“I have something you need to write about” my sister said with a hint of amusement in her voice.
After much planning, dreaming, and anticipation, her family’s Disney World vacation was finally just around the corner. Yet strangely, my five year old niece, “princess” Ava, who had formerly been elated at the prospect of meeting all her sister-princesses from Disney, began to have second thoughts. She had learned that her school would have their annual Oktoberfest in her absence and the thought of missing this event began to weigh heavily on her mind. After all, she had experienced Oktoberfest before; she was familiar with it; she knew what it was like and what she could expect. In addition, all her friends would be there. So she was certain she would have a good time. Disney World, on the other hand, she did not have first-hand knowledge of. Though my sister and her husband had told her repeatedly what exciting things awaited her there and how she would love it SO MUCH MORE than Oktoberfest, she was still having a hard time being convinced by their testimony alone. She wrestled with the idea of having to give up something she knew for the opportunity to experience the unknown. Thus she attempted to persuade her parents that she would prefer to forgo her long-awaited adventure to Disney World in order to stay home for the 2-hour tried and true event ~ where she could at least rely on getting to stick her head in a tub of water to bob for apples. (Really?) As my sister related this in awe to her husband, and later to me, she pondered how often God must feel as she felt in that moment ~ trying to convince His children that what He has planned for us is so much better than what we think we want.
She related this to how absurd it must seem to the Lord that so many choose the broad road of following the flesh/world, though He’s told us where it will end, and so few believe Him enough to choose the narrow road of following Him, though He’s told us eternal life in His Presence and the incomprehensible wonders of Heaven await us at this road’s end.
This brought to mind, Matthew 16:26
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
The Lord immediately brought to mind the story of Jacob and Esau, reminding me of how often people make the mistake of exchanging their “inheritance” for a “bowl of stew.” This can certainly apply in the most critical and tragic sense to decisions regarding eternal Inheritance/Destiny, as my sister and I had previously discussed. But the Lord also began to relate this in my mind to decisions regarding the fulfillment of our earthly destinies ~ to all the things God tries to convince us are worth the cost of giving up in order to have His will and plan for our lives. How many times are we, like Esau, tempted to trade our birthright/destiny for a bowl of stew? How often do people settle for something far less than what they were meant to be/have/do? We’re prone to falling into the same trap as Esau when we place a higher value on instant gratification than we do on inheritance. Though the flesh screams for the easy way to get what we want in the moment, God’s Spirit counsels us to place a higher value on what’s truly best for us in the long run, even if it means we have to temporarily suffer or sacrifice what we want right now. While this can have a multitude of applications, I realized it was further confirmation of things He’d already been speaking through the “Choosing the Glory Road to the Utmost Life” notes (pts 1-3). Not only do we face choices between good and bad in life, but as mentioned in part 2 of that series, we often face choices between good and best. These choices we make, whether in small, seemingly insignificant, daily decisions, or at more significant crossroads that we recognize as critical junctures, can determine whether we will reach the ultimate fulfillment of the destiny He designed us for. Will we choose the comfortable, convenient, familiar, more socially acceptable, road of least resistance ~sacrificing what we most want in order to get what we want now? Or will we forge ahead on the uncomfortable, inconvenient, unfamiliar, unpopular, road of obstacles and opposition to reach God’s best purpose for us and His Kingdom ~ suffering and sacrificing now to ultimately have what we most want later?
Next the Lord showed me that Ava’s dilemma also illustrated another message He’d been speaking to us recently ~ the truth that sometimes we have to LET GO of what we already have in our hands in order to receive what He has in His. Ava had to LET GO of something she wanted (and had previously possessed) and empty her hands of what she was trying to hold on to in order to have open hands to receive the new thing that was planned for her – the EXCEEDINGLY-ABUNDANTLY-ABOVE-ALL-SHE-COULD-ASK-HOPE-OR-IMAGINE-BETTER thing. I realized this was more confirmation of a sermon He’d led us to listen to a couple of days earlier (which was packed with timely words for us). The message, “If you can give it up, you can have it all,” also emphasized how at times God requires us to give up what we have in order to get what He has for us next.
The very next morning, I was AMAZED to see more precise confirmation of this through John Hagee’s devo:
You Have To Give Up What You Have… To Get What God Has For You!
Some of you … are tired and exhausted. Quitting looks good and victory seems impossible. But Egypt is not your inheritance, the promised land is. Forget what is behind and press on to what God has for you. … You have to give up what you consider good for what God says is better. Why is it that when God gives us something, we roll it up and hold on to it like a bulldog biting the last bone in the world? We say, “I’ll never give this up.” God says, “I have something better for you,” but you don’t believe it. If God is trying to take something away from you, let him. Because what he replaces it with will be milk and honey, not the mud pits of Egypt. (Copyright, JHM Ministries)
With this confirmation, I knew this theme truly was something God not only wanted to stress to us at this time, but was also for us to share (as my sister originally suggested). (We received other beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt confirmations as well, including an email from a dear friend while I was finishing this post, sharing that she believes God’s calling her family to leave something good for something GREAT!)
I’m happy to report that Ava did relinquish Oktoberfest and made the long journey to Disney World. And once she began to get a taste of all that was in store for her, there was no more question of whether her sacrifice was worth it. She was so enthralled by the experience of her first roller coaster (Big Thunder Mountain – the only one she was tall enough to ride 🙂 ) that she could not stop proclaiming to everyone she encountered how GREAT the ride was. To the amusement of everyone around, she threw her arms around my sister’s legs exclaiming, “Thank you, Mommy! Thank you, Mommy! Thank you, Mommy!” repeatedly. I can’t help but wonder if some of her uncontainable gratitude was due to the realization of all she would have missed out on if her parents had let her, with her limited knowledge, choose to stay home, in her comfort zone, with what was familiar, and where all her friends would be, instead of insisting that she trust them and take this adventure into the great unknown.
I pray that God will help all of us recognize anything He’s saying we must let go of, lay down, or sacrifice in order to receive and take hold of the new thing, the better thing, the best thing that He’s trying to give us. May none of us KEEP anything that will cost us the fulfillment of our destiny. I pray none will hold onto what’s comfortable, convenient, familiar, and popular in exchange for our promised land. May we have razor-sharp discernment to recognize every choice not only between good and bad, but good and best – between every Oktoberfest and Disney World – between every bowl of stew and our inheritance – and have the wisdom, strength, and courage to choose best.
Blessings and Prayers,
Father, we come before you again in the Name of Jesus and lay all on the altar. We declare that there’s nothing we have that we esteem as being worth more than knowing You and knowing and fulfilling Your will for our lives. Help us recognize and identify anything that’s hindering or holding us back from doing so. Help us realize anything You’re putting your finger on that You’re asking us to walk away from/let go of/remove from our lives, whether bad or even just good, so we’re able to receive what You say is BEST. Please help us understand what You’re asking of us and help us obey without delay. Father, our lives are worth NOTHING to us except that we may fulfill the purpose for which you created, called, appointed, and SENT us. We lay everything down and open our hands wide to You.