What It Means To Be ALL-IN
You’ve been to a wedding. You’ve heard the words. Maybe you’ve said them yourself. “I do.” At that moment, the two people saying those teensy but momentous syllables made a life-long commitment to each other. No prenup. No hesitation. No backing out. They knew the next fifty plus years would be populated with pleasure and pain, but whatever might come, they were ALL-IN.
Here at I Am A Watchman, you will see the concept of ALL-IN frequently used. All of the people who work to bring this ministry’s resources to you describe themselves with that hyphenated phrase. We encourage you to do the same. Let me explain what we mean by ALL-IN, then you can make an informed decision about whether or not you are one of those who say, “I’m ALL-IN!”
When you think ALL-IN, several images may come to your mind. Your 16-year-old daughter as she drives away alone for the first time. The gambler who believes he’s in a no-lose situation and puts all his chips on 13 black. A woman who is overly plump with her first child and is on her way to the hospital now. The guy who steps out of the airplane at 10,000 feet with nothing but fabric to prevent his death. The soldier who steps into harm’s way to secure his commander’s objective.
These are not situations the team here is facing, nor are they what we would necessarily suggest for you. They get mentioned because to one extent or another, each of them communicates some aspect of ALL-IN.
ALL-IN Requires You To Take Risks And Make Sacrifices
Consider some biblical examples of people who were ALL-IN for God. Abraham left his homeland and family and was willing to sacrifice his son. Joseph showed his commitment by taking pregnant Mary as his wife and raising Jesus as his son. Noah used every spare moment building a boat and educating his sons and the crowds about the God who commanded his actions. Ezekiel lay on alternating sides for 430 days prophesying to the people and stifled his tears at God’s command when his wife suddenly died. John the Baptist, Esther, Daniel, Steven, Ruth, Moses—though decades separate their stories, a common theme ties them all together: risking it all due to their faith in the promises and character of God.
None of us at I Am A Watchman would be so audacious as to put ourselves on the same plane as these or others who fill the Bible’s pages. But we serve the same God they did, and that God requires from us what our spiritual ancestors were willing to give. We too are willing to take a risk and sacrifice whatever God asks of us. We begin by sacrificing ourselves (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:5).
Choosing to go ALL-IN makes you a target for the enemy’s attacks. Declaring your whole-hearted allegiance to God and your willingness to serve wherever He calls paints a target on your back. Since the day you took Jesus as your Savior, you’ve been part of a spiritual battle. But ALL-IN moves you to the front lines where the war is most apparent, and you are most visible.
Here in the West where I live, ALL-IN is increasingly waning in everyday life. Companies that once required long-term commitments to purchase their product now offer month-to-month plans. Money-back guarantees if you’re not satisfied after 90 days sound good – and I take advantage of them – but that kind of thinking is disastrous when it comes to the Christian walk. Half-hearted, low commitment Christianity is epidemic in the West.
I don’t need to speak of or explain ALL-IN to Christians living in oppressive portions of the world. They are the modern authorities on this concept. If you want to talk about the risks and sacrifices of ALL-IN, they are the ones worthy of listening to. The loss of family, friendships, finances, and freedom – these are costs others have incurred because of their faith. What has my faith cost me?
Yes, there are risks associated with following Jesus. At best, those risks are illusory; at worst, they are temporary. The pain is real, and so is the suffering. But what do we truly risk when we act on God’s promises? What is our anguish compared to the glory in store (2 Cor. 4:17)? He makes all things work for good (Rom. 8:28), and no matter what else happens, He will bring us home.
ALL-IN Has An Objective
In each of the ALL-IN situations described earlier, there is an objective the person works to achieve. Independence for the young driver, a financial windfall for the gambler, a baby for the first-time mother, a thrilling adventure for the parachutist, and claiming enemy territory for the soldier. They each have a goal.
They have a reason that makes their risk reasonable.
