bible and know its outcome: We win. The sin which led to the Flood is nailed to Jesus’ tree. The wooden Ark led to a wooden cross. The rainbow of God’s mercy extends to the rainbow of Jesus’ love. There’s hope for us all.

A friend sent me a true story titled, “Billy Graham’s New Suit.” In January of 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon given in his honor. He initially hesitated to accept because of his health struggles of recent years, but the civic leaders assured him, “We don’t expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.” So he did.

After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum. He looked at the crowd and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century.

“Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively.

“The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’ Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.'”

Dr. Graham continued, “See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a bit slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. Do you know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.”

Is there a rainbow at the end of your storm?

It is Always Too Soon to Give Up on God

Topical Scripture: John 3:1–8

Super Bowl LIV will be played this evening. To celebrate, Americans will eat 1.3 billion chicken wings and eight million pounds of guacamole. In fact, we will consume more food today than on any day of the year except Thanksgiving. But beware: antacid sales will increase by 20 percent tomorrow, and 1.5 million Americans will call in sick.

And when the game is over, the “real world” will be waiting.

President Trump’s impeachment trial will continue this week. Whatever your position on impeachment and your thoughts regarding Mr. Trump, he is our president and we are called to pray for him (1 Timothy 2:2).

The other figure dominating the news has been Kobe Bryant. Coverage has focused on his basketball brilliance and his personal failings. Few have noted his Catholic faith, a commitment that became much stronger in recent years.

Last Sunday, two hours before he boarded the helicopter on which he died, Bryant prayed before the 7 am Mass at his parish church in Newport Beach, California.

Are you concerned for someone who does not seem to be moving in the right direction personally? Someone who is making the wrong choices, someone who seems to be retreating from God rather than moving closer to him?

Are you dealing with an area in your life that is not what God wants for you? The Puritans spoke of “besetting sins,” those areas of recurring spiritual failures in our lives. Are you struggling with such a sin and wondering if you’ll ever defeat it?

As we continue watching Jesus change lives, today we’ll meet a man who was a combination of political leader and celebrity. We’ll see what happened when he first talked with our Lord. Then we’ll see what happened years later. And we’ll learn that it is always too soon to give up on God.

Meeting Nicodemus

Our story begins: “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who a member of the Jewish ruling council” (John 3:1). This man had done everything his society deemed necessary for success. He was everything most of us want to be.

Nicodemus was powerful—in fact, he achieved more power than it is possible to possess in our society today. His name meant “conqueror of the people.” Clearly his parents envisioned great power for their baby boy. Imagine naming your infant son Napoleon or Alexander the Great. He was born with a gavel in his hand, bred for success, raised to conquer.

And he fulfilled his parents’ wildest dreams and fondest hopes. How many of us want our son or daughter to be president of the United States? A member of the Supreme Court? A senator or representative? Nicodemus did all that and more.

He was a ruler of the Jews, otherwise translated as a “member of the Jewish ruling council” (v. 1b). This group was known as the “Sanhedrin”—seventy men who constituted the Supreme Court of their nation. They possessed ruling authority over every Jew anywhere in the world. They were the court of final appeal. Even the High Priest was subject to their rulings.

If our nation had one ruling body which combined the power of the Supreme Court and the House and Senate, and also possessed authority over the president and the military, that body would be their Sanhedrin. And Nicodemus was one of its members. There was no more powerful position in all the land.

Nicodemus was wealthy as well. After Jesus’ assassination, he donated seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes to help bury his crucified body (John 19:38–40.). This was the kind and amount of burial material normally used only for a king and a very expensive gift.

He was part of the Jewish aristocracy, a very wealthy man. If Forbes magazine had run a profile on Israel’s richest men, his picture would have been in the article. Probably on its cover.

And Nicodemus was spiritual—one of the most religious men in the nation, in fact. He was a Pharisee (John 3:1). There were never more than six thousand of them in ancient Israel. Their name meant “Separated Ones,” for that’s what they were—separated from all ordinary life to keep every detail of the Jewish law. The dietary codes, Sabbath regulations, everything. They were the Marine Corp of ancient Israel, the holiest men on earth in the eyes of their culture.

