Following Jesus is HARD work! If you’ve been on the road with Jesus for a while you know I’m telling the truth, and if you’re just starting out… Don’t worry, it’s worth it 🙂 I have seen many friends (and some family too) starting out with Jesus and giving up when the going got tough. Life’s pressures can crush our spiritual passion. Other commitments get in the way of commitment to Christ. The allure of new relationships can lead away from relating with Jesus. In this there is a warning for all of us: stay close to Jesus at all costs. One of my aims with the Gospel Praxis Project is to encourage believers to live Christ’s core commands so that we walk closely with, and like, Jesus. Jesus himself was acutely aware that following him and his commands was a hard thing: His parable of the sower illustrates this well. When Jesus was arrested his closest followers fled for the hills, hiding in fear of their lives. One of the gospels states that his best friend (Peter) followed from a distance. Following from a distance always leads to trouble – Peter denies Jesus three times that night! Jesus knew he would do this. Jesus knows us really well!!! So how do we cope when faith is tough? How do we become disciples who last? The following four points are an indicator of how we can develop Discipleship Resilience to live a life of faith to the full, and to the end.
Jesus passed his teachings on to his initial disciples. They in turn passed them on to another generation of Jesus-followers. And so on… Followers of Jesus LEARN how to live by learning form HIM. We live close to the scriptures and we learn God’s way of living from all of scripture. We have been given the scriptures to live according to God’s pattern for humanity. Now there are those who will disagree with me and state that the bible is not really the word of God; that it was written in a time that we no longer understand; that it is no longer relevant; that it can mean whatever you want it to mean. I believe this line of thinking is subtly destructive for believers, the church, and the world we are seeking to love and lead back to God. I think God that the scriptures have been given to us, inspired by the Holy spirit and passed down form generation to generation of believer. Jesus himself claimed that the Holy Spirit would teach us all that we need to know, and this is true in the experience and biblical teaching of the people of God from bible times all through history. God reveals his word to us as we surrender to the scriptures teaching and the illumination of the holy Spirit – both are required to help us LEARN in order to stay close to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us in a manner contrary to what is written in the scriptures. To Clarify: We need to LEARN from God’s word what God says as we submit to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and leading.
Application of the Word of God is essential to spiritual resilience. Applying the teachings of Jesus (through the whole of scripture) is to our inner being what exercise is to the body: it makes us stronger, sharper and provides us with the mettle we need to persevere in faith. Learning is in itself not enough: Knowledge alone puffs us up with pride at what we have learned. Application humbles us as we realise that learning needs to be integrated with all of life. It’s not enough to know that God values every person – we need to apply that truth in all our relationships and interactions. This will reveal our true character as we realise that applying learning is difficult. This is where the Holy Spirit prunes our lives to make us more fruitful of the kingdom of God. To clarify: We need to Apply our Learning to real life in order for learning to develop into Spiritual fruitfulness.
Jesus seemed to know a lot of stuff about the world, about god, and about what god meant in the holy scriptures. He was immensely wise and perceptive about how the world functions and about how people (even religious people) use power fro their own gain and reward. But Jesus chose to be different. Rather than thinking that knowledge and learning are power, he set out to share EVERYTHING God had given to him. Jesus lived what he taught. Jesus shared what he taught. Jesus shared his live and his teaching with anyone who would come to him. There are always people in our lives who want to follow us because they see hope and life within us. They may not know the reason for that life and hope unless we share it with them. The gospel is powerful because it leads to salvation. It is powerful because when we learn and apply it our lives are transformed from the inside out. we are not given the Gospel of Jesus in order to have a great life: We are recipients of the gospel firstly so that we can be in close loving relationship with God, and secondly so that we will share it with any who would come close enough to learn it. Living our faith develops confidence in God as we lean on him to live and share Jesus with the world. We share our knowledge of Jesus and the Gospel through our thoughts, words and actions: People will ‘read’ us to see the true motives behind what we do. They will watch to see if our faith is real. They will observe how we conduct ourselves. They will listen for our words of faith that match our lifestyles. We are called by Jesus to take the Gospel out into all the world. We are called to share Jesus. To Clarify: We grow in spiritual confidence as we live and share Jesus and his great Gospel.
I started off this article by saying that being a follower of Jesus was hard, and it can be. Peter sure knew about that – he always seemed to mess things up – yet he never gave up when he messed up. Like the time when Jesus comes out to his boat, walking on the water like some ghostly figure through the mists. Jesus calls him out onto the water, and Peter not being an intelligent man jumps out the water actually expecting to be able to walk on it because that’s what Jesus was doing. He walks on water! But the waves and wind come to his attention (as they do in the busyness of our lives) and his eyes are taken off Jesus (as ours often are) and he beings to stop trusting Jesus (we are so prone to this!). One way we can grow in our trust of Jesus is to spend regular time with him in prayer. We need to be talking with him, and more importantly, taking time to listen to him. Jesus does call us to trust him and it is difficult to do. The writer of Hebrews said fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Wow! Fix your eyes in simple faith on Jesus. Keep looking to him. Keep trusting him. don’t put your trust in your income alone. Don’t look to other props of life to sustain your faith – just keep looking to and trusting in Jesus. This may defy logic and reason at times (just like Peter walking on water) but don’t worry… Jesus is there to hold you up. To clarify: We grow stronger in our walk with Jesus as we look to him in simple trust and faith.
Learn from Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit as you surrender to God’s word. Apply your learning in real life. Share your faith to grow your faith. Trust Jesus and keep looking to Him. And perhaps, you will begin to grow more like Jesus just as those first disciples grew closer to Jesus.