A good friend of mine is a worship leader who often shares beautiful words of encouragement before, during or after a song. One Saturday morning at a church women's breakfast, she was talking about "sacrifice" - how difficult it can be to bring some of the things we're holding onto to the Lord and give them over to Him, letting go - and the following picture came to my mind:
I "saw" a little monkey on a dry sandy beach, trapped with his fist in a cage – I have no idea if anyone anywhere in the world actually traps monkeys this way, but I’ve heard this used as an illustration before: the slats in the cage are too thin for the monkey to withdraw his hand unless he lets go of the bait, so the monkey is captured because he holds on to the food - in this picture, it was half of a bruised - brown - mushy banana.
The “price” of this freedom and bounty? Turn from that poor excuse for a meal that's really just bait in a trap – let go of that rotten little piece of brown banana that only looks good to a hungry, desperate monkey who can’t see what God really has for him, because he’s facing away from the beautiful jungle. He can’t see that it’s really a decoy, expertly placed by one who wants to steal his life, his freedom and his future. I want to cry out, “Turn around, you foolish little monkey!” What you think you want is not truly good! Turn around - see God's beautiful, abundantly good will for you and be free!
Then I thought – in light of what the worship leader had said – “Sacrifice? What sacrifice?” Is it really a “sacrifice” to give up that little piece of mushy brown banana in a cage, when there’s a whole jungle full of fresh food and freedom just over your shoulder?
A rich young ruler walked away sorrowful because he couldn’t let go of his possessions, so Peter asked Jesus about disciples who’d “left all” to follow Him:
“Yes," Jesus replied, "and I assure you, everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, as well as receiving eternal life in the world to come."
"Yes," said Jesus, "and you won't regret it. No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children - whatever - will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!"
The real “sacrifice” happened at the Cross – now we “give up” life without God for the glorious riches of an eternal inheritance with Him. Like the widow described in Mark 12:41-44 & Luke 21:1-4, when we give Him all we have, it’s really just a “mite” – the value of about two pennies – compared to the treasures of our new life in Christ. And, as the scriptures above point out, the rewards and benefits of this exchange are not just for heaven!
Another friend recently mentioned “losing ourselves” in God, which reminded me of another statement Jesus made:
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.
So we don’t really “lose” anything in Christ, do we? In Him, we find our true identity and abundant life.
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
[John 10:10 MSG]
Speaking of food, consider the young boy mentioned in John 6 - who gave up his lunch to feed 5,000 people (including himself) - compared to Esau, who sold his precious inheritance to satisfy a temporary appetite (Genesis 25:29-34; also Hebrews 12:14-16). Like that little boy’s lunch, we can be confident that those things we place into God's hands will come back to us in a much better way – and, like Abraham’s willingness to lay his son Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22), the things He really wants us to have will survive any “sacrifice.”
So… what is that rotten little banana in your hand? Let it go, and turn around to see the beautiful freshness God provides for you – a life of abundance and freedom in Him!
“Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near."
[Matthew 3:2 NLT]
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
[Luke 12:32 ESV]
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in Him!
[Psalms 34:8 NLT]