It’s easy to follow when the person you are following goes where you want them to go. It’s easy to trust when you know the outcome. It’s easy to submit when the person you are submitting does what you think is right. And it’s easy to abide when things are going great.
This is true, at least for me. I am so willing to do something so long as I think it is worthwhile, right, good or what I desire.
“You want me to follow you where? Oh, I always wanted to go there, so yes, I will follow you there.”
“You want me to trust you for what? That’s always been no problem for me, so yes, I will trust you.”
“You want me to submit to that? Well, I feel that is the right decision so okay, I will submit.”
“You want me to abide in You now? You caught me at a great time. I’m really not too busy at the moment so yes, I will abide in You.”
What’s wrong with this picture? So often I fool myself into thinking that I am following and abiding in Christ. I think that what I am doing is good enough. But when I read what Jesus means when He calls me to follow and abide in Him…
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Luke 9:57-61
“Hey Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go.”
“Really, Mark? If you follow Me, it’s not going to be like you might imagine. Where I am going is not going to be easy. It’s not going to be comfortable. Foxes and birds have homes. But this isn’t my home. I have a mission to accomplish and I will be on the move.”
“That’s fine. But first, I have some very urgent and important business to attend to. I’ll get it done right now and then I will follow you anywhere. Honest! Just wait right there.”
“I don’t think you understand, Mark. If you want to follow Me, there will always be “important” and “urgent” things clamoring for your attention. But there is something far more important if you want to follow Me. My Father gave me a mission to accomplish and I have come to do only the will of My Father. If you want to follow Me, that is what is primary, above all else.”
“Okay…I still want to follow You, Jesus. But I have a family. I love them. And by the way, You gave them to me. Didn’t you say Jo was your gift to me? Aren’t children gifts from You? I’ll follow You but I have some very important responsibilities. I’ll make sure I stay on top of my time management. I’ll fit you right into my schedule. Okay, Jesus?”
Yup! The story of my life. I realize the challenge for me is not necessarily doing. It’s not necessarily behavior. It’s not even about sacrifice. The great challenge for me is orientation. Too often, I have a different orientation from what Jesus has in mind. Too often I start with behavior and actions. Mistakenly, I often live with the idea that following Jesus and abiding in Him is about what I do. It’s about what I do and how I sacrifice for Him. It’s about all the time I give Him. There is some truth in that but I think Jesus has a different orientation, the heart. At the heart of it all, it’s about my heart. Following and abiding in Christ is about my heart first and foremost.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jer. 19:9-10
Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Mark 7:6
As I truly considered Jesus’ words in Luke 9, I confess that I fall short in many ways. I haven’t considered the heart of Jesus’ words. What a painfully great time of soul searching and evaluating. But then something great happened. In the midst of the contemplation of my soul, God whispered to me. I sensed His encouragement. It was as if God wanted to encourage me to keep moving in the direction I’m going. Unfortunately, I am easily discouraged at times, especially when I feel I fall so short of God’s instructions. But how wonderful God is! As I considered the challenge of truly abiding in Christ, He whispers in my ear, “Mark, if you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (Jere. 29:13) I felt His encouragement to keep on going. That I am on the right track. I sensed His smile. What an awesome and loving Father!
Thank you, Abba! I know I fall so short. And You know how I fall so short. You know how much I want to follow you. And you know how often I get distracted or choose to go my own way. Yet in the midst of all this, you whisper, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Thank you. Please give me the grace to keep looking for you. To look for you in all circumstances, in every minute of every day, that I may find you. Thank you!!! In Jesus’ Name.