The overriding objective for any Christian must be God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). There is no motivation higher than this. The person who is ALL-IN anticipates with excitement the day he will see the Father on the throne, Jesus lifted up, the Spirit fully expressed, and all of Creation bowing in worship.
A second objective, or perhaps better said, the best means for achieving the first is people. Satan has them. They were born in his camp. The Father sent Jesus to provide for their rescue. He calls us to be the method of their release. It will not be easy. The enemy is just as committed to keeping them as the Father is committed to bringing them into their true home.
Jesus summarized these two corresponding goals in the reply He gave to a heartfelt question: What is it that God requires? Jesus answered, “Love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31) These two statements encapsulate the heart of an ALL-IN person. ALL-IN for Jesus, and ALL-IN for people.
Sadly, many are ALL-IN to the wrong cause for the wrong reason. Many who fit into this category professed allegiance to Jesus, but their true loyalty soon became apparent. Their requests varied, but their response was the same.
One man asked Jesus, “How can I have eternal life?” Yet, he walked away sad when he discovered that Jesus had to be his only treasure. Others came out of their own volition or because of Jesus’ call only to make excuses about why they couldn’t make His objective theirs. Some sought Him only for free food, and their desire for more. Even those closest to Jesus, who left all to follow Him, eventually succumbed to the lure of power (Matt. 20:21).
Not much has changed over the last two millennia. We still have difficulty correctly discerning what is worthy of our ALL-IN and why. Money, entertainment, fame, success, possessions, power—these items, though not inherently evil, have successfully drawn many away from Jesus and His cause (2 Tim. 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17). Even some who claim to be ALL-IN for Jesus find their true motivation in the personal glory or lucrative book-deal they hope their “allegiance” will provide.
God and His people. That’s what ALL-IN is about. Nothing less. Nothing more.
ALL-IN Provides An Opportunity And The Means For Growth
Being ALL-IN doesn’t guarantee immediate proficiency at your task. It guarantees you’ll stay long enough to learn. God knows we are weak. He made us from dust (Psalm 103:14). His standard is perfection in our tasks and sinlessness in our character. But He expects that we will fail in both.
Peter is an example of one who failed but who stayed long enough to experience success. Early in their relationship, Peter left his profession to follow Jesus and proclaimed his willingness to give up his life (John 13:37). His denial showed there was still much work for God to do. As Peter and Jesus sat on the shore a short time later, Peter three times affirmed His devotion. In response, Jesus declared His desire to still use Peter. Both of them recognized Peter’s failure and his need for growth. Jesus would provide the resources, and Peter would be the willing participant.
No matter what field you’re discussing, being ALL-IN cannot by itself get you where you want to go. Perhaps you want to be a concert pianist, an NBA superstar, a YouTube sensation, a prize-winning mathematician, or the fastest man on earth. You can’t achieve any of these without being ALL-IN. Each of them requires more than being ALL-IN to achieve the goal. Work as much as you want, but you will fall short unless you have the necessary ingredients for success.
I don’t say that to discourage your efforts, but to contrast it with being ALL-IN for Jesus. When you totally offer yourself to Jesus, you give Him everything necessary to accomplish His goal for you. He provides all the resources you need when you give the devotion and do the work. The reality of growth or its speed is not up to you once you are in full cooperation with Him. You can go as high in your impact and as deep in your relationship as you are willing to commit.
In Jesus’ original beckoning to those who would become His disciples, He called them to grow not to be. He said, “I will make you fishers of men (Matt. 4:19).” He called them to be ALL-IN before they had the skills and character they would need to accomplish Jesus’ mission. They were disciples—followers, learners—not those who knew what they were doing. Jesus grew them as they listened to His teaching and participated in His ministry. These disciples who often embarrassed Him became the foundation of the Church Jesus built.
He calls us to be His disciples too. The apparent risks are great, the objective is not one we would choose, and we will fail as we grow. Why answer the call? Because there will be unsurpassable rewards, along the way and at the end.
