Monday, April 2, 2012

Follow Me

I've been meditating today (really for the last 2 weeks) on a statement made at the adoption retreat I recently attended.  The speaker, Dr. Susan Hillis, just kind of said it in passing and her message wasn't built around it, but it has stuck with me in a profound way.

Respond to the call, but follow the One who called.

Read it again.  Slowly.  Let it sink in.  Chew on it.

I'm sure the other 400 ladies at the retreat heard her say these words, but I think they might have been just for me.  Okay, not really, but this one simple phrase has been so powerful to challenge and encourage this journey of faith I'm on that I know it was Jesus speaking to my heart that day!

If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to Matthew 4:18.  (I'm not a preacher, but I can talk like one, right?!)

Seriously though, I've been looking in the Word as I've wrestled with this idea of following the One who has called and I'd love to share what I've learned. :)

(And just a side note:  I shared this with Chad this morning and he said it was very similar to what he heard from a man on Thursday at a training on prayerwalking.  So if you were at that training, please know that I wasn't and I'm not ripping off that man's study.  I wouldn't do that!  I guess God just really wanted Chad and I to embrace this Truth so he came at us from two different sides!)

Anyway . . . back to Matthew 4.  When Jesus first called Peter, Andrew, James and John, this is what He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

I bet those men were pumped!  They knew fishing.  They had most likely been doing it all their lives.  Men instead of fish?  How hard can it be?   Like fish, you just gotta have the right bait. 

Well they hit the jackpot in the bait category.  Jesus.

Matthew tells us that right after these four left everything and followed Jesus, they went all over Galilee.  Jesus was teaching, proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons.  His fame spread all over Syria and great crowds came from all over to follow him.

Fishing for men was going pretty well.  Jesus was a rock star and they couldn't keep the people away.  I bet they were loving their "calling" at this point.

Here's where things start to derail a little from the rosy picture in their minds.  The crowds are around, but Jesus calls His disciples to sit down for a little teaching time.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' teaching flies in the face of everything that was usually taught, everything that was expected, everything that seemed reasonable.  Jesus begins describing His upside down kingdom.  You can just imagine the thoughts going through the minds of the disciples . . .

Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are those who are persecuted.  This doesn't sound promising.

Don't have unreconciled anger.  Lust is the same as adultery.  Just be men of your word.  How can we live like this?

Turn the other cheek.  You must be kidding.

Love your enemies.  This is impossible.

It gets worse.  Don't be a hypocrite.  Don't store up treasures on earth.  Don't worry.  Don't judge.

Jesus' teaching would have rocked all those who heard to the core if they were really listening.  Jesus' followers were to live very different lives.  I bet fishing for men didn't seem so inviting about this time!

Jesus continues to walk down a road that the disciples couldn't have pictured traveling in their wildest dreams nightmares.  Jesus touching, actually touching, a leper.  Healing a Roman's servant (didn't He know that the Romans were the enemy?)  Healing and paying attention to women.  Eating wtih tax collectors and sinners.

Finally, in Matthew 10, Jesus lays it all out there for this band of men who are miraculously still right on His heels.  He prepares to send them out to the Israelites to heal, cast out, and preach the good news.

Just a few words of warning before you go, fellas . . .

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves . . . and you will be hated by all for my name's sake . . . when they persecute you in one town flee to the next . . . do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul."

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

This couldn't have been the job description that Peter, Andrew, James and John expected when they signed on to fish for men.  Jesus was asking for their very lives. 

Way back in Chapter 4, these men could have clung to becoming fishers of men as the call placed on their lives.  But it wasn't.  They were to follow Jesus.   Fishing for men would be the result.

Think of all they would have missed had they kept their eyes on what they thought their call should look like.  The path Jesus walked and led them down was a hard road . . . full of suffering, full of outsiders, full of untouchables, full of "the least of these."  Who in their right mind would sign up for this kind of life?  Had it been laid out to them from the start, I doubt any would have left their nets.

But that road was also full of God the Son in all His glory.  Living in His humanity and proclaiming His Diety.  Demonstrating His authority over everything while showing His tender love and compassion for those He came to save.  The Creator serving the created.  The Righteous One taking the wrath for the evil of mankind.  The Cross.  The Tomb.  The Resurrection. 

Had these men refused to follow the One who called rather than their own expectations of their calling, they would have missed the abundant live that Jesus came to give.

And here is where it gets personal.  Because we have this exact same choice.

We can have the 20 year plan of our "calling" all laid out perfectly and panic when a fork in the road appears.  As we seek Jesus, we often find Him calling us to follow Him down the dark and scary looking road.  We point to the sunny road with flowers growing beside and cute little bunnies hopping after a butterfly.  (I wish I could have found a picture of that scene from Beauty and the Beast where the horse refuses to go down the gloomy road with Belle's dad . . . anyone?)

But Jesus is walking on, beckoning you to follow, to trust Him.  What will you do?

We encountered this fork and made the right terrifying choice to follow the One who called instead of what we thought our calling would look like.  I cannot describe the joy found in obedience, even when fear is present.  We've had a peace that passes understanding and a beautiful unity as we walk hand in hand after Jesus.  So. Worth. It. 

I hope that this speaks to your heart as well.  You can trust Him to lead you.  He has His best in mind for you.  That "best" might come in unexpected ways, but He will give you the faith to walk courageously even when you are shaking in your boots.  Follow Him.

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."   1 Thess. 5:23-24


  1. SOO BEAUTIFUL!!! I love this post and your powerful words! This is awesome! :-) Thanks for sharing your heart!

  2. Speaking of coming to this truth from a different place . . . I was doing a study on Moses and the Israelites (think Ex. 13 and Heb. 11) and was struck by Moses' report in verses 17 and 18 "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.' So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea."

    Isn't that amazing? When we are faced with what we think is challenging (even 'terrifying'), we can know that God has weighed the options for us and decided THIS is the road we need to take -- this is the road that stretches our faith but doesn't push us to the point of 'changing our minds'!

    The Israelites still struggled with fear, even on this supposedly easier path (see Ex. 14:10-12) but they followed Moses into the Red Sea and experienced the provision of God that they couldn't have known any other way.

    However, knowing the rest of the story provides a warning: just because we've experience a God-sized miracle once doesn't guarantee that we won't doubt or fret ever again. But that's the subject of another blog!