How much do you want to? Part II

By Barry Johnson

For several weeks at the beginning of 2015 I heard the Lord asking me this question, “How much do you want to?”

For the first few nights, I thought He was trying to remind me about the word he spoke to me back in 2003. I even wondered if He was trying to let me know I had veered off track about what He taught me when He first asked me that question. Because I vividly remember how much I cried and how much it hurt when I realized He was saying to me, “How much do you want to – be with Me?”

I also reflected on these three great lessons He walked me through at that time:

Do I only want to be with Him when I need something from Him?

Was I going to let bitterness, anger and unforgiveness get in the way of being with Him?

Was my destiny more important than being with Him?

So I found it almost impossible to sleep while I struggled with the thought that I had failed at wanting to be with Him. I cried out to the Lord to show me if I had failed. But He assured me I hadn’t. Yet, the question kept coming each night. Finally, I realized that something was not the same this time. Twelve years ago I knew I was hearing the voice of my caring, loving Father who wanted to show me something. But this time I was looking into the eyes of Jesus and with urgency He was asking me, “How much do you want to – be like Me?”

Wow! What a question to be asked by Jesus. One important thing I learned from my 2003 experience was that I shouldn’t try to answer quickly. I needed to make sure I diligently prayed and listened before I attempted to answer Him. Then the thoughts began to come. They began with me seeing that since I was a teenager, I’ve been moved by songs like, “More of You Lord.” They helped me to feel like I truly wanted more of Him. Then until I was thirty-two, I thought I was a Christian until one day I saw I was only going through the motions. But this still didn’t change that I had a deep desire to have more of Him.

On the night that I finally came to grips with the fact that I was not His child, I told the Lord, “Give me everything You have or leave me alone.”

I felt this strongly because I was miserable living a lie and I had no intention of doing that anymore. I was going to get all of God, or I was moving on to something else to fulfill the needs in my soul.

Well, He gave me all that I could handle at that time and it changed my life.

So, I asked the Lord if any of this was wanting to be like Him? He showed me that it was a part of it, but only a beginning step. Then for a few nights, I looked at what I had done in the past and what I was doing now to serve Him.

“What could better,” I told myself, “than to have a desire to serve Him and do His work?” So, I asked the Lord if this was what He was asking me.

“No, Barry,” He explained. “That’s not it. You lived for twenty years thinking you were Mine because you were serving Me. But you weren’t. So serving Me is not being like Me. It’s not doing things to please Me.

I ask you again, “How much do you want to – be like Me?”

That answer hurt. It stunned me. It got my attention. I cried and I am crying now as I write this.

Once I got over the shock of His answer, I cried out to Him to help me see the answer to His question. I could see Jesus’ eyes as He said, “The answer comes from looking at how I lived when I came to this earth. Because to be like Me is to live like Me.”

Now I understood the starting place to being able to answer His question, and the first thing that came to mind about how He lived is this description of His life:

Jesus was born in an obscure village as the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.
Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a home.
He didn’t go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.
He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
Yet, He shook the world at its very foundation and became the Savior of us all.
Author Unknown

This writing is about a Man that in my “modern” eyes would be considered quite insignificant. He was someone who only had an impact on just a few people. Oh, how foolish are “modern” eyes.

The Lord had me pause in my effort to answer His question. He wanted me to look at some of the issues being caused by the current way we often look at things. Then He showed me that as our world has changed, these are some of the unhealthy things that are happening to the Body of Christ, especially for young people:

Because we can communicate with so many people so quickly, the damage caused by uncontrolled communication is far greater than it has ever been. And sadly because very little is being taught about how important it is to God that we control what we say and listen to, far too many Christians do not feel they need to control their communication.

Feelings of insignificance have been magnified because now due to modern technology we can compare ourselves to billions of people, and not just the few people around us. This happening has weakened the Body of Christ. More importantly, it is taking the life out of many in the younger generation. Yet they are Christianity’s future.

