What Do We Gain by Losing?
by Pastor Dan White
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We only know God by what He chooses to reveal about Himself through the Scriptures. God reveals that He is passionately intense in His love for us. “The Lord All-Powerful spoke his word, saying, This is what the Lord All-Powerful says: “I have a very strong love for Jerusalem. My strong love for her is like a fire burning in me” (Zachariah 8:1-2 NCV). We can truthfully substitute “us” for Jerusalem since we are God’s people redeemed through Christ.
God’s love is also a jealous love for us. “You must not worship or serve any idol, because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5 NCV). By the word “jealous,” God reveals that He is possessively watchful over us.
When He chooses to take away everything and everyone from me like He did to Naomi, his actions are out of a strong love and a possessive watchfulness over me.
The Lord God watches over us and engineers our circumstances to remove all of the world’s clutter and enticements that hinder us from His will and purpose for us. His will is that we obey Him, and He will be our God, and we will be His people (Jeremiah 7:23, 2 Corinthians 6:16,18).
He is showing His jealous love over us when He chooses to take everything that is important to us and everyone away who is dear to us. Such loss brings us to our knees. Abraham Lincoln wrote in his journal, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.”
For Naomi, life was reduced to God. She had nothing and no one. This was not her choice. It was God’s choice. Naomi lost her life in every way but death.
For Ruth, life was also reduced to God. She, unlike Naomi, voluntarily chose to leave all friends, family, and possessions behind her. She lost her life too.
Sometimes people ask me, “What is God’s perfect will for my life?” This question arises when a person comes to a crossroads in life. Is it God’s will for me to turn left, turn right, or continue straight ahead? This question is always about doing and not about being.
Now, we should pray about doing God’s will in our lives when we are faced with a life-changing decision. And, God does enter in to show us the way. For example, the Apostle Paul had plans to go to Asia to carry the Gospel. This was not God’s will, and He gave Paul a vision of a man calling for him to come to Macedonia. Paul went to Macedonia, and the Church at Philippi was established, the first church on the European continent.
But, discerning God’s will is not only about doing, it is also about being. When God takes things and people away from us, his strong jealous work is at work in our being. Before we were born, God had already decided that believers must be conformed into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). We are being transformed into the Lord’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).
By taking everything and everyone from us, God gets our desires focused on Him. That is our purpose in life. That is why He created us. He created Adam and Eve for fellowship with Him. This was not out of any need God had because He is perfect and complete in Himself. He has no needs.
When we come to grips with God’s purpose for us, our “wants” change. The things of the world that we once wanted fade away and what we really want comes into focus. The Scripture points out, “We want to be clothed with our heavenly home. Then this body that dies will be fully covered with life. This is what God made us for” (2 Corinthians 5:4 NCV).
We are like a kid on the toy aisle. We want everything. When I was a boy, Mom did not take me down the toy aisle because I wanted every toy I saw. That’s the way we are even as adults. We want so many things. But God does us a favor, He reduces our wants by taking everything and everyone away from us until we want only Him - to be covered with His life and to desire relationship with Him.
The irony of God taking away everything and everyone from us is that we gain. In the economy of God, to lose is to gain. But, it is not a gain by the standards of this world and certainly not by American standards. To gain in America means to have - to have a nice car, a nice home, a nice job, and a nice bank account. To have in America means to have status, power, and prestige. This is not what it means to have and gain in God’s kingdom.
Over and over, Jesus taught that loss in this world is gain in His kingdom. Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25 NIV).
We lose, but we gain. Let us look at the truth of the “Great Reversal” in Naomi and Ruth’s lives. Whether God takes away everything and everyone from us like He did to Naomi or whether we voluntarily give up everything and everyone like Ruth did, God promises us gain now and gives us the bonus of eternal life when we lose our life in Him.
