Living Life with a Loose Grip
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)
Paul makes a stunning statement here about what is valuable to him. He compares the value of his life to the value of fulfilling God’s call on his life, “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
No Value ► His life
By this I take him to not be saying theologically “life” made in the image of God isn’t precious but the personal management of his life toward his own personal goals or ambitions. That kind of me-centered living or self-gratification is NOT valuable to him. Didn’t mean much to him, particularly in comparison with something that is ultimate for him. Paul realized it’s not about him…. Or could we say, it’s not about us. It’s not about me.
Ultimate Value ► Complete the Gospel Mission
“Finishing the race” is a Pauline illustration of completing the task, completely obeying, persevering to the end. Okay. Completing what? What’s the big deal for Paul? “Testifying to the gospel of God’s grace”… that’s flowery language for the mission of the church which is, as Jesus told us in Matt. 28:19-20, make disciples… baptize them… teach them to obey Jesus’ teaching and doing this with the assurance that Jesus is with us in this mission, even to the end of the ages.
What is valuable? Self-management and control of my life? There’s something more important. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of sharing this good news with as many people as we can toward the goal of their salvation and the glorifying of God throughout the earth.
My life is not precious to me. This is biblical language for what I call “Living Life with a Loose Grip.” We naturally want to do the opposite. We want to cling to our right to self-manage our lives. We are fine with God’s will for our lives as long as God’s will is the same as our will. But when God’s will unfolds in our lives in directions we perceive may be different than what we have dreamed or wanted, we easily get upset, bitter, even angry at God. Or it drives us to even more psycho levels of control over the priorities in our lives. We grip tighter and tighter. No. God, you can’t have this. We wrestle with God over our family, our dreams, our directions, our time and money. We grip tighter, lest God or anybody else, take control away. Sound like anyone you know? Sounds like me.
An easy way to tell is by how we react when God seems to take something away that we value. Health. A relationship. A job. Some dream. In those moments we find out who is really at the center, what is most valuable to us. Again the song, You give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will truly say, Lord blessed be your name. That’s a God centered, living life with a loose grip song, taken from Job who lost everything.
Gripping tighter is the flesh’s response but it is not the right one. Jesus points out the foolishness of not living this way in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
We can grip our lives and our futures as hard as we can but what eventually happens to every one of us? We are forced to give up our life. No matter who we are and how much we have. [All dignity is gone] I have told the story before of touring the Oliver mansion in South Bend. It was built by a railroad tycoon a century ago. Our tour guide was obviously very impressed with the wealth of this guy and his family. I decided to yank his chain a little and asked him, When Mr. Oliver died, how much did he leave. The man said. Millions. I said, Don’t you mean he left everything? I don’t think he liked that very much.
We all give it up eventually. Jesus says, by denying ourselves now and purposing to give of ourselves to Christ NOW, it seems like we are losing our lives but in reality the opposite is happening. We are actually saving our lives. How can this be? We’re experiencing true life when we abandon ourselves to the Lord’s will. Jesus says, Give your life to God and he will give your life to you.
This is how Christians show that Jesus is worth more to us than even our own lives. The more we treasure him, the more we are willing to give up for His sake.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2010 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.