What does it take to follow Jesus?

The call to follow Christ is not one that needs a lot of preparation and thought.  It doesn’t require hours and hours of study for someone to be used powerfully by God.  And one doesn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on an education to make sure your know enough to be useful to God.  We live in a society that has pushed you to learn and prepare so that you are useful.  And while education and study are definitely imporant and have their place, they are not what is needed for one to be used by God.  To often we allow ourselves to think that we are not ready, or we don’t know enough, or we are not prepared to say yes when God calls.  I have been guilty of this same thought myself over the years.  

When I was first asked to teach sunday school years ago my first thought was ‘what do I know?’  I felt unqualified, and ill prepared to stand before a group of kids and teach them.  Thankfully I didn’t allow the feelings to hold me back and at the encouragment of those leading me I stepped into the role.  The problem is many Christians today in North America hold back in so many ways because they feel the same.  I was truly humbled by the young men and women I met while traveling overseas who were simply doing what was in front of them every day to the best they knew how and they were leading people to Christ and leading churches, and many were fresh off the streets themselves.  All they knew was God was able, Jesus saves and what God had done for them He wanted to do for others.  And as they were the oldest Christian they were in charge.

When I talk with people here about leading small groups, or house churches I usually get the same response I had when asked to teach sunday school.  People say ‘I’m not ready’, or ‘I don’t know enough’ or ‘What if I get asked something I can’t answer?’.  And all of the responses usually revolve around knowing and preparing enough to perform.  And as a result we miss out completely on seeing God do something in our lives and moving on the people we encounter each day.

Wolfgang Samson wrote “The core followers of Christ have found that following Him is not about having sufficient academic and statistical proof before they act; rather, it is about having the faithful and obedient desire to follow God’s Word and do what He said, no matter what, when, where, or who has gone before.”

Everyone who has ever been used of God has had to come to the place where they realized the fact that ‘God is able, and God is faithful, and Jesus wants to be known’.  

Everything God calls us to do and to be stems from His ability and not ours. We will never know enough or be prepared enough to be used by God. In fact most of the people God used were the unlearned and ill prepared. Just look at the original twelve disciples. Not one of them was considered to be the cream of society and not one was educated in any way. What set them apart was the willingness to follow and the relationship they had with God. They knew God was able to do all things, that God was wanting to use them, and He would be faithful to stand behind everything He called them to do. And so they went trusting in God’s ability instead of their own. 

For us to be used by God we have to come to the same place. The place where saying yes to what God wants doesn’t hinge on our ability but on His. Once we do we can truly see mountains move.  Everything is dependent on Him and on our willingness to simply follow where He leads.

Are you a victim?

We live in a world where everything that goes wrong in our lives is someone or something elses fault.  It seems to be the way of our world.  When something happens we don’t usually look at the person and hold them responsible for their actions.  We often look at reasons why they may have behaved the way they did.  And although there are reasons for their actions, they are not the cause.  Recently the world was appalled at the shooting which happened in Las Vegas.  It was a terrible tragedy and a lot of people were forever impacted by the choices of one man.   And within hours people began to search for the reasons behind the shooting.   We all were hungry for an answer to the question why.  What would cause a man to do this kind of thing.

There have been many other such instances that have happened over the years and some can be attributed to ideologies and beliefs which allow people to do these kinds of things.  We see this often in the news with ISIS.  And there are many other ideologies in our world that decree violence is the answer.  But I have also seen many times the people blame the circumstances of a persons life.  Their childhood was traumatic, or they didn’t have a proper role model or influence.  They were from a lower part of society which didn’t have many opportunities or options, or many other ways to explain people’s behaviours.  

The problem with this line of thinking is it takes away from our responsibility for our choices.  Most estimates say that 90-95% of your life is outside of your control.  And when we give away responsibility for our choices we acutally become a victim of whatever environment we live in.  And that mentality can be extremely hard to overcome.  The minute we give up ownership of our choices, and thereby responsibility we declare that life has made us the way we are and we are not responsible and are therefore a victim.  I used to say my brother made me mad growing up.  It is a common phrase many people use.  The problem is we are again in a victim mode saying something other than ourselves is responsible.   I still here the response I used to get, “Your brother didn’t make you mad, you chose to be mad because of what your brother did.”  