Little did Naomi and Ruth know what great blessings lied ahead for them as they traveled down the lonely, dusty road from Edom back to Bethlehem. And, little do we know what lies ahead when we lose everyone and everything. But fortunately, we can walk that road in faith and hope knowing how Naomi and Ruth gained in Bethlehem and how we will gain after our arrival in our Bethlehem.
In the wheat fields outside Bethlehem, we come face to face with God’s mercy, grace, and providence. It was not by happenstance that Ruth landed in the field owned by Boaz. She didn’t know Boaz from Adam’s house cat. But, God was at work to give her gain when she walked into Boaz’s field.
Ruth and Naomi didn’t sit around bemoaning their losses. Ruth went to work. Obviously, the aged Naomi could not work in the fields. Ruth volunteered for the grueling work in the field.
Broken and broke, the poor young widow stooped low to gather the leftovers from the harvest. Boaz showed up to inspect the workers and check on the harvest. He immediately recognized that Ruth was a foreigner, and asked, “Whose young woman is that” (2:5).
Next, Boaz allows her to not only stay, but orders the men not to get frisky with the young, defenseless Moabite woman. Thus, she is protected from forced sex, from being taken advantage of, and from rude treatment by the young men. Through Boaz, God protected her. That is grace. That is the kindness of God to look after our self-hood because he esteems us highly.
Furthermore, Boaz issues an invitation for Ruth to receive water that the young men have drawn up from the well and brought to the field. She doesn’t even have to concern herself with refreshment. Through Boaz, God provides for her needs.
She had been totally dependent upon herself, her ingenuity, and her strength to provide for her and Naomi’s basic needs. Now, God stepped in to quench her thirst with the gift of water that she did not have to work for. God provided through Boaz.
Isn’t this what our blessed Lord does for us? He gives us rivers of living water. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14 NIV). The water is a spring that bubblers up from the ocean of eternity. And, we don’t even have to go and fetch it! God brings it to us through Christ.
We just receive the water and have our thirsty souls satisfied forever. We never thirst again! Water here on earth is made of H2O. I like to think that the living water Christ offers is made up of P2J - two parts of peace and one part of joy. The living water satisfies our anxieties, worries, and gives us peace. Drinking the living water gives us joy in the eternal life infused into us by the Holy Spirit. Paul testified, “In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds” (2 Corinthians 7:4 NIV).
We never thirst again for the polluted water from the world that creates worry, anxiety, stress, and heartache. Further, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can steal our joy of knowing we have eternal life in Christ and that God’s will for us is to live in heaven with Him forever. Nothing and no one can ever separate us from this great love of God ((Romans 8:35-39).
Through the power of God Ruth and Naomi’s losses were slowly transforming into gains - the gain of food from the field, the gain of protection, and the gain of kindness from Boaz, the citizen, to Ruth, the foreigner.
When God takes away everything and everyone, there is always the promise from God of restoration and gain. His promise was being actualized through putting Ruth in Boaz’s field, protecting her from harm, and giving her the gift of water. And so dear friend, God will always put you in the right place, wrap your self-hood in His protection, and take care of your basic needs. Always! (Matthew 6:30-34).
Ruth demonstrated her great humility. God strips away our pride and arrogance when we are left with nothing and no one. We pray as never before. We consume the words of hope in the Bible. We move into a relationship we’ve not known before with our loving Lord. When troubles and disasters fall upon us, we are forced to leave Edom -to leave the past - and journey to Bethlehem in hope and faith of the future.
There are two actions that Ruth did to show her great humility and dependence upon God. She bowed face down to the ground in front of Boaz (verse 10). Here, Boaz represents the Lord. God’s desire is for us to worship Him and Him alone. He delights when we bow down before Him in humility acknowledging our weakness and powerlessness. God resists the proud and arrogant and gives grace and kindness to the humble (James 4:6).
