Climbing the Mount Everest of Eternal Life, By Femi Aribisala
Rich men don’t run after passers-by in the street. Nevertheless, in the scriptures, a “rich young ruler” is shown running after Jesus. When he finally gets to him, he does something equally unusual: he falls down on his knees at his feet. What does he want that money cannot buy?
There is a need in his life and it is great. There is a need in his life and it is pressing. So pressing, he forgets he is a “big man.” So pressing, he forgets he is a rich man and that rich men don’t beg. So pressing, he forgets that the street he is kneeling in is probably muddy and dirty, and that his expensive clothes will be soiled.
I know you might have run after a bus before. It was the first bus in a long while, and you just had to catch that one. I know you may have run after a woman or man before. You were smitten and you just had to make his or her acquaintance. But have you ever had to run after the Lord Jesus? Have you run after him only to discover that the quicker you ran; the faster he walked?
Have you ever run after the Lord until you were completely out of breath? Have you ever run after the Lord, until you made a complete fool of yourself? Have you ever run after the Lord, until you lost your dignity, lost your pride and lost your self-respect? Have you ever run after the Lord until you became completely broken? Have you ever run after the Lord, naked and not ashamed?
And so the rich young ruler, probably the equivalent of the governor of a State today, ran after Jesus like a mad man. And when he finally caught up with him, he did not ask for bread. He did not ask for fish. He did not ask for long life. He did not ask for the life of his enemies. He was not looking for a contract, for accommodation or for promotion. The man had one pressing desire: he wanted to inherit eternal life.
How badly do you want eternal life? Do you want it badly enough? Is it as urgent as the payment of your rent? Is it as critical as your school-fees? Is it as vital as the mortgage on your house? The kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12).
The rich young ruler wanted eternal life, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The man asked the wrong question, and his question exposed the true condition of his heart. He asked: “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” But the inheritance of eternal life is not merely in the doing. Eternal life is God himself, and God is not just a task that must be done.
The man did not ask: “who should I love that I might inherit eternal life?” He did not ask: “who should I trust to lead me to eternal life?” He did not ask: “who can tell me what I need to know about eternal life?” But he asked: “What should I do?” He wanted to attain eternal life. He wanted to accomplish eternal life. He wanted to climb the Mountain Everest of eternal life.
This man should have come to Christ in defeat. He should have come saying: “Lord Jesus, I have tried my very best, but I have come short of the glory of God. I have done all I have known to do, but to no avail. I have tried not to get angry, but have lost my temper. I have tried not to be covetous, but could not help but wish I were the one who bought the new car that my brother has. I have tried to remain pure in heart, but could not help but look at a woman lustfully. I need you to help me. I need you to deliver me.”
Jesus said to him: “You know the commandments; how about trying to obey them? Have you tried doing those things and succeeded? Haven’t you already discovered that you could not do what God requires?” But the man insisted that he had already bested the Ten Commandments.
He needed more serious challenges than those.
Therefore, Jesus answered his prayer. He gave him a simple assignment: “sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.” And suddenly, this gold medalist Olympian of salvation lost all interest in eternal life.
Not By Power
There is great danger in strength, for by strength shall no man prevail. (1 Samuel 2:9). A man’s strengths are infinitely more dangerous than his weaknesses. A man’s weaknesses are liable to carry him to God while his strengths may deceive him into believing that he can do without God. The believer must be strong in the Lord and not in his self.
In the kingdom of the world, when a child finally learns to ride a bicycle, he is likely to call out to his father: “Come and see me ride without falling. Come and see me ride without holding the handle bars.” Not so in the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God, the child is likely to say: “Father, come and see my weaknesses. Come and see my inadequacies.”
“For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’” (Isaiah 57:15).
The great physician has no ministry for those that are whole. He has come for the poor, the meek, the broken hearted, the captives, the mourners and the sorrowful.
Work of God
Take another look at David’s petition in Psalm 51. David makes no promises to God. Lord Jesus, he says, I am in need of a Saviour. I need you to create in me a new heart. I need you to renew a right spirit within me. I need you to do something for me. I am not going to make promises I cannot keep. I am not going to make resolutions I cannot fulfil. Unless you help me, I know for sure I will sin again against you.
I can’t do anything unless you first do something Lord. I can’t be anything Lord unless you make me that thing. Quicken me, says the psalmist, and then I will call upon your name. (Psalm 80:18). Draw me, says the Shulamite, and I will run after you. (Song of Solomon 1:4). I must be your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. For without you, I can do nothing. Without you, I am done for.
In everything, it is God who does the work. It is the Lord himself that works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13). It is his prerogative to do the work; and it is the responsibility of man to believe God will do it. Therefore, we must be co-labourers with him in it.