Finding and Losing Your Life

Matthew 10:24-39

      He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life because of me will find it. As you might guess, I have a few changes to this biblical translation after looking at the Greek and Aramaic options.

     This is what I came up with: “He who gives energy to his driving-passion will go astray, and he who surrenders his driving-passion because of me will give energy to it.”

     Here’s a story that supports the idea: James L. Kraft, the founder of Kraft Foods, decided as a young man that he wanted to be the most famous manufacturer and salesman of cheese in the world. He planned on becoming rich and famous doing it.

     After making his cheese, he would load his wagon, hitch his pony to it and walk down the streets of Chicago to sell the cheese. After months of long hours and hard work, he got worried because he was not making any money.

     One day, talking to his pony, he said, “There’s something wrong. We’re not doing it right. We have things turned around and our priorities are not where they ought to be. Maybe we ought to serve God and place him first in our lives.”Kraft then made a covenant that for the rest of his life he would first serve God, listen for God’s guidance, and then work as God directed. The rest is history.[1] Who hasn’t eaten cheese or many other products manufactured by Kraft Foods?

     Kraft didn’t become a starving Christian just because he gave up his life to serve God. He still achieved his driving ambition. The difference was that he surrendered control of how it would happen and set as a higher priority, a commitment to serve God.

     I don’t think he worked less hard. I think Kraft adjusted his attitude in making this covenant. He set aside time to rest from his work—which tends to remind a person of the good things in life beyond materialistic success. He became superintendent of the Sunday school. This gave him another line of thought and diverted him from working with blinders on. And he let go of the belief that nothing would happen the way it should unless he controlled every little detail.

     When you think you are controlling the process, you put ALL your energy into your goal to the exclusion of your health, your family, your spiritual development. When you put little energy into the best things of life itself, you end up losing the things that matter most, and your life-passion ends up destroying you in the end.

     On the other hand, if you lose your life, if you give up thinking you must control every little detail and let God direct it in God’s timing, then you will find your life…you will add energy to the purpose for which you were created.

     I started my work career as a teacher. I didn’t understand how it was my life-passion or purpose. At the time, it was just better than being a preacher like my father and my grandfathers. In high school, I had decided preaching wasn’t what I wanted to do.

     I went through several careers and learning events that helped me clarify that my life-purpose seemed to revolve around speaking in front of groups of people and helping people.

     For eight years, I taught high school students. For fourteen years I built my own business, working one-on-one with people who had walking limitations. And then after I sold my business in Nashville, God introduced another plan to me which would again place me in front of groups of people in a teaching role. That plan was the ministry.

     Even as I started following this new plan, I envisioned a different kind of ministry. I insisted things go the way I wanted, and that put me through some experiences I hadn’t planned on and some might call “the fires of consequences.”

     But it’s taught me to let go of the reigns and follow the paths that open up for me. If I’d have insisted on controlling every detail along the way, even in the parish ministry, it might have ruined me. Frustration would have set in because things we’re going as I wanted.

writer-hemingway     Where it stands now, I’ve learned a whole lot. I’ve enjoyed so much of the process of growth and development you’ve been a big part of my growth. I’ve had to learn to submit to what is, to do my best, and trust God for what will come next.

     And the process continues. In forty days, I’ll walk through another door that is opening. Some call it “retirement.” I call it “a new beginning.” The list of things to do is long (and only one of them is fishing).

     God prepares all of us to walk through doors as they open up for us toward our life-purposes. We just need to make sure we give up thinking we are in control of the outcome, and focus on doing what we do well right now, putting God first and listening for his guidance.

     God will help you accomplish the very desires God has planted in your heart. Surrender to it…for in doing so, you will give energy to it.

[1] Sermons.com illustration for this text.

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