And Nicodemus wasn’t just any Pharisee. He was “Israel’s teacher” (v. 10), a special kind of religious scholar, the man who taught other Pharisees their theology. Dean of the School of Theology, we would call him. We can find no more religious man in all the Scriptures.

If believing in God and being good could lead us to eternal life, it would have worked for Nicodemus. But it didn’t, because it can’t. Good works and intellectual belief are the wrong present to unwrap if you’re looking for heaven today.

Meeting Jesus

Our text continues: “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (v. 2). This is a remarkable statement and seems to be an amazing opportunity for Jesus to recruit this man to his movement.

However, our Lord’s response to Nicodemus would have made any political strategist cringe. After this powerful, wealthy, religious leader has complimented him on his miraculous works and divine inspiration, we’d expect the Galilean carpenter to be pleased, to affirm his admirer’s faith and faithfulness. His response is just the opposite: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God'” (v. 3).

Why did Jesus reply to Nicodemus in such blunt terms? How does his response help us find God and the eternal life he alone can give?

Admit your need of grace

The simple truth is that no one can “see the kingdom of God” in his or her own abilities. The “kingdom of God” is that place where God is king. Jesus defined the kingdom best in the Model Prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). God’s kingdom comes wherever and whenever his will is done.

Our problem is simple: none of us can do the will of God in our strength. None of us is powerful, wealthy, or religious enough to be perfect. God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Like Nicodemus, we need to be “born again.” We need a new life and a fresh start. We need to begin again, to get to that place of innocence which was ours when we were first born and had not yet sinned against God. We need to be as innocent as a baby, or we cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Ask for the new birth of God

Nicodemus was confused, asking Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Jesus responded: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). Then he explained, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v. 6).

In other words, “water” refers to our physical birth, just as being born of the Spirit refers to our spiritual birth. Such a gift cannot be quantified or manufactured by human effort any more than the wind can be controlled or predicted by human wisdom.

Jesus was clear on this: “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (vv. 7–8).

Three things God cannot do

John 3:16, the most famous verse in Scripture, summarizes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

A fellow student in my college preaching class delivered a sermon on this text under the title, “Three things God cannot do.” You thought God could do everything, correct? According to my friend, there are three things he cannot do.

One: He loves us so much that he cannot love us any more than he already does: “For God so loved the world.” Two: He has given us so much that he cannot give us any more than he already has: “that he gave his only Son.” Three: He has made salvation so simple that he cannot make it any simpler: “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

My friend was right. What was true for Nicodemus is true for any of us today.

Burying and serving his king

The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus ends without an ending. We aren’t told how Nicodemus responded or what he did next.

But fast forward. Later in Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders sought to arrest Jesus. Nicodemus responded to them: “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51).

After our Lord’s death, a wealthy man named Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for his body. Then we read: “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (John 19:39–40).

This was an extravagant act, one typically given to a king. Nicodemus’ sacrifice shows that he truly saw Jesus as the King of kings.

With this, Nicodemus leaves the pages of Scripture. Later tradition added that he testified on Jesus’ behalf before Pilate, that he was deprived of office and banished from Jerusalem as a result, and that he was baptized by Peter and John. Some say he was beaten to death by hostile crowds for testifying to his faith. It is also said that he was buried in the same grave as Stephen.


We cannot know any of that as historical fact. But we can know that a man who came to Jesus by night eventually testified for him by day and paid a high price to honor the one he came to serve as his king.

Nicodemus proves that Jesus can change any heart that is willing to be changed.

George Mueller was a great evangelist and orphanage director. At one point, he began to pray for the conversion of five men. He prayed for the first for eighteen months before he came to faith. He prayed another five years before the second man was converted.

Mueller prayed another six years before the third came to Christ. He prayed for the other two men for another forty years, fifty-two years in total, until both came to faith.

It is always too soon to give up on God.

How is this fact relevant to your soul today?

The Man Who Left Jesus Sad

Topical Scripture: Matthew 19:16–26

National Pizza Day is today. Americans should celebrate this day, since we eat one hundred acres of pizza a day, 350 slices a second.

