Following Jesus wherever He leads is often a journey that is easier to discuss than to simply begin in complete obedience. This past October (2015), I made a decision that was not easy to make. Since 2012, I have been an active member of a local Baptist church and had a variety of roles. I had the privilege of serving as a trustee, a Sunday school teacher, a Christian discipleship mentor, song and worship leader, and even operated a small printing ministry, and video recording and editing of the various services for the church’s YouTube channel. I was active in the various ministries of the church but had struggled with the ministry the Lord had laid on my heart. Starting in November of 2012, the Lord began laying a burden on my heart that I could no longer ignore – the small and struggling congregation.
Following Jesus: the first steps are the most difficult
There’s a hymn that immediately comes to my mind. It’s chorus goes, “footprints of Jesus that makes the pathway glow; we will follow the steps of Jesus where’er they go” (full text of the song available here). It’s an easy song to sing; it is a much harder thing to actually do. All through the gospels we see people who came to Jesus but for some reason, when it came to following Him, they were simply unable or unwilling to let go of what they understood and were comfortable with what following Jesus would require them to do.
I think of the passage in Matthew, And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead (Matthew 8:21-22) and the one found in Mark, Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions (Mark 10:21-22). In both cases, these men were willing to follow Jesus until they realized the personal sacrifice that would be required. Both men decided the cost was too great. Both men walked away.
Since 2012, when the Lord began working on my heart, I knew that He had a purpose for my life and a specific way He wanted me to serve Him. What the question came down to was I willing to step out on faith and accept the work that Jesus set before me? I could either be obedient or I could stay where I was – which would be continued disobedience. For a while, I was willing to stay in disobedience and even congratulated myself for “working” on the calling through my efforts to meet the needs of the church we were already attending. In the process, we began a printing ministry, became the administrators for the church’s Facebook page and web page, and began filming the Adult Sunday School and a.m. service for YouTube and DVDs for shut ins, plus many smaller ongoing projects.
Being busy is not the same as being obedient
Yes, we were busy, and for a while, I believed the Lord would be pleased with our best efforts. Many people, myself included, make the mistake of thinking that just because we are busy doing things at the church, then we must be serving the Lord. One of the ways the Lord has taught me about my relationship with Him is by the use of my relationship with my daughter. A while back ago, she wanted to help me do chores; instead of putting the pillows back on the couch as I had asked, she went into the bathroom and began to reorganize the items in the sink cabinet. Yes, she was busy, but she wasn’t helping me accomplish the goals for the day that I had set out. I remember thinking to myself, this is how the Lord must feel about what I am doing. Yes, we were extremely busy at the church but it wasn’t the right kind of busy. Our efforts were simply getting in the Lord’s way.
By early 2015, I had reached the point in my life where I could no longer just sit by in comfort and in continued disobedience. I began praying that the Lord would make it painfully obvious what He wanted me to do and that I was ready to do whatever it was He had for me to do. It was hard, beginning in October of 2015, to start the process of preparing to change from one church to another, to fully surrender to the full-time ministry, to leave friends behind at one church as we strive to be faithful to the calling placed in front of us by the Lord. It hasn’t been without some pain. There have been some earthly costs. We have lost some friends along the way.
Following Jesus is an ongoing process
While most of this post has been about following the calling of Jesus into a specific ministry, there are other ways we follow Jesus. Recently, the Lord laid on my heart to purge my CD collection and as a result, nearly 14 inches of CDs were taken and sold to a used CD shop. Did I like the music? Yes. Was keeping those CDs more important than my obedience to Jesus? No. If I had kept the CDs then I would have allowed things – possessions that I cannot take to Heaven – become more important than following Jesus. Everything in life boils down to a simple and child-like choice: is it bringing us closer to the Lord or is it pushing us further away. I think at times we have a tendency to make things more complicated than absolutely necessary.
Jesus encourages all who will listen, Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4), and Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein (Mark 10:15). As I began to seriously study what these verses were saying, I was again reminded of my interactions with my young daughter. She will come to me and ask me the same questions every child asks, “why do plants have flowers” and while she is looking for an answer, she’s not wanting the scientific explanation complete with chemical formulas. She just wants to know why on the level as a child. It is how she can understand and it is all her young mind can handle. When we set to follow after Jesus, we have to have the mindset to see the decisions that must be made on the same, simple terms. It is either going to bring us closer to Jesus or it will keep us separated from His complete and perfect will for us. And once we have made our decision, follow through with it to the best of our ability and daily seek His help to do it.