The common thing we all face every day is the reality of suffering.  All of our lives have difficulty and struggle.  All people everywhere have pain and suffering.  It is a part of our world, and a part of being alive.  It is the world we created.  And you cannot compare suffering.  Someone else may be having a more difficult time than you are currently, and someone else might be seeming to be doing better.  What we need to see is that no matter what happens in our lives, and no matter how tragic our circumstances feel we all have the choice to respond to those situations.

Any time you give away your ability to choose you become a victim.  All of us have the opportunity to overcome our circumstances and become better.  We have all seen people rise from great tragedy and hardship to levels of greatness.  Nelson Mandella comes to mind.  And we have all seen the news where someone who seemingly had life in hand causes great pain and suffering like the man in Las Vegas recently.  At no time can we give away responsibility for our lives and choices.  God is holding us accountable even if we are unwilling to.  We are the only ones responsible for who we are and what we are becoming.  And only we can determine the height of our growth and development.  The choice is before us all.  Who will we become in spite of what happens to us.  Anything less means you are choosing to be a victim.​

Is it Faith or Hope

Faith is an important part of our Christian walk.  If fact without faith we are completely lost.  Hebrews says ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’. Hebrews 11:6  In a previous post I wrote about what faith is.    The kingdom of God, and everything He wants to do in our lives and those around us requires faith.  But how much faith do we have?  It is a question I have been asking myself recently.  Because Jesus stated that ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20  And so I wondered because I don’t see mountains moving in my life often.  I have prayed for people and seen God do wonders, but most times I pray and like many people nothing happens.   And yet Jesus stated that if we will lay hands on the sick they will recover.

So I began to wonder am I acting in faith?  When I pray for people is it faith driving my actions.  Do I believe God can?  More important do I believe God will?  or do I simply hope God will?  Hope is an important and life changing part of our life with God as well.  Rick Warren stated ‘Without hope in the future there is no power for today.”   Paul wrote that faith hope and love will remain but the greatest is love.  So hope is very important.  But hope on its own is limited.  It is not an endless supply to keep us running endlessly.   Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”   So hope can run out and many people today are giving up on following God.  One might wonder if there was just hope and no faith.

Hebrews 11:1 states that faith is the foundation and the substance of hope.  Faith is what allows hope to stay strong, and allows you to carry forward regardless of what your circumstances tell you, when that faith is in God.  Because God is never-changing and His nature is always reliable and He will always do what He says He will.   Abraham is our best example in scripture about walking in faith and he received a promise from God that He would be a father of many nations.  To be a father of many, you have to at least be the father of one, and Abraham had no children.  And yet Abraham believed, or had faith in God, that God’s nature was to fulfill His promises and to do what He said He would do.  And Romans 4:18-21 states Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,  being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  Against all hope Abraham hoped, because his confidence was placed in the nature and character of God and so he was able to consistently hope and walk forward towards the promises of God.

Are you walking in faith, believing and trusting in the nature of God regardless of circumstance or are you just hoping.  Without faith hope will run out.  Many people stop short of God’s promises because their confidence was in their circumstances and situations instead of in the nature and character of God and as a result their hope had no foundation.  Abraham walked forward never wavering in the confidence of God’s nature, even when it came time to sacrifice his son at God’s command.   Abraham was able to respond not because of what he was capable of, but because of God’s nature and what God was capable of.  “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,  even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead…” Hebrews 11:17-19

If you’re reaching out in response to what God has said never waiver when your circumstances don’t agree.  Faith says God is able, God is trustworthy, and God will do what He said.  Peter walked on water because He had faith.  When his view was placed on his circumstances he sunk.  If your simply running on hope you will eventually run out of steam.  But with God all things are possible and you can enter into all that God has for you.