There’s a very revealing scene in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, as Harry encounters the Mirror of Erised. Watch it here and the first couple minutes of here, then consider:
• What do you think of Dumbledore’s statement “It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live”? How were Harry and Ron in danger of doing that?
• When has a dream caused you to “forget to live,” even briefly? What snapped you out of it?
“Your life is shaped by the end you live for,” said Thomas Merton. “You are made in the image of what you desire.” Over the last several Wednesdays, we’ve looked at some of the things we value—family, work, and relationships. And we’ve explored how God can use us wherever he’s put us. Today, we move past even that.
God has often blessed us by giving us the desires of our heart. The thing about following Jesus, though, is that he keeps us moving. In fact, we’re never going to reach our destination here on earth. If we’re following Jesus, we’re always going to be moving forward, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. And moving forward almost always means leaving things behind—even good things. At the very least, as Jesus changes us, our relationships with whatever or whoever comes along with us will also be changed.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this in The Cost of Discipleship, “The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world…We must face up to the truth that the call of Christ does set up a barrier between man and his natural life.”
As Jesus changes us, we begin to let go of whatever keeps us from following him. Sometimes that’s sin. Sometimes it’s our personal agendas or ambitions. Sometimes we let go of lifelong dreams because they’ve become our idol. Sometimes we even let go of something good so God can give us something even better.
On your own, read either one or all three of the following passages: Mark 8:27-38, Luke 10:38-42, and Hebrews 11:8-19. In each of these passages, God challenges someone to give up something good for something better. After reading, reflect:
• What good things did the person in this passage give up? What better things did God offer, and why were they better?
• How did those good things stand in the way of what God really wanted for the person?
• Think about a time God prepared you for something, but it meant letting go of something else. Why do you think God wanted you to let go of it? What were the results?
• Now, think about a time you gave something up to God and he gave it back to you. What had changed, and why?
• Why do you think God often doesn’t show us “the better thing” until we’ve given him the thing he’s asked us to give him?
• How can something we enjoy, or something we find rewarding—even something we know God gave to us—become wrong for us, even sinful?
As C.J. Mahaney says in his book The Cross Centered Life, “Whatever’s of first importance to you might be a good thing. It might be a perfectly honorable, perfectly legitimate thing. And your life might be so wrapped up in it that you have trouble imagining it being of secondary importance.” And the Apostle Paul said this:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7-14, NIV).
In closing, reflect on these questions:
• What is the one thing—no matter how good or bad it is in itself—that you sense God is calling to you to surrender right now?
• What better thing do you sense, even now, that God may want to give you?
• Even if the answer to the last question was “I don’t know,” are you willing to trust God anyway?
If something came to mind, decide now in your heart that you’ll commit to giving that thing to God. Decide that no matter how many times you might fail—how many times you take it back—that as you come to trust God more and more with that thing, he will help you to let it go. Ask God quietly right now to help you so that he can give you the things he really wants for you.
If you’re comfortable doing so, turn your palms downward as if you’re releasing that thing. Now turn your palms upward to receive what God wants to give you—even if you have no idea what it is.And may God put more into your hands than you’ve ever imagined.