What would be considered normal, healthy ambition to succeed in our lives has been turned into a monster among so many Christians. It’s devouring people with pride and arrogance. It eventually turns into depression. Because when they pursue the “big thing” out in the future that they think is success for them as a Christian, and it doesn’t happen, they feel like a failure. For those in the older generation, this way of thinking has caused them to just about give up on being “used” by God. This is why His heart’s cry is that we don’t let this happen to the young people of this generation.

My heart broke as the Lord showed me these things. I asked Him what I could do to be someone who could help people, especially the young, avoid these things happening to them. It was then that I heard Jesus say again, “How much do you want to – be like Me?”

He told me to look at His life to see what this looks like. “It’s there,” He said. “It’s there and it’s not complicated.”

So, I reflected on the description of Jesus and on things I had learned about Him. I looked at the gospels. This is what He showed me:

Nowhere in Jesus’s life could I find that He came to be an example of how to be important, how to impress others, or how to pursue ambition. He didn’t try to get ahead by knowing the “right” people who could help Him do that. He was never boastful. The fact that He didn’t have a big ministry or didn’t travel outside a very small area also didn’t make Him insignificant. Instead Jesus came to be an example to me of:

What it means to be humble.

How to have an intimate relationship with the Father.

How to forgive.

How to live every day doing what the Father wants.

How to never be so busy or enamored with importance that I don’t have time for ordinary people.

How to walk in confidence and authority, without being prideful or arrogant.

He walked this way because of His relationship with the Father and not because of the great things He did.

Then the Lord said to me:

“Barry, how much do you want to – be like Me? Is it enough to be humble like Me? Is it enough to love like Me? Because being like Me is the only way you’ll ever fulfill the longing in your heart to have an impact on this world. Everything else will leave you empty. Other things may satisfy for a short time. But that feeling will fade away. Yet living like Me will give you a satisfied life every day you live.”

Just a few days after I got to the place that I understood what the Lord was trying to teach me, Ruth and I were part of the prayer team at a large conference for youth. After each session we had the privilege to pray for many young people. It was a joy to be able to love on these young people who are the future of the Body of Christ. Yet, it broke my heart to hear the pain, disillusionment and despair in their hearts.

After the first night, I wept as I lay on my bed. My heart ached as I recalled the look I saw in the eyes of a twenty-eight year old woman as she explained that she felt like she had failed the Lord. She explained that as a child and teen she had a fire in her heart to be a missionary. She even had opportunities to go on missions trips. But, now she felt like a failure because nothing like what she had dreamed was happening. I could see the pain in her eyes. At twenty-eight she felt like her chance to be what the Lord wanted her to be was over.

The Lord gave me this simple word for her: “You still are a child!”

She was shocked by this simple word. She began to weep. Then she broke down in sobs. The Lord had me repeat this word several times. After a few minutes, I could see some hope return to her eyes. She realized the truth that no matter what our age, or other circumstances, God has a “hope and a future” future for us.

For the rest of the conference, Ruth and I ministered to many young people. Each one had the same pain, disillusionment and despair in their souls. The Lord showed me that these youth were being battered on every side by the unhealthy things that are happening to the Body of Christ as a result of our “modern” society. And by choices that they had made was causing them great pain. Feelings of insignificance had made them disillusioned. The pressure caused by the over emphasis of achieving the “big thing” had caused despair and a feeling of failure.

My heart broke that weekend as I realized how deep these feelings are in these young people. The Lord spoke to me about the need for Ruth and me to refocus our ministry to reaching these broken young people, and teaching those in our generation how to become fathers and mothers in the faith to them.

For He is saying to all of us:

“How much do you want to – be like Me? Is it enough to be humble like Me? Is it enough to love like Me? Because being like Me is the only way you’ll ever fulfill the longing in your heart to have an impact on this world. Everything else will leave you empty. Other things may satisfy for a short time. But that feeling will fade away. Yet living like Me will give you a satisfied life every day you live.”

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