Second, she recognizes how unworthy she was of such kindness and grace from Boaz. She was not even at servant status. She had no position or prestige. She said to Boaz, “I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls" (Ruth 2:13). She was a nobody in the eyes of the world, but she was SOMEBODY to God. God gave her status, standing, and loved her immensely - just like He does us.
May God give us humility to recognize who the Lord is - Almighty God, Creator, Redeemer, and Ruler of all people and all things. Let us not forget. God is the Potter; we are the clay. God is the Shepherd; we are the sheep. God is the Ruler; we are the ruled.
Boaz reached down and lifted up Ruth from the dust. That’s what God does when we humble ourselves before Him. God lifts us up. “The Lord raises the poor up from the dust, and he lifts the needy from the ashes. He lets the poor sit with princes and receive a throne of honor” (1 Samuel 2:8).
And oh, what a place of honor God gave to the humble Ruth! Boaz gave Ruth a place at his table. By the hand and work of Boaz was she fed. It is by God’s hand that we are fed. All of our gifts, abilities, talents, and brain power to work are gifts of grace from the hand of God to earn money and buy food. She was a foreigner but received like a citizen. She was lower than a servant but received like a family member. She was poor but sat with a prince of Bethlehem.
Christ invites us to feast at His table too. We who are outcasts are received as a citizen of God’s kingdom. We who are strangers to righteousness are received into the righteous and holy family of God We who are poor in spirit are given the kingdom of heaven. Christ welcomes us to His table!
At Boaz’s supper, Boaz offered Ruth bread. At the table of God, Jesus offers His broken body. Boaz offered Ruth to dip her bread in wine vinegar. Jesus offers His very blood. What a glorious blessing it is to be invited into the very dining room of Christ and enjoy the fellowship meal with Him when we gather around the table for the Lord’s Supper and communion!
After taking away everything and everyone from Ruth and Naomi, our gracious Lord poured out abundance upon them. That’s the way God is when He chooses to restore us after being stripped of our possessions and people we love. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJ).
After supper with Boaz, Ruth had more than enough. “She ate all she wanted and had some left over” (vs. 2). Ruth shared her abundance with Naomi, and this was probably the first decent meal Naomi had had in a long time.
Obviously, the two women were in such poverty that they had nothing to share with anyone. Now, God blesses and overflows His blessings to them. This is a truth. We cannot share what we do not possess. We cannot give what we do not have! When and what God chooses to give us, it is so that we too may give. After all at death, everything will pass to someone else. Everything will be given away. We live as givers because God is a giving God, and we don’t have to wait until death to give it all away.
Our God possesses everything. He chose to keep nothing for Himself but to give it all away. The sun’s warmth and light - He gives to us. The birds that sing, the meadows green, and the sky so blue, He gives to us. His love for giving is so great that He gave His only begotten Son to die in order that we can He can give us a love relationship with Himself!
In our natural, human state, our love for taking and keeping is the polar opposite of God’s generosity and kindness. And yet, everything about God is giving Himself and giving His creation to us.
In our spiritual, redeemed state, our love for taking and keeping is transformed into the likeness of God to give, give, and give out of the abundance of His gifts to us.
So, those who have abundance in money, give out of that abundance to the Lord and His church. Those who have an abundance of ability and talent, give for the prosperity of the kingdom of God. Those who have hearts full of love from God and for God overflow in that love.
The story of Ruth and Naomi give the hope from God to all who are lonely and have been touched with adversity. Adversity takes the clutter away so that we can come face-to-face with God and the reason we are created. Then as God chooses, He pours on the blessings. Thus, there is gain in loss.
Paul’s great discovery about loss is gain is a testimony of truth for all of us. “Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ (Philippians 3:8). Ultimately, losing is the greatest gain of knowing Christ, and that, my friends, is the greatest gain of all!
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Pastor Dan, This is a wonderful article on the book of Ruth. Thank you for sharing your insights from God's word. It was a blessing to read about the goodness of our Lord. I was Amening all the way through it :) In Christ's Love, Julia