Holding Fast

Is there anyone or anything that you hold on tightly to in your life? If the Lord told you that He wanted you to say goodbye to a particular person or thing today~ would you hand them over? If so, how hard or easy would it be? Would there be any arguing or bargaining with God to try to change His mind? You might say: Of course I would follow the Lord in anything He asked me to do without question.

What if it was your favorite food or beverage He asked you to lay on the altar~ for good; or the restaurant you love the most or that glass of wine with dinner? What about the types of music or movies you have always enjoyed? What if it were your cell phone or internet access; television or the football season you look forward to? What about the car or other vehicle you love to drive or believe you must have; or your family home? What if you were told that you must say goodbye to your closest group of friends or the church you belong to? What if the Lord asked you to lay your son or daughter, husband or wife on the altar as a sacrifice to Him?
It is only when we face losing something do we really know how tightly we are truly holding on. I know for me, when the Lord has asked such things, He already knew how firmly my fingers were gripped around this person or thing that He had zeroed in on. He knew each digit would surely need to be pried off one at a time~ and it was not the Lord that would be doing the prying. He knows that an irreplaceable process needs to take place to accomplish His great purposes. So He wants us to pry our own fingers off of something we don’t want to give over in the first place? Yes, it is the only way that we come to know what submission and surrender really are.

As Christians we often hear about surrendering all to God and submitting to His will. But what does this really mean when it comes down to it? Is it really being lived out by most believers? Conceptually speaking, most would say they have given it all over to the Lord. But is this really so? Look at the list of things above that are commonplace for most people in our society today. Are you clinging to any of these? Would you really give them up completely if the Lord asked you to? Would you be willing to ask Him to search your heart for any other people or things that you may be holding on tightly to in your life?

Again, for me, even the things that would seem the smallest or most insignificant on the list have been surprisingly difficult to let go of in my life. I had to go through quite a process to even listen to the Lord in what He was trying to say to me. In some cases, I said no to Him for a very long time~ by pushing away His loving nudges to get me to open my ears to Him. Of course, when the Lord wants to do something in my life, He is hard to ignore. Thank You God so much for this!.

I will give an example of something that the Lord led me to say goodbye to~ for good. It may seem like a small thing, but for the most part the road to surrender is just the same no matter how great or small. The intensity of the letting go and handing it over may vary, but it all involves the same process. There is no doubt though, that the tighter the grip, the harder your fingers will be to pry off!

My example is related to Diet Pepsi. I actually spoke of Diet Pepsi in my writing called: Hands. In that story, I had inadvertently knocked my Diet Pepsi on the floor in front of my entire college class. Well~ on the floor it should have stayed! I say this because it would be many years before I would finally give it over to the Lord.

So here’s my drug history on Diet Soda. I do not say this facetiously, because it was self-medication just as all of the other things and people I used to bring comfort and solace to my life. It was one of the things I unknowingly used as a substitute for intimacy with God.

I began drinking diet soft drinks when I was a teenager. First there was Tab~ that really awful tasting stuff that would keep me in the right size of those tapered jeans! (For you younger readers- that’s all we had back then- what you would now call ‘skinny jeans’~ until the infamous bell bottoms came out!(: ) I was in that dieting trap that so many have fallen into. Not only did diet drinks carry the myth that they would keep me thin, it was also the beginning of caffeine dependence in my life. The artificial sweeteners were not even a second thought back then, even though they were deemed to be a possible cause of cancer.

So ultimately, I settled on Diet Pepsi as my favorite diet soda as more choices became available~ though I had no problem going with Diet Coke if there was no supply of Diet Pepsi around. In fact I used to get a large Diet Coke on my lunch break from work every day for years. I also came to believe that even thinking of drinking a regular Pepsi or Coke with all that sugar in it would be a silly choice to make. At one point along the way, I started having heart palpitations, and was found to have an excessively rapid and irregular heartbeat. Lifestyle choices were the first thing to look at. I knew there was probably a link to caffeine as part of the issue. So what did I do? I switched to decaf coffee~ but rationalized that the Diet Pepsi really didn’t affect me all that much.

The use of Diet Pepsi continued for most of my adult life. I drank it through several artificial sweetener changes that happened over the course of the years. Finally, they began adding Aspartame. I had heard a lot of negative things about it, but tried to just ignore the cautions. There came a time when I was actually noticing problems with my memory. Could it be the Aspartame? I wondered. If there was any question wouldn’t it have made sense to just stop drinking it? Well, I had a really hard time with that. But one day the Lord pressed it upon my heart, in no uncertain terms, to stop drinking it altogether.

I remember telling a friend about this~ saying how it really was great that the Lord was protecting me, and drinking more water would be so good for me anyway. Several weeks later I was in a grocery store with my son, and when I saw the soda aisle it caught my eye. I began thinking: H-m-m, I wonder if there are any sodas with no caffeine and no Aspartame!? I looked around and there it was~ a diet soda that I could have! What a find! I bought several twelve packs. The look on my friend’s face when she saw those twelve packs the next time she was over was very telling. She didn’t have to say a word. But I conveniently pushed it to the back of my mind.

