Let's Make a Deal

April 29th, 2013
Richard with Nathaly, a child in one of World Vision's programs in Bolivia

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  —Mark 8:35

Have you ever watched the game show Let’s Make a Deal? This show took on new significance for the Stearns family this year as my daughter, Hannah, actually appeared as a contestant on the show. A third-year law student at the time, Hannah hoped she might win a little money to help with her tuition expenses. So she got tickets to the show, and in order to increase her chances of being chosen as a contestant, she dressed up as a law book—a torts book, to be precise. She felt a bit foolish, but it worked, and she was picked to come out of the audience to be a contestant.

Hannah did well. She ended up winning a motorbike, a laptop computer, and a couple of nice backpacks. To her parents’ great relief, she sold the motorbike to get cash to pay her bills.

Let’s Make a Deal is a great little metaphor for the choices God requires us to make. In the show contestants are brought up on the stage and offered a wide range of prizes, both good and bad. But the real essence of the show, and the thing that makes it so compelling, is the agonizing choices the contestants are forced to make. The host might first offer someone one thousand dollars in cash, with no strings attached. The contestant can quit right there and go home one thousand dollars richer. But then the fun begins; he offers a trade-in of the cash for the unknown prize that lies behind the curtain on stage. Of course, the contestant doesn’t know what lies behind the curtain. It could be a brand new Corvette; a two-week, all-expenses-paid vacation to Hawaii; or a case of dill pickles! It’s the contestant’s choice: trade what he has already won for the promise of something better, or play it safe and keep what he already has. The drama of the show is increased as winners are constantly offered opportunities to improve their prizes but always with the risk of dill pickles.

In a real way the decision to follow Christ and to lay down our lives to follow him is quite similar. Jesus was playing Let’s Make a Deal with the rich young ruler: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Matt. 19:21, paraphrase). I’m offering you the great adventure of your life. I am inviting you to partner with me in my great kingdom mission. I promise you will find your deepest purpose and your greatest fulfillment in life in doing what I created you to do. All you have to do is lay down what you’ve already won, and I will replace it with treasures beyond your imagination.”

It’s that last sentence that’s the hard part—“lay down what you’ve already won.”

“Can’t I keep it all, Jesus?”

“No, my child, because no one can serve two masters—you will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24, paraphrase).

What are you clinging to? There are so many things that compete with God in our lives. Perhaps a career that you have invested decades in building or maybe a business you have started. Surely it can’t be wrong to pursue a career or build a business? It could be money, wealth, and the ability to create wealth that have their hold on you, or perhaps the many things that money can buy. The more you have, the harder it is to sell everything you have and give it to Jesus. That may be why so many people give their lives to Christ when they have nothing left to lose.

You might be clinging to an unhealthy relationship or an identity you have shaped. Maybe you have an addiction you have not been able to let go of. Lots of people cling to a physical place; do you live somewhere you love that you aren’t willing to leave? Do you love your house, your friends, your comfort, and the familiarity of your life? These are not bad things unless you place them above God.

The common thread behind all of these attachments is control. We want to control our lives and our choices, and we don’t like anyone who threatens to take that away. Remember my comparison between following Jesus and enlisting in the army? When you give your life to following

Jesus, he asks you to give control to him. As one bumper sticker aptly put it: “If God is your co-pilot . . . switch seats!” Jesus wants to drive; he wants to lead; but he cannot until you “lose your life” for his sake so that he can give you the life he always meant for you to live. What are the most precious things you possess? Are you willing to offer them to Jesus?

Now here is a really important thing to understand. If you lay down all of these things in the service of Christ and his kingdom, he won’t necessarily take them away from you. He doesn’t ask us all to quit our jobs, leave our homes, and have an estate sale to liquidate all our earthly possessions. No, he only asks that we turn all of those decisions over to him. I know many followers of Christ who are serving him in powerful ways who have not been called to sell, leave, forsake, or abandon the lives they have built. But they have been called to use the lives they have built for Christ and his kingdom. Sometimes he does take the things we have laid down at his feet, but unlike the game show host on Let’s Make a Deal, he always replaces them with something better.


Adapted excerpt from Unfinished: Believing Is Just the Beginning by Richard Stearns. Available April 30, 2013, from Thomas Nelson

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