“If any man will come after me,
let him take up his cross,
and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24b
Probably most people, at some time or the other, have read the catchy slogan, “Let go and let God.” It’s easy to say, easy to remember but not always so easy to do in real life, depending on who or what a person is hanging on to. It is natural to find ourselves clinging to people, places, and things. We also tend to keep a vice grip on cherished memories, along with our ideas, concepts, standards, and perspectives. We can also find ourselves maintaining, at any cost, and without question or contemplation, valued family, religious and cultural traditions, which can range from pride to prejudice, the logical to the illogical, prudence to recklessness, or unbelief to faith. We value such things because they give identity, meaning and purpose to our lives—to a point.
What material things we refuse to let go of all depends on the value we put on them. People value things for different reasons, such as how it makes them look (vanity), or how it makes them feel about themselves (pride), and they also value stuff that brings them pleasure, or holds sentimental value. Sandwiched in between all this is the downright resentment people can feel when it comes to letting go of bad habits, and unhealthy, or immoral, addictions. Crucifying the flesh doesn’t “feel good!” The Bible tells us, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” Colossians 3:5.
There is no getting around the fact that having to let go of friends, family, goals, dreams, and even our reputation can be downright traumatic, not to mention the shock and despair a person experiences when he or she is forced to give up many foods for health reasons. If you stop and think a moment about all that there is in this world, all that makes up your life, including people, material things, including the mental, emotional, and spiritual realm—all areas that the Holy Spirit may contend with us about to let go of—you begin to realize that the list could be virtually endless.
One biggie on this “list” is obsession for, and love of, money along with the pursuit of riches and great wealth. When it comes to money, learning how to let go of it for the benefit of others can be a tough lesson unless God has had His way in your life and heart. Remember, the essence of sin is selfishness and independence from God. Riches feed selfishness while giving the illusion that one can truly live independently happy while calling the shots in his or her life. However, such worldly “happiness” is shallow and fleeting, and must be continually fed and pumped up in order to keep the charade going. Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” Mark 8:36?
Letting go is not easy, and rarely fun. Letting go can present varying degrees of pain and heartbreak. Letting go is sometimes a very real test of faith, of our character, and our commitment to Christ. Letting go can be the ultimate act of love and sacrifice which produces a powerful testimony of the life of Christ in us to a world that is sinking in darkness and despair.
Letting go is about change. People who know me well know that I am the type of person who hates change, unless it can be proven to me that it is for the best all the way around. When I think back to my childhood, I think of all the things that were important to me—things that I seemed to think I would keep, and play with indefinitely. But time, that old enemy of youth, kept marching on, forcing me to let go of cherished childhood toys, dreams, and imaginations.
Letting go of childish dreams and fantasies while stepping into the sometimes awkward, confusing world between childhood and adulthood can be daunting. After all, a person has no choice in the matter but to keep marching forward in step with time while struggling with choices and decisions that affect not only the present, but the future as well. Unfortunately, most of life’s major decisions are made in our youth at a time where we have no experience, understanding, maturity, or wisdom. How many people do you know who are living an unhappy life because of decisions they made in their youth? Perhaps you are one of them. There are no exceptions to the Lord’s warning, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” Galatians 6, 7, 8. The Apostle Paul stated, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” 1 Corinthians 13:11. Paul had learned to let go.
He also learned how to let go of his distinguished religious education, his impressive title as a Pharisee, his public acts of zeal in persecuting Christians, and his impeccable keeping of the Jewish law. He wrote, But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” Philippians 3:7, 8. Are we willing to lose it all to gain Christ? If we gain Christ, what have we really lost?
Those who present Christianity as a “bowl of cherries,” or a continual state of bliss in a carefree life where Jesus daily pours out the “warm fuzzies” upon you, and those who tell you that Jesus came to make you successful and rich in your worldly lusts are wolves in sheep’s clothing, false prophets, and heretics. There is a price to pay when a person truly believes and receives Christ into his or her heart and life. There is an exchange of your life for His. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” 1 Corinthians 6:20. Christianity is not a life based on the premise that all a person has to do is “accept Jesus” and then he or she can “have their cake and eat it too.” In other words, becoming a Christian is not about merely “tacking” Jesus on to your life—your worldly, self-centered, self-sufficient, self-indulgent, sin-sick life. Either Jesus is LORD of all, or He is not LORD at all. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3.