Fast forward about three months. I was sitting at my kitchen counter talking to someone about something stressful. I said in a tense voice: Just a second, I need a diet soda. I got up, went to the refrigerator, got out that cold can of diet soda, and as I sat down I began to open it. As soon as I heard that very familiar sound of the top popping and the fizz bubbling, I felt relief. But it was also in that instant that the light of Truth flooded into my heart. The Lord humbled me so fast in those moments I could barely speak. I now knew what He was trying to tell me all along.

It was not about the caffeine~ though it was not good for me. It was not about the Aspartame~ which also was not good for me. It didn’t matter what brand, what sweeteners, caffeinated or decaf. It wasn’t even really about the soda. It was about me and God. Who and what was I clinging to in my life? What kind of attachment was this? Who was my God of all comfort?

Someone might say: Okay, that’s understandable. The soft drink wasn’t good for you, and you had become dependent upon it. It would make sense that the Lord would want it out of your life. But what about the example of a child~ say a son? Isn’t it the normal thing to be very attached to your own child?

It is not necessarily that it is wrong to be attached, the question lies in whether you are wrongly attached. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:3-5a).

The Lord knows how tightly we are holding on to any particular person or thing. I have had many gods before Him and idols of many kinds in my life. In His unfailing love and mercy for me, He has one by one helped me to either loosen my grip on whatever person or thing it was~ or helped me release them from my hands altogether. We are to hang on loosely to everyone and everything here in this world. None of it belongs to us, but all to Him. It is only through His loving kindness do we have any person or thing in our life at all. Anything we hang on to tightly, as if we own or possess it, will be targeted by the Lord as something that holds a place meant only for Him.

But it is not just those people and things we hold tightly to that the Lord wants us to surrender to Him. We can have great joy from our relationships and things we have been given, but they all need to be on the altar before the Lord in acknowledgement of who their owner is. Look at Abraham and Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s beloved son. We don’t see anything in the Word that says Abraham had an unhealthy attachment to Isaac. He loved the Lord above all things, but also loved his son. Then why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son? He was testing Abraham’s love for Him. God wanted Abraham to do whatever He asked of him. And what He asked was for Abraham to be willing to see his son put to death~ even by his own hand, as a sacrifice to Him. The very thing God was willing to do for us with His one and only beloved Son.

The Lord wants us to be willing to take everything and lay it down~ to place it on the altar before Him. He may give us people by our side and things that bring comfort, but never to be used to the point of coveting. One definition of coveting is: to desire wrongly, excessively, or without due regard for what belongs to another~ in this context, God. We are to treat everyone and everything as belonging to God. And we are to remember who is God in our lives. It is God and God alone whom we need desperately. He is our God of all comfort, and will meet every single need we have in our lives. Isaac was a blessed gift from the Lord to Abraham, but he belonged to God~ he was born for God’s purposes, not those of Abraham.

Are you clinging to anything other than the Lord in your life? If so, He will give you courage to hear His call to release these things to Him. Will He ask you to completely say goodbye to these people or things? He is the One who knows whether this is necessary or not. If we insist on making it a god~ it has become an idol in our life. He would have every right to do so. This would be for your sake and the sake of your relationship with Him. God loves you and will do whatever is necessary to free you from anything impeding you from intimacy with Him. Is the giving over of people or things we have become overly attached to a punishment? No! He is not out to punish His children, but rather protect us. But there are certainly all kinds of consequences for clinging to anything other than God. Every effort to hold fast to anything else will bring further emptiness and loneliness to our lives.

So what does God want to accomplish by having us surrender these people and things to Him? He wants you to be free of all false gods and idols that steal your affections away from Him. God wants you~ all of you. He wants to be your comfort, your relief from the pain of this world. God wants to take care of you. He wants your heart to be fully His. And He wants to be glorified through your life, so that others will see what great joy can be had through a deeply intimate relationship with Him. It is God whom we need to be so very attached to~ and to never ever let go: and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life (Deuteronomy 30:20).

Are you holding fast to God as your very life? It is the LORD your God you must follow and revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him (Deut. 13:4). God knows what is best for you, and His purposes are always good. The Lord will give you all you need to remove your fingers from anyone or anything they are wrapped tightly around. And as you look up with outstretched arms~ open your hands to release this person or thing to Him~ look at the position in which you are now standing. You are opening your arms in surrender to the Lord. Then you can grab on quickly and tightly to the One you have really been longing for deep inside. The search for what you’ve been looking for will be over.

Then in His loving arms, you can cry to Him in repentance: If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

So where has God been while we have been grabbing and clinging here and there in this world to get our needs met? The same place He has always been. He has never let go of you: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast (Psalm 139:7-10).

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