In less fattening news, this morning we were treated to the first supermoon of 2020 as well. Native Americans called it the “snow” moon because it usually coincides with heavy snow.

Pizza won’t cost you much and looking at the moon won’t cost you anything. But a somewhat more expensive news item caught my eye this week: six homes sold in the United States last year for more than $100 million.

That’s the highest number of sales at that price for any given year in US history. One of them sold for $150 million. It’s known as the Beverly Hillbillies mansion, since its exterior was used to film the show’s credits.

About twice that number are on the market today. One goes for $165 million, with a twenty-thousand-square-foot main house and two additional two-story structures for guests. Another house for sale at $115 million was once owned by Sonny and Cher. A $110 million listing has a workout area described as a sports complex, complete with a chandelier.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau noted in 1750, “Money buys everything, except morality and citizens.” By contrast, Gertrude Stein said, “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”

Today, we’ll decide who was right.

If the world were a village of one hundred people, sixty-one of us would be Asian, fourteen would be African, eleven would be European, nine would be from Latin or South America, and five would be from North America. At least eighteen of us would be unable to read or write. Thirty-three of us would have cellular phones; sixteen of us would be on the internet. There would be eighteen cars in our village. Sixty-three of us would have inadequate sanitation.

You and I are members of the wealthiest generation in history. But research shows that our emotional well-being levels off once we achieve an annual income of $75,000. Additional income does not produce additional happiness. We need something more than money.

We’re watching Jesus changes lives of people who are willing to be changed. Today we meet a man known to history as the Rich Young Ruler. We’ll listen to their conversation and watch the man leave Jesus “sorrowful” (Matthew 19:22). Then we’ll decide if we’ll do the same.

Leaving Jesus “sorrowful”

Our story begins, “And behold, a man came to him [Jesus]” (v. 16). What do we know about him? Matthew tells us he’s young, Luke says he’s a ruler, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say that he is wealthy. Let’s explore further.

Luke 18:18 tells us that he was a “ruler,” someone in charge of a Jewish synagogue. A layman elected by his peers to this position. He governed the affairs of their local synagogue, selected the preachers and readers for the services, presided over the elders (a kind of board of directors), and generally ran the institution. A tremendous honor and great religious accomplishment.

Matthew 19:20 says that he is “young.” He had to be at least thirty to be a synagogue ruler; he’s probably just that, most likely the age of Jesus. He’s successful at an early age, with his whole life before him.

And he’s wealthy. In fact, Matthew 19:22 says that he had “great possessions.” The word means that he possessed fields, houses, and other property as well as great financial means. A real estate tycoon, we would say today.

In the eyes of the world, he’s just like us.

  • We’re religious. In fact, your attendance at church puts you in the top 36 percent of America, the average weekly church attendance. If you go to Bible study weekly, this puts you in the top 14 percent.
  • We’re not all young, but the median age of Americans is 38.2 years.

We may not think we’re wealthy, but we are. The average household income in America is $59,039.

Like this rich young ruler, most of the world would consider us to be religious, young, and wealthy as well.

But all his success is not enough for his soul: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:19).

Like most Americans, he thinks that eternal life is something we get from the things we do. If you’re good and believe in God, that’s enough. So, Jesus shows him that this won’t work. “Keep the commandments,” he tells him. He lists the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and fifth, then he summarizes them with Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The man says that he’s kept all these. So Jesus shows him that he has not: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v. 21). If you truly, perfectly, completely love your neighbor as yourself, you would sell what you have and give it to him. If you want to get eternal life through what you do, this is what you must do.

But the man won’t do it: “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22). He was the only man in all the Scriptures who came to Jesus in faith and left sad.

Jesus’ actions must have astonished his disciples. Here, at long last, is one of the elite ready to follow him. Someone with means and influence. Someone who can advance Jesus’ movement enormously. But Jesus sends him away sad.

Now he shocks them even further: “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 23). They thought just the opposite—wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and favor; the wealthy have the best chance of heaven. But they don’t.