Letting go in order to gain Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, fellowship with the Father through the Son, eternal life, and heaven is the most important decision a person will ever make. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” Matthew 9:35. As one old preacher in Arizona used to tell people, “You don’t have to give up your sin—you get to.”
Through the years we have met many people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, let go of their pity parties, pig pens, or pathetic perspectives. When you try to bring such people to an understanding of the life that Christ offers, presenting Him and His Word as the solution to their plight, they come up with a mountain of excuses as to why they can’t let go of their baggage and trust the Lord to set them free. It all amounts to fear, unbelief, mistrust and a lack of real desire for change.
That is when we, as Christian workers, have to let go of such people, which is a hard thing to do when you so very much want to see people win. All you can do is pray for them as the Spirit leads.
Sadly, there are those Christians who become rebellious, contrary, and stiff-necked when it comes to letting go of their unbiblical religious agendas, causes and “pet” beliefs. Woe to them if they fail to quickly let go, and repent of such idolatry when the light of God’s Word challenges them to line up with the Spirit and Truth of Jesus. Woe to those who fail to receive “the love for the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Refusing to receive the love for the truth throws the door wide open for “seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons,” as well as “another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel.” (See 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Corinthians 11:4).) Woe to those who will say to the Righteous Judge in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name, done many wonderful works?” only to hear Him profess, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (See Matthew 7:22, 23.)
Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” Luke 4:18, 19. However, for Him to do these things for us, we must be willing to let go of hurts, offenses, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, and bad attitudes, which can be a major challenge. There are times when situations are totally unfair, people are offensive, cruel, rude, or insensitive, yet we know that we must forgive from the heart, and leave revenge to the Lord. After all, He is the righteous Judge. Sometimes, however, letting go seems impossible to do. Rayola explains that this is because of our perceived “rights,” which come out of pride. Therefore, we believe that we have the “right” to be offended, the “right” to be angry, the “right” to be unforgiving, the “right” to be selfish, and obnoxious, the “right” to be jealous, and so forth. If we insist on maintaining our “rights,” we end up in sin, which separates us from God. Psalm 66:18 declares, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalm 68:6b says, “but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” They become spiritually dry.
Then there is the heavy burden many of us carry concerning unsaved loved ones. Letting go of people we love is probably one of the most heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching decisions we may be called upon to make. Christians with unsaved loved ones in their family carry them continually in their hearts. I know from experience that when a family member you dearly love is rebellious, stiff-necked, unbelieving, and spiritually lost, the natural thing is to try, in as many ways as is humanly possible, to share Christ. Prayer for an unsaved soul can sometimes span decades. We may even “go overboard” in our attempts to demonstrate the love of Christ to him or her. Unfortunately, our best efforts may only serve to keep him or her on the fence so that he or she is not forced to get real with God. In other words, we can be very good at “enabling” people to dig in and maintain their status quo.
When to let go? The answer is, when the Holy Spirit impresses you to let go. I remember many years ago I prayed every night for the salvation of a certain individual, even though it was with great effort on my part because I never felt led to do so. I was shocked one night when, in the middle of interceding for him, God spoke to me and distinctly said, “Stop praying for him. He is going to hell.” The Lord may impress you to let go emotionally because obsession with the plight of your loved one is destructive to your own well-being. Sometimes we hang on and refuse to let go because of guilt, or because we believe that somehow we can control the situation, and if we were to let go, then something horrible will take place. This is where we need to trust and obey, even if it means letting go many times.
Following are some examples of when God spoke to His servants to “let go,” and not pray. To Moses God said, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” Exodus 14:15. To Joshua God said, “And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face” Joshua 7:10? To Jeremiah God said, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” Jeremiah 7:16. And, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” 1 Corinthians 5:5. These are somber words to ponder.
Consider Jesus, who “let go” of the glories of heaven in order to come to us by way of the virgin Mary. Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” Philippians 2:6-8. Therefore, just as Jesus “let go” in order to become the acceptable sacrifice for our sins, so too must we let go of our sin, let go of the world, let go of the “old man,” and let go of every idol, and all that hinders our life in Christ; that we may take hold of Him, the One who has promised that He will never let go of those who place their trust in Him.