That One Thing

We all have that “one thing.” You know, that “one thing” that we hang on to for dear life. For some, the one thing is a career. For others, it’s something material (like a keep-sake from a relative). For many, the one thing is relational (e.g. a spouse, a children or a parent). To be clear, these things represents idols in our lives. This means that, for the Christian, the question becomes, “Are you willing to give that thing up for Jesus?”

Culturally, this seems to be a seasonal question… especially during the time of Lent. Many people (myself included) have given up things like soda, social media, sugar, eating out, meat, etc. during Lent. The idea is that, by giving something up, you are able to use the additional time to spend with Jesus. This is a helpful practice that is aimed at reminding us of the importance of spending time with the Lord. However, people often tend to give up things for Lent that exist at the periphery of their lives. For example, it’s not likely that caffeine is a central / controlling idol in your heart. But, what if God were to call us to give up our “one thing.”

That’s the heart of what God is really asking from us. If you and I aren’t willing to lay down that “one thing,” that is simply revealing that Jesus is not our “only thing.” A passage that demonstrates the gravity and the simplicity of this calling is the passage of the rich young man found in Matthew 19. We see in that text a wealthy young man who recognizes that Jesus is someone who has the answers to life’s most important question… which is why he calls Jesus a “good teacher.” This is what Matthew records for us:

“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “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.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:16-22)

The man asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus responded by asking the man for his “one thing.” For this man, that “one thing” was money. Jesus knew that money was an idol in the life of the rich young man and that he was not willing to give that up. Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t have any money so that isn’t something I need to worry about.” Ah, but you do have a “one thing.” Yours might not be money; it might be comfort and security. Your “one thing” might be your kids or the illusion of control that you enjoy.

As a part of the First Steps discipleship process at Heartland we discuss, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” by Rosaria Butterfield. In that book, she makes a piercing statement about security and the calling of God’s people to show gospel hospitality. Butterfield writes, “My prayer is that you will stop being afraid of strangers, even when some strangers are dangerous.” This resonates with most of us all too well. We all likely have “those people” that we don’t go around, because they might be “dangerous.” We don’t want to invite that neighbor over for dinner because, well, you know. This is how far too many Christians think.

It is important that we remember that Christ never guaranteed our comfort or our safety. Hanging on to these things is nothing more than a form of idolatry in our lives. James 4:13-15 reminds us of this very fact — that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, that our lives are short in relation to eternity, and that everything fits under the sovereign will of God. The question is, “Are you willing to rest in that?”

I think of the timeless lyrics to the hymn, “I Surrender All.” “I surrender all; I surrender all; All to Jesus blessed Savior; I surrender all.” This line summarizes so well the heart of the Christian life. And this represents the challenge for each of us — we are called to surrender everything to Jesus. We are called to let go of the “one thing” that we are clinging to that is keeping us from fully clinging to Jesus. Let’s repent and run fully into His arms to find rest, knowing that He is worth it all. Jesus is not just “one thing,” He is the “only thing.”

Austin Strange