In fact, it’s impossible: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 24). Some have suggested that the “eye of a needle” meant a small door in the city wall through which a camel could crawl. Others say that by changing one letter in “camel” we get “rope,” and that’s Jesus’ point. But it’s not.

When the bewildered disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 25). Jesus is blunt: “With man this is impossible” (v. 26a).

As impossible as shoving a camel through the eye of a needle. We cannot do it. We cannot keep the commandments and get to God. No matter our wealth or prosperity, our religious accomplishment or social status, our youth or energy. With man it is impossible to “get eternal life.”

But here’s the good news: “but with God all things are possible” (v. 26b).

How to leave Jesus happy

Now, what does this story say to us today? Let’s apply God’s word through two questions.

First, are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere? Can he send you anywhere, to do anything, to talk to anyone, to give anything you have to anyone in need?

If you will, be encouraged. You are doing exactly what Jesus wanted this rich young ruler to do, and all of us as well. You will leave Jesus happy today. If you will follow Jesus anywhere, and do anything for him, then for you the message is done today.

But if you’re not there yet, let me ask a second question: what is keeping you from complete commitment to Christ?

For this man, it was his money. Note that this was the only person Jesus ever asked to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. Not Nicodemus, or Zacchaeus, or Joseph of Arimathea, three famous wealthy men of the gospels. Just this man.

The reason was simple: his possessions possessed him. He had to sell them to gain his soul. This is not a condition for everyone to follow Jesus. But it was essential for this man, since his possessions possessed him..

Would you sell your possessions? If not, they possess you. Let them go today. Give them over to Jesus. Tell him that you’ll sell anything he wants you to sell, do with them whatever he says. Give them to him, right now.

Perhaps the issue keeping you from complete commitment to Jesus isn’t your possessions. Then, what is it? What possesses you?

Is it your career? Your vocational ambitions, which you are afraid will be compromised if you fully follow Jesus? Do you fear that you won’t get the promotion, or the position, or the status you want so much? If so, ask yourself: is it really wise to trade a forty-year career for the eternal rewards reserved only for those who fully follow Jesus? Is this a good career move?

Is it your time? I don’t need to sell my possessions, but I do need to sell my calendar. I must occasionally remember that the One who died for my sins loves me and knows far better than I do how to make my life significant. Every day I must surrender that day’s plans and agendas to his Lordship. What about you?

Is it your friends? When you have to choose between popularity with them and pleasing Jesus, does Jesus lose? Remember that Jesus died for you—did they? Would they? Remember that he knows the future, and all that is best for you—do they? Remember that he will be there for you through the hardest times of your life—will they? Remember that your eternal reward in heaven is based on pleasing Jesus, not popularity with your friends. Is putting friends before Jesus the right thing to do?

Is it your family? Under God, my family is my first priority. I will put them before my work, my ambitions, my friends. But will I put them before God? Will you? Can God ask you to do something which would appear to hurt your family? To make a sacrifice which will cause them to sacrifice as well? Know that he loves your family more even than you do. But know also that following him means putting him before everyone else, even them. Have you done this?


Giving everything to follow Jesus is worth the decision. He wants your best, every time. And he can give you a significance and joy in living which no possessions, career, ambitions, friends, or family can offer. Others will see Christ in you, if Christ is truly your Lord.

John Stott was one of the most effective pastors and theologians of our generation. Consider his observation:

“When we meet some people, we know immediately and instinctively that they are different. We are anxious to learn their secret. It is not the way they dress or talk or behave, although it influences these things. It is not that they have affixed a name tag to themselves and proclaimed themselves the adherent of a particular religion or ideology. It is not even that they have a strict moral code which they faithfully follow. It is that they know Jesus Christ, and that he is a living reality to them. They dwell in him and he dwells in them. He is the source of their life and it shows in everything they do.

“These people have an inner serenity which adversity cannot disturb; it is the peace of Christ. They have a spiritual power that physical weakness cannot destroy; it is the power of Christ. They have a hidden vitality that even the process of dying and death cannot quench; it is the life of Christ.”

I want this. Don’t you?