ALL-IN Gets Acknowledged And Rewarded By God
The reason we do what we do is that we believe those actions will provide some reward. The reward might be for us or someone we care about. Either way, it motivates us. So what is the reward associated with being ALL-IN?
I’ve already mentioned one—growth. Nothing changes in a positive direction without it being challenged, tested and stretched. If you are no longer satisfied with stagnation or regression, then answering Jesus’ call to be ALL-IN is definitely for you.
It’s not just you that grows. You get to impact the lives of others around you. What would you give, to what lengths would you go, how much would you sacrifice, to radically increase the chances of positively influencing your kids? The cry of every human heart is to make a difference in the world. This is your opportunity, and it can happen.
The members of the early church were ALL-IN kind of people. They gave themselves and their resources. The result was amazing! There was no need in that church. No physical need: all had food, shelter, and clothing. No emotional need: as they talked, and shared emotionally, they sang with great joy. No spiritual need: People came to Jesus for forgiveness and spiritual healing because these ALL-IN disciples lived a life for which they had longed.
A third reward is a new closeness with Jesus. ALL-IN isn’t easy. You will face challenges you can’t face alone. You will learn to depend on and draw close to Jesus for wisdom, strength, courage, and love. The depth of your relationship with Jesus is determined by the experiences you share. And as you lean on Jesus and find Him a more than capable support, your trust in His presence and His character will grow exponentially.
Our list of rewards could go on much longer. We just have small glimpses of how much God will give. I’ll only mention one thing more.
There’s coming a day when we will stand before Jesus to give an account for how we lived the life He gave us. He will not base His evaluation on our level of success but our obedience to His directives. Choosing to be ALL-IN for Him will get you the affirmation of Jesus (Matt. 25:21; Rev. 3:11-12). There is no better reward than that.
Will You Choose To Be ALL-IN?
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of what we mean by ALL-IN. To summarize it in one word, ALL-IN is about COMMITMENT. You could substitute that word for ALL-IN virtually every place you find it.
I began this explanation of ALL-IN with a wedding illustration for several reasons. First, life-long, selfless, sacrificial marriage is the picture Jesus uses to describe His level of commitment to us (Eph. 5:22-33). He died for us before we ever knew He existed. He diligently sought us before we had the slightest motivation to seek Him. Though we miserably and consistently fail Him, His commitment to us is unwavering. I’m thrilled that Jesus is ALL-IN, in His relationship with us (Matt. 28:20)! Aren’t you?
Secondly, like marriage, this ALL-IN is a commitment to a relationship, not an ideal. I used a soldier as an example of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and tenacity. While that is true, the motivation for his actions is not the same as those of a spouse. For the spouse, his willingness to act comes from his overflowing love for his partner. Though a soldier may love his country and his comrades, he is often fighting for one he does not know and will never meet. He fights for freedom.
Jesus doesn’t fight for an ideal or institution. Jesus fights for you. Yes, Jesus loves His Church and His Kingdom, but He loves you as an individual just as much. Though He may require you to endure some level of temporary suffering for the benefit of the whole, He is not willing to sacrifice you to gain His objectives. And one day, your enjoyment won’t be limited to the environment you inhabit. Your enjoyment will be a relationship with the King.
And thirdly, just as God designed marriage to be a bond only death can break, our commitment to service must last. We didn’t say the binding words to a person, a company, or a nation; we said them to God. He knew in advance we would fail, but He does not accept or agree to our resignation. There is no turning back because of some mess-up on our part or supposed failure on His.
The commitment we offer to Jesus is permanent. Because of that, Jesus challenged His original followers to count the cost before making their decision. It is better not to vow than to make one and break it (Eccl. 5:5). You must wrestle with and resolve any second-thoughts before you “walk down the aisle” (Luke 9:62).
So, what is your decision? Postponing your decision indefinitely is not an option. Jesus is calling you to radical commitment right now (Rom. 12:1). You can’t be half-in and half-out (1 Kings 18:21; Matt. 12:30).
Jesus went to the cross for you. How far are you willing to go for Him?
Are you ALL-IN?
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