Then Jesus said unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24) This powerful statement, known by almost every Christian, contains a two-word nugget that’s critically important to our spiritual growth, authority, well being and our ability to run the race. The two words are “follow me.” Why is it that we have no problem understanding and successfully applying the concept of “following” to the worldly aspect of our lives but often fail miserably when it when it comes to our spiritual lives?
Imagine that you’ve been invited, on several different occasions, to visit a new friend at their home for dinner. You have finally made a commitment to go, so you leave from work, get in your car and begin following them to their home. Imagine that you’re driving through an area where you’ve never been before. You get right behind them, keep your eyes focussed on them, and stick to them like glue. You get upset when something gets between you and the person you’re following because you don’t want to lose sight of them for even a moment. If there are distractions, you constantly worry that they might get too far ahead of you or that something might require you to stop while they continue on. You don’t consider pulling over to stop and get a soft drink, to watch a baseball game, or do some quick shopping. In fact, you won’t consider doing anything that will delay you or distract you from the person you’re following, but instead, give them your complete and undivided attention.
Then we come to our spiritual lives. How is it that even though we claim that we have committed to following our Lord Jesus Christ, and He’s leading us through uncharted or unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous territory, that we don’t give a second thought to doing some or all of those same things?
We say that we’re followers of Jesus but we don’t worry when something or someone gets between us. We stop as often as we’d like. We do whatever we want to, because we’re certain that Jesus will wait for us. And besides, we’re in no hurry to follow Him to His house right now because there are other more important things we have to do. We have a race to stop and watch. We have a fishing or golfing trip we want to take with the guys. We continuously take our eyes off of the one we’re supposed to be following and momentarily lose track of where He is. Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to spot Him way ahead of us. In trying to catch up, we often try to improperly pass obstacles and, in the process, sometimes get pulled over for breaking the law. When that happens we totally lose sight of Jesus. Then we have to back track to where we first started, hoping to find Him there. Somehow He’s always gracious enough to find the time to come back for us and start the trip over again. When will we wake up? If we could only treat our Lord and Savior with the same respect that we treat a new friend, how much better off we would be.
Before you quickly tell others that you’re a follower of Christ, think about whether you’re really committed to following Him all the way to your destination. Think about where you were when you started following Him and how far He is in front of you now. Are your eyes on Him or are they on every distraction that you encounter along the way? Are you willing to give up the “junk” and distractions along the way to follow Him closely and get to your destination?
But what things were a gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as but dung that I may win Christ. Phillipians 3:7-8.