What Lack I Yet?

Irvin Himmel
A wealthy young man once approached Jesus with this question: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus reminded him of some of the commands of the law to which he needed to give attention, and he responded, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:16-20).

Jesus knew precisely what was lacking in this young ruler’s life. Despite his being well acquainted with the law, the young man’s attachment to worldly possessions had a solid grip on him. Like the insect on the glueboard, he thought he had something but in reality it had him! The master told him to sell what he had, give it to the poor, “and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

You and I need to think soberly and regularly about what may be lacking in our lives. There may be one thing in particular that is a deficiency.

Do I Lack Obedience to the Gospel?
There are some folks who have numerous commendable traits. They are good neighbors, morally upright, friendly and likeable, but they need to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). All have sinned (Rom. 3:23), and nothing but the blood of Christ can atone for sins. Moral goodness will not remit anyone’s sins. The best of good people have sinned and need to turn to Christ in submission to the gospel. Examine the case of Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11.

Associating with Christians will not automatically make one righteous. Being married to a child of God will not in itself transfer one into the family of God. Attending church services will not guarantee citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. Listening to the preaching of the gospel will not avail unless that preaching produces faith which prompts obedience. The soul is purified when one obeys the truth (1 Pet. 1:22). In the absence of obedience there is no promise of salvation from sin.

Do I Lack Diligent Study?
Some who have been baptized into Christ show no signs of growth. They are failing to feed their souls on the pure word of God which enables spiritual development (1 Pet. 2:2). They need to show more interest in assembling with saints, participating in Bible classes, and in private reading and studying of the Scriptures. They need to devote more time to meditating on God’s enduring word. They are a reminder of the people described in Hebrews 5:12.

Commonly, weak Christians make the lame excuse that they do not have time to study. What about the hours they spend in watching TV, reading newspapers, engaging in recreational activities, surfing the Internet, etc.? It is a fact that most of us manage to find the time to do whatever we set our hearts on doing. There is no shortcut to gaining Bible knowledge. One must be willing to apply himself to serious, steady, and systematic searching of the Scriptures.

Do I Lack Prayer?
Jesus said that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). “Pray without ceasing,” said Paul (1 Thess. 5:17). The Christian is to be “instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). How much better things would be if we would replace grumbling and bickering with prayer. We are taught to avoid anxiety, and “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). Worry weakens; prayer has power.

The sinless Savior prayed when baptized by John (Luke 3:21). He arose early in the morning, a great while before day, departing into a solitary place, and prayed (Mark 1:35). He “continued all night in prayer to God” before the selection of the apostles (Luke 6:12-16). He “went up into a mountain to pray” when the transfiguration occurred (Luke 9:28-36). He prayed in Gethsemane with a heavy heart, burdened with sorrow and agony (Matt. 26:36-44). He prayed on the cross (Luke 23:34). Who can be his true follower without learning to pray?

Do I Lack Patience?
Some Christians endure for a while then grow weary. “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (Jas. 5:11). There must be “patient continuance in well doing” if we seek for glory, honor, and immortality (Rom. 2:7). One must not allow “burnout” to destroy his soul. Let us be refreshed in spirit through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with God.

We need patience in teaching others. There are times when we move too fast, pressing for immediate results. Correcting conditions that need to be changed requires much patience. Paul urged Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NASB). The words of Hebrews 10:36 are a timely reminder: “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” No patience, no promise.

Do I Lack Courage?
John the Baptist was not devoid of courage. Although Herod was a powerful ruler, John boldly spoke against his adulterous marriage. “It is not lawful for thee to have her,” said John (Matt. 14:4). He did not follow the path of some modern preachers by attempting to find a way to “okay” Herod’s sinful marriage. The beheading of John bears testimony that courage can lead to costly consequences. On the other hand, one who is too cowardly to stand on the Lord’s side faces consequences of greater magnitude.

Courage is firmness of mind and depth of conviction which empowers one to face dangers and discouragements without wavering. Stephen displayed remarkable courage in Acts 7 by “telling it like it is,” knowing that his own life was on the line. Peter and John showed courage when they were beaten, threatened, and told not to preach any more in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40-42). The life of Paul is replete with examples of courage. The gospel challenges people to come to Christ and evince courage.

Do I Lack Zeal?
Many disciples of Jesus in this modern age need a greater degree of fervency, enthusiasm, devotion, zest, and energy. Resemblance to the lukewarm Laodiceans (Rev. 3:15-19) reveals complacency and apathy. Little enthusiasm is shown toward the work of the church. There is no real spark of energy in reaching out with the gospel. Warmth is noticeably lacking. A spirit of indifference prevails.

Zeal is contagious. Paul remarked to the Corinthians that “your zeal hath provoked very many” (2 Cor. 9:2). Of course, zeal must be properly directed. The Israelites had “a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). Some cultists show extraordinary zeal, yet they are without knowledge, consequently they consume their energy in behalf of false religion. Conversely, some who know the truth lack the zeal and commitment to fulfill the demands of true religion.

Do I Lack Love?
In the absence of love, eloquent speech becomes no more than a clanging cymbal, intellectual attainments are valueless, benevolence is without advantage to the giver, and martyrdom profits nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Love is the hallmark of devotion to Christ. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14, NASB). Jesus said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10).

Brotherly love is commanded. It is a mark of genuine discipleship. The Master said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). Gospel preachers are not exempt from the command to love one another. Misrepresentations, personal attacks, demeaning innuendoes, derogatory dictums, and vilifications do not mirror love. The truth can be spoken in love (Eph. 4:15) without being watered down and without compromise.

The rich young ruler went away sorrowful when told what he lacked and what he needed to do to supply what was missing. The realization of what we lack should spur us to work on overcoming our deficiency. Instead of being sad and going away grieved, let us draw closer to the Lord and make our calling and election sure.

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Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 8 p20  April 20, 2000