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 family too start out with Jesus and give 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 knowing Jesus more. All of us must hear the warning in this: 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 (Luke 22:54). 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?
Jesus passed his teachings on to his 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 from him. We must live close to the Scriptures. We must learn God’s way of living from all of them. We have been given them to live according to God’s pattern for humanity.
Now some might disagree with me. They might argue that the Bible isn’t really the Word of God. “It was written in a time that we no longer understand,” they might say. “It is no longer relevant; it can mean whatever you want it to mean.” This line of thinking is subtly destructive for believers, the church, and the world we are seeking to love and lead back to God. God says the Jesus even claimed the Holy Spirit would teach us all that we need to know (Jn. 14:26). We see the Spirit’s work through out church history providentially guiding the church away from error and to truth. We need Scriptures’ teaching and the Spirit’s illumination to help us stay close to Jesus. And the two never disagree.
Application of the Word of God is essential for spiritual resilience. Applying the teachings of Jesus through the whole of Scripture is to our spiritual well-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. 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 for the kingdom of God.
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 for their own gain.
Jesus chose to be different. he set out to share everything God had given to him. Jesus lived what he taught. Jesus shared what he taught. Jesus shared his life and teaching with anyone who would come to him.
Some people in our lives will follow us because they see hope and life of the gospel within us. They will 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 so that we can be in close loving relationship with God, and, secondly, so that we will share it with anyone who would come close enough to learn it. Living our faith develops our 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 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 faith to match our lifestyle. We are called by Jesus to take the gospel out into all the world. We are called to share Jesus.
I started off by saying following Jesus was hard, and it can be. Peter sure knew about that—he always seemed to mess things up—yet he never gave up after he messed up. For example, there was one occasion when Peter and some of the disciples were in a boat on the lake, Jesus comes out to Peter, walking on the water like some ghostly figure. Jesus calls Peter out onto the water, and not being an intelligent man he jumps out of the water expecting to be able to walk on it because Jesus was. And he did! But the waves and wind come (as they do in the busyness of our lives) and his eyes are taken off Jesus (as ours often are) and he begins to stop trusting Jesus (aren’t we so prone to this?).
Jesus does call us to trust him and it is difficult. The writer of Hebrews said we endure by fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2). 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.
If you want to mature as a disciple of Jesus Christ:
- 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.
Stuart McCormack is husband to Jenna and father to Noah, Bella and Sophia. He loves reading & studying Theology and Leadership and in his spare time he tweets as @stu7p and blogs at www.gospelpraxis.wordpress.com. Stuart has served in his local church as youth minister and has experience of living and sharing the gospel in numerous multi-cultural contexts in Thailand and the UK over the past 20 years. He is passionate about helping others to learn, apply and pass on gospel and practices of Jesus.