Often we make a commitment to something that is not very important: A young man was very excited because he just won a ticket to the Super Bowl. His excitement lessened as he realized his seat was in the back of the stadium. As he searched the rows ahead of him for a better seat, he found an empty one right next to the field. He approached the man sitting next to the empty seat and asked if it was taken. The man replied, “No.”
Amazed the young man asked, “How could someone pass up a seat like this?” The older gentleman responded, “That’s my wife’s seat. We’ve been to every Super Bowl together since the day we were married but she has passed away.” “Oh, how sad,” the man said. “I’m sorry to hear that, but couldn’t you find a friend or relative to come with you?”
“No,” the man said, “They’re all at the funeral.”
Quality relationships are founded on the rock of commitment, not the shifting sand of feelings or emotions. God calls us to be people of commitment, first to him and then to others. As a great leader of Israel, Joshua’s entire life was marked by commitment. We even hear this in his final words:
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.
“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” — Joshua 24:14-27
Joshua told the people that even if they chose not to serve the Lord, they would still not be exempt from service. If we do not serve the Creator, we will unavoidably serve some part of the creation. But the gods of success, position and possessions are cruel taskmasters and never deliver the profound satisfaction they promise.
In the 1991 movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitch – a confused, dissatisfied man with a vague sense that life is passing him by. Jack Palance plays the ancient sage Curly – “a saddlebag with eyes.” At a critical moment in the film, Curly asks Mitch if he would like to know the secret of life.
“It’s this,” Curly says, holding up his index finger.
“The secret of life is your finger?” asks Mitch.
“It’s one thing,” Curly replies. “The secret of life is pursuing one thing.”
Something about this strikes a chord deep within Mitch. His life is a mess; he feels pulled by his obligations to his family and his desire for fulfillment at his work – torn between his need for security and his longing for excitement. Like many men, Mitch is divided. His life is about too many different things. Thus, he feels it is about nothing.
He asks Curly to tell him what that one thing is, but the best Curly can do is to tell Mitch, “You have to find it for yourself.”
- Many of those who followed Jesus were merely curious.
- Others were convinced of the truth of what he was teaching, but only a few were fully and personally committed to him.
- When his uncommitted followers began to leave him in response to his difficult sayings, Jesus turned to the 12 and asked if they wanted to leave with the others.
- They realized that once having committed themselves to him, there was no turning back (John 6:60-69). “You have the words of eternal life.”
François Fénelon wrote, Woe to those weak and timid souls who are divided between God and their world! They want and they do not want. They are torn by desire and remorse at the same time…. They have a horror of evil and a shame of good. They have the pains of virtue without tasting its sweet consolations. O how wretched they are.
Committing vs. Bargaining
How on earth do leaders establish and retain committed followers? How, in some cases, do we get ourselves committed enough to pay the high price of success? God knows how, and the prophet Habakkuk models an essential truth about God-focused commitment: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. — Habakkuk 3:17-18
What a refreshing statement! Many leaders would love to have followers who are this committed to the cause. The key ingredient to Habakkuk’s statement is that it is unidirectional; he promised to maintain his attitude regardless of the payback.
The statement, “I will be committed if” isn’t commitment-making; it’s deal-making. It’s not committing; it’s bargaining.
No sane person will commit to things that don’t really matter. But when an organization’s goals and outcomes are properly related to the living God and its activities honor him, then commitment makes sense. Instead of asking, “How do we get commitment?” effective leaders will begin by asking, “To what (or whom) are we committed?”
The Rewards of Commitment
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? — Matthew 16:24-26
He said that unless one commits everything, one loses everything. For the Christian leader, that commitment must remain strong until the end of our earthly walk.
Inspirational and motivational speaker Og Mandino expands on the necessity of strong, long-term commitment.
Commitment and My Tomorrows
“I fear commitment because I am not really sure what the future holds for me.” “Things could change so easily!” “What if this or that happens?”
Thinking like this does not belong in the order of commitment. It simply doesn’t fit! This is a call for passivity—just drifting with the stream—moving with passing events.
But this kind of attitude, in reality, deprives an individual of inner stability and direction, as well as an opportunity to control the environment in a way that enables him to be where he would really like to be. (talk about talk with Gregory at age 22 when he was not sure of his future)
Let me try to describe what it means to be committed (talk about how it feels…my high school track days; athletes make great Christians).
1. This person or cause is supremely important in my life… almost a matter of life and death.
2. With an act of my will I make a commitment and the entire direction of my life is going to be turned toward it.
3. My inner life is reorganized at the core or heart to protect and enhance that commitment and fortify it against any enemy.
4. I will hang on with all my strength and life.
Winston Churchill once asked an enemy why an English bulldog’s nose slanted backward. Upon receiving no answer, he stated, “Because when he gets hold of you, he never lets go, and he still has to breathe.” Commitment is getting hold of something and never letting go.
Commitment and My Decision-Making
Commitment involves a mental attitude and an act of one’s volition. It is characteristic of commitment that one decides what is going to be his or what direction he is going to take.
Where are your commitments today? How committed are you to anything? Is only what brings you pleasure and self-gratification your true motivators? Are you “wishy-washy” and vague in what is truly important to you?
One day at a time!?