It’s Not “If” but “When” to Abandon Ship? A Reflection on Abandonment

by | Abandonment, Discipleship, Experiential Teaching & Facilitation, Leadership Skills, Solitude, Spiritual Formation, Wilderness Bible Studies

Abandonment. Is it good or bad? Or both?

Abandonment can be good or bad. It can be courageous or despicable. It can be right or wrong. Abandonment is a bad thing if we abandon someone in his or her time of need, or if we abandon a project before completing it. Yet on the other hand abandonment is a good thing if for example we abandon an unethical lifestyle or wash our hands of an addiction.

abandon ship

There is a Time for Abandoning Ship

On a daily basis we are faced with abandonment. Jesus tells the parables of the Tower and the Warring King to highlight this tension and to give instruction on how his disciples must establish a lifestyle of abandonment:

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.  (Luke 14:28-33)

In other words, before we start following Christ, we need the count the cost. Saying “Yes” to Jesus means abandoning ourselves and our own agenda so that we aren’t tempted to abandon Christ somewhere along the journey because it is too difficult.

How are Abandonment & the Abundant Life Connected?

When you abandon something you completely give up on it. In nautical terms, a sailor cries, “abandon ship” when all hope is lost. The ship is going down, and it’s time to swim for your life.  Because of sin and pride, each of our lives are like a sinking ship. There is no hope in trying to plug the holes any longer. The ship is lost.  Only when we realize that our only chance for survival is to abandon ship, do we make the plunge.

When I was in high school, I was a sinking ship. I was trying to fit in, be cool, stand out, and would do just about anything to be well-liked. Yet, at every turn, a new hole sprung open in the hull. I couldn’t keep up with the water coming on board through the “holes” in my heart. So when I finally heard the Good News of Jesus Christ’s love and sacrifice for me I was more than ready to abandon my wrecked ship for the lifeboat of a Savior. My situation seemed hopeless, and God threw me a rope through a caring friend who shared the Gospel with me.

A Lethal Combination

In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” What he is saying is that every human being is affected by a lethal combination of our own sin, pride, and the deceiving influence of the Devil in the world. The “thief” in this saying refers to the Devil who causes people to reject their need for God is a lethal combination. Unless we can abandon the fate of this lethal combination, we are all without hope.

The Life-Giving Combination

That is where the Good News of Jesus comes in. Whereas our own sin, pride, and the influence that Satan has on the world is a lethal combo, abandonment of self, belief in Christ, and embracing the abundant life that Jesus has to offer is a Life-Giving combination! “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!”

Leading people in the outdoors is a great opportunity to teach folks about this kind of abandonment that is a central aspect of being a disciple of Jesus. Here are a couple examples of some abandonment themes you could teach experimentally in the wilderness terrain:

Abandonment to Avoid

  • We will probably experience challenge and face the temptation to quit or abandon the journey before we reach the destination. Life is no different.
  • When things get tough, we are tempted to abandon. But Jesus gives us his Word, Prayer, and Community to help us endure through trials. In the same way that a group encourages its members to make it through a tough climb, or a sleepless night of wind and rain, connecting to a church and plugging into community will give you the ability to avoid the temptation to abandon the path of discipleship and persevere through life’s storms.

Abandonment to Embrace:

  • Engaging in adventure and risk in the outdoors helps us learn the value of abandoning our comforts and stretching ourselves. For every bit of abandonment of self, there is an even greater reward of relational closeness and satisfaction in our relationship with God. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
  • Outdoor adventures show us the value of abandoning habits such as pride, busyness, selfish ambition, people-pleasing, etc. And by accomplishing things we never thought possible in the wilderness we gain resilience and confidence to overcome those habits by surrendering them to Christ when we go back into the “valley” of life at home. The wilderness journey becomes a tangible object lesson that will help us remember what abandonment looks and feels like in a real life setting.

Related Post: What’s So Radical About Abandonment? A Wilderness Moment

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