This weekend, I am remembering my first time at Crossroads, as students all over the state head down to Southern California for this annual conference. If you are unfamiliar with Crossroads, it is a chance for students to hear from speakers and learn how to navigate post-college life in a way that glorifies God.
Rewind to November 2012, where a younger, more naïve Ryan walks into the Hyatt in Westlake Village excited to learn how to steward his life for God. Although really, I was more excited to show off how ahead of everyone else I already was in my walk with God. I had already decided I wanted to do ministry, specifically missions work overseas, after I graduated. So really, the conference was to help others who didn’t already have their lives figured out to catch up to people like me. Right?
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first night of the conference, a jovial gentleman named Roger Hershey took the stage, and proceeded to serve me perhaps the biggest slice of humble pie I would ever eat.
Roger Hershey, or “Hersh” as he is known by many, gave a talk entitled “Yielding Your Rights”. At first, it felt familiar – when we make the decision to follow Jesus, we have to be willing to follow Him, even if he calls us away from things we want. I thought I had done that already, having said yes to ministry, which called me away from many comforts I could have in my life. But Hersh put a new convicting spin on it. According to him, saying “yes” to Jesus wasn’t just making that decision once, but making it again every day, in every area of your life.
For me, that meant that it wasn’t enough to merely surrender my vocation. I never had a strong pull towards any particular job, so feeling called into the missions field was honestly somewhat easy for me – at least I had a direction I could be excited about. But I had thought that making that decision made me a better Christian than the people around me who hadn’t received that calling. For so long, I had been hiding behind that decision, saying I was fully surrendered to God, but not looking at the areas in my life that I had been unwilling to yield.
Hersh challenged us to look to Christ’s example as described in Phillipians 2:5-8:
“Have the same mindset as Jesus Christ: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by being obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
Jesus, as God, had the power and the right to do whatever he wanted. He had the right to not only the human comforts and things we feel entitled to, such as health, justice, and making our own choices, but also to a whole new level of authority and power that came with being God. But he laid it all aside when he came to earth and went to the cross. He gave up his power when he was willingly arrested, and he gave up his rights to comfort and justice when he was wrongly condemned and crucified. Yet there was nothing he would not give up for God’s glory and for our reconciliation to Him. Likewise, we ought to lay aside our rights for the glory of God.
Hersh had a list of things that we often feel we have a right to, but that we need to be willing to yield to Christ. His list was incredibly helpful for me as I thought through different areas of my life, so let me share it with you:
I had surrendered my career, but again, that was easy for me, and it was just the beginning of the list. My “yes” to missions had been conditional – would I still go if I would never get the recognition and respect I thought I deserved for making that sacrifice? Would I go if living in another country would mean living in poverty? Would I go if it meant I would never get married and have kids? Would I go if it were dangerous, and it might cost me my life? These were hard questions for me to wrestle with, and they are still questions I have to ask myself.
I learned I was no greater than anyone else because of my calling, but that being fully surrendered was much more than your career, and something that has to go deep into our hearts and every area of our lives. Many people live bold lives for God in the workplace, and being in ministry can be an easy place for a lazy, fearful Christian to hide. After talking with Katie Hill yesterday about her Crossroads experience, this truth became more clear to me. She realized that the areas she needs to surrender in her life are not related to ministry, but are in her own heart towards her stewardship of her time, treasures, and talents. She told me that it would be easier for her to go into ministry than to follow her career path while also being a faithful steward of the things she earns. For her, ministry may be the easy path, so she is pursuing the challenge of being sanctified through her daily sacrifices in the workplace. She wants to glorify God by going into the workforce and giving financially, being sacrificial with her time, and boldly sharing Christ with those around her.
But as hard as these things can be to yield to God, there is a promise that makes it worth it. In Luke 18:29-30, Jesus tells his disciples “Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” We don’t surrender these things in vain, but with the promise that we will receive more than we could possibly imagine. And not just in the age to come! Jesus promises that even in this life, we will experience more joy and blessing from Him than we could ever find on our own in the world. Although we don’t always see what God is doing in our lives and it can be scary to step out in faith, we can rest assured that God loves us and has promised to provide for us.
So what are the things you need to yield?