IF WE read the Bible carefully, we will discover a list of things that were left behind. When God encounters individuals, the biblical pattern is that something is left behind as a result of that encounter.
Take, for instance, the case of Abraham, who lived in pagan Ur, where the moon god and goddess were worshipped. There is a legend about how Abraham discovered the true God – when he started wondering about the moon and the stars, and thought about the God who must have created them. In any case, God spoke to him, asking him to leave Ur to settle in a distant land that God had prepared for him. The Bible says that Abraham left his father’s house (Gen. 12:1, 4; ESV). A house was left behind in Ur.
In fact, Abraham and his father, and their families travelled to Haran and settled there till Abraham’s father died. Then Abraham continued his journey to Canaan, God’s promised land (Gen. 11:31-32). Another house was left behind.
The book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham left the comforts of a familiar home to live a pilgrim’s life in mobile tents (Heb. 11:9). The same book describes how, centuries later, Abraham’s descendent, Moses, left the titles, treasures, and transient pleasures in Egypt to serve God and His people (Heb. 11:24-27). He too left behind various things.
There are many more who keep company with the likes of Abraham and Moses in this regard. Peter and Andrew, the disciples of Jesus, left behind their nets by the Sea of Galilee when Jesus met and called them to follow Him (Mk. 1:18).
They and their friends later “left everything and followed” Jesus when he called them again (Lk. 5:11). Nets, boats and careers were left behind by the shores of Galilee to follow Jesus.
Once, Jesus passed by a tax booth and met a man called Levi (also known as Matthew; Mt. 9:9; Lk. 5:27). Levi was, so to speak, working in his “office” when he heard Jesus inviting him, “Follow me.”
It must have been an amazing encounter for we are told that Levi responded by leaving everything to follow Jesus. Think of what he must have left behind – his tax booth, table, chair, collections, records, even perhaps his lunch packet?
Then there is Bartimaeus, the blind beggar in Jericho. When he met Jesus, he was healed of his blindness. We read that he threw away his cloak (Mk. 10:50).
After he was healed by Jesus, he gladly “followed Jesus along the road”. (Mk. 10:52). The cloak was something dear to him. It was his “home” for what else did a penniless beggar have as shelter in the cold nights of Judea? It was probably used for multiple purposes, and perhaps was all that the poor beggar had. But when he met Jesus, it was thrown away, and probably left discarded on that dusty street in Jericho.
And how about the Samaritan woman who lived in Sychar? She came to the well near the town, carrying her water jar. There she met Jesus who engaged in a redemptive conversation with her and changed her heart and life. Blessed by her Messiah, she left her water jar, eager to get back to town to tell her neighbours about Him (Jn. 4:28). That water jar was another object that was left behind.
If we look further we will find many other things that were left behind by people who encountered the living God. It does not stop with the Bible. Church history will throw up a continuing list of things that were left behind by people who met Jesus.
WHY were all these things left behind? We can think of at least three reasons. Firstly, some of the things that were left behind were sinful, bad or harmful.
We can’t follow Jesus by holding on to that which is sinful. If we trace the paths of saints, we will find many discarded things along the way – things that represented sinful habits and lifestyles.
Secondly, though some of the other things may not necessarily have been bad, and were good in themselves, they paled into insignificance when compared to what Jesus had to offer. The disciples’ nets and boats were essential for their livelihood. The woman’s jar was a useful daily tool. Abraham’s houses must have been nice living spaces. They were all good. But what is good can also prevent us from receiving the best. When that is the case, the good things must also be given up and discarded in order to free us to be blessed with the best.
It is for this reason that the missionary martyr Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” However, not everyone is wise.
Remember the rich young man? Jesus told him to give up his wealth in order to follow him. Unable to let go of his riches, the man left sadly, still possessed by his possessions (Mt. 19:22).
Paul was different. He left behind a potentially lucrative and famous career as a Jewish scholar to follow his Lord. In his advanced years, he looked back at all that he had left behind, and considered it as rubbish when compared to the incomparable privilege of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7-9). Here was a saint who had no regrets about what he had left behind.
The third reason why things are left behind goes beyond calculation or comparison. Many of the saints left behind things after encountering Jesus simply because of the stunning experience of meeting the Lord of lords.
To have a glimpse of His glory and to be touched by His grace and love will make us forget ourselves and what we are holding on tightly. Those things that we hold dearly to make us significant and secure will be released easily when we meet the One who alone is our true significance and security.
Suppose there is a museum of left behind things. Imagine what you will find there. The exhibits will be attributed to the individuals who left them behind to follow Jesus. Would there be any attributed to you?