There’s a story of a traveling pastor who came to town and taught at a church about what it meant to follow Jesus. At the end of the night, a man approached the pastor with a concerned look on his face and asked earnestly, “If I follow Jesus, does that mean I have to give up cigarettes?”
The Pastor’s reply was simple: “Well, now it does.”
Because the man saw cigarettes as something he couldn’t give up, or rather, didn’t want to give up if it was required to follow Jesus.
He had unknowingly articulated an idol of his heart.
Maybe, like me, you don’t smoke, so I’ll make this a little more personal.
I love sweet tea. I crave it. I love the taste, the memories associated with sipping it over good conversation on the porch swing, the southern charm and the sweetness. When I have a bad day, I want a sweet tea. It’s my crutch, my go-to, my comfort food.
For you, sweet tea may just be a beverage – maybe one you don’t much care for – but for me, it’s an idol of my heart.
I’m not exaggerating, friends. It’s not intentional or deliberate. But over the years it has snuck into a place of prominence in my thoughts and desires and I have literally wished for it more than Jesus at low moments and bad days.
So about a month ago, I prayed for the strength to give it up. Then today, I read Colossians 2 where Paul explains that we shouldn’t let the worldly or natural practices enslave us – because we miss out on Jesus. So I started to question, is that what I’m doing? But here’s what I’ve come back to: there’s a difference in giving up something to earn righteousness and giving up something to be obedient. For me, sweet tea is a matter of obedience.
Maybe that sounds silly to you, but friends, it was a big deal for me. I had a small chalkboard on my nightstand where I wrote “Days Without Tea” at the top and began tallying up each day. Not because I thought it would make God proud, not because I wanted it to earn me anything – but because I needed the accountability to finally say, “Enough. Sweet tea is not life-giving. It is not necessary. It is a crutch, a comfort, and something I desire more than the Lord in moments of weakness or sadness. I don’t need it. I’m done.”
And you know what?
I don’t miss it. I don’t crave it. I’ve gone 40 days and I’m not sad about it.
Maybe this all seems extreme or silly to you, because honestly, it’s just sweet tea.
But for me, sweet tea was something that stood in the way of needing Jesus more than anything else. There were moments where I would go out of my way to get a tea, thinking it would make my day better, and then drink every last sip until I was sick at my stomach. I had taken my need for comfort, joy and peace to something other than the only One who can satisfy those needs. And that, my friends, is sin. Because James 4:17 reminds us that, “anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
So what’s it for you? Maybe it’s a relationship that isn’t honoring Jesus, but you can’t seem to give up. Maybe it’s a job you’ve worked so hard to get that you’ve lost your identity along the way. Maybe it’s the pursuit of being the perfect wife, mother or friend, to the point that you long for approval and are crushed when you don’t get it. Maybe it’s coffee, Diet Coke – or something more serious – but anything you turn to in place of Jesus is worth evaluating. Jesus Plus Nothing. This is the Gospel.
We don’t need a little coffee and a lot of Jesus – we need Jesus. We don’t give up on things to earn a place at the table. We let go of things that hold us back from pursuing Jesus ONLY. We say farewell to the idols that have ruled and reigned in our hearts subtly, because Jesus is ENOUGH.
So, I’m giving up sweet tea. I’m chasing after Jesus on good days and bad. And I’m telling you here and now because I’d love the accountability to keep my pursuing Him above all. And because I don’t want to simply replace sweet tea with something else.
Jesus plus nothing. That’s the prayer of my heart this Monday morning.
Who’s with me?