Weaving together the threads that make up my passion for the written word…as an author, editor, and follower of The Word.
I haven’t posted one of these in a while, but want to get into the habit of doing so on Sundays. It is a good spiritual discipline that keeps me grounded.
Ever enthusiastically sign up for something only to find out it wasn’t what you thought? When you finally do see the fine print (too late), you feel tricked…and trapped into a decision you might not have made, if only you had known. Jesus did not want his followers to feel that way. He wanted them to enter into an honest relationship with Him, where they understood who He was, what He was about, and the difficulties they would face if they truly followed Him. They would have to learn to put their complete trust in Him for everything.
Jesus could have come into this world with all of the comforts of a king. With a thought he could have taken over the Roman emperor’s palace, or built a bigger, better one to overshadow it. He could have had armies at his disposal, and fed the five thousand directly from the stores of the wealthy. But he didn’t. He came to be one of us in total humility…not abandoning his divinity, but choosing not to use it for selfish means, in the hopes of teaching us, and reaching us in a profound way. Our King did not come as a power hungry bully, but as a loving servant who wanted willing followers.
Amazingly, Jesus, the son of God, came into this world with nothing. Throughout His life, He continued to have nothing more than He needed to carry out His ministry day by day. Very often that meant He didn’t even have a place to sleep for the night. Jesus’ disciples would need to understand that following Him would make their earthly lives harder, not easier. One of the disciples asked if he could bury his father first. He was not asking to attend a funeral, but to wait for his father to die, maybe still years into the future. His earthly family and societal obligations took priority over the call to follow Jesus.
Jesus’ response to this question was pretty blunt. “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” His time on earth was limited, His mission the most important one in all of history, and being a part of it was going to cost them something. The Jewish religious leaders were becoming increasingly hostile; Jesus knew how all of this was going to end, even if His disciples couldn’t yet see it.
We may not be literally following Jesus around like the disciples were, but devoting our complete selves to him still has a cost. We will need to surrender some things too, maybe our preconceptions, our time, money, possessions, relationships, popularity, occupations, desires, selfishness, pride, and our false sense of security–in some cases our very lives.
Being a Christian does not guarantee everything will be easier–it will probably be harder, because we are being asked to live by a higher standard, and we will always have Satan working against us. But we are also invited to surrender our suffering; our fears, insecurities, destructive habits, and dependency on our own inadequate selves to navigate this difficult world in which we live.
I’ve heard atheist’s scoff that Christians just use their belief as a crutch, as though faith is a sign of mental weakness. I’ll take two crutches, please, and call me what you like…you know the old rhyme about sticks and stones. Because when life goes wrong, which it inevitably will, why would I want to go through it alone? God is real (whether you believe in Him or not), so shutting Him out over some twisted sense of independent pride or fear of mental weakness is, forgive me, a bit insane. Personally, I want Him there with me through my trials, guiding me, comforting me, even carrying me when necessary. And when things go right, I would rather feel God’s immeasurable joy mixing with my own than credit myself or random good luck.
Let’s be honest, what little control we think we have in this life is only an illusion. Yet as weak, fallen beings, we struggle to relinquish it even while we gladly accept the blessings freely poured down upon us. Isn’t the cost of following Jesus always worth it though? Nothing I’ve had to give up in this life is worth more than the value of my soul, or of the intimate relationship I have with a God who wants something better for me than I could even imagine for myself.
Jesus is not trying to trick me with the fine print; he wants me to enter into an honest relationship with Him–to understand who He is, what He is about, and to know the cost. Like the disciples, I am still learning to put my trust in Him for everything–I’m not perfect, and it is a lifelong process. I just need to be willing to say, “yes, Lord, I will follow,” and keep singing out hallelujah, whether I’m joyful or broken. Not an easy thing to do, but as long as I spend my life trying, He will never let me down.
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