Following Jesus

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” John 12:24-26.

One of the noteworthy things about Jesus, as He is described in the synoptic gospels especially, is His indiscriminate healings of everyone who was sick around Him.  This was most obvious in the physical healings he did so often but Jesus also healed people from sin, guilt and shame.  He spoke words of healing that minister to us to this day and into eternity.

Healing ought to be a sign that He is in our churches also.  If Jesus is truly with us then one of the signs that this is so is that our church is a place of health and healing in all senses of that word.

Losing your life

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Matthew 10:38,39.

Everyone lives every day in the shadow of death whether we want to acknowledge it or not.  The physical life of our body is a precarious thing.  It can dissipate easily under the influence of sickness or accident.

As a result many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to ensure it lasts just that little bit longer or isn’t taken away suddenly.  This extends to our immediate loved ones as well.  Telling people to “take care” is such a common phrase that we hardly notice it.

This is all very natural but runs counter to what Jesus tells us to do if you want to be His disciple.

It also doesn’t make sense, especially if you are a Christian who believes in the resurrection of the dead and a better life to come because of what Jesus did on the Cross for us all.  Why spend all this time and energy trying to put off the inevitable when what comes afterwards is so glorious?

However, no where in the bible does it say that it is a good thing to be reckless with your life or to take it so you can get to heaven sooner.

What Jesus does say is this:  Trust your life to Me and I will take it and do what I want with it.  Don’t worry about your life, how you will get your next salary, for your heavenly Father knows you need these things.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.

Difficult Passages

Jesus is the most lovely person that ever lived but He sure said some difficult things at times.  Some of the more difficult are those things He said concerning those who will call Him “Lord, Lord” on the Judgment Day:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23.

I don’t know about you but I can’t say I have seen many people who prophesied in Jesus’ name, cast out demons in His name and performed many miracles in His name.  It seems hard to imagine anyone doing those things and then going on to break God’s laws, never mind the many that Jesus says will.  But Jesus says there will be many who will do this.  I guess “many” is a vague term but it certainly is not a few.  It could be tens of people I suppose.  Maybe it is not that hard to imagine that of the billions of people that have ever lived that there could be tens, hundreds, thousands or even millions that fall into this category (don’t worry, everyone struggles, except God, when it comes to handling numbers this large).

But there is one category of people that you will never hear Jesus saying that they won’t make it.  Despite the fact that the way is narrow into the kingdom of Heaven and few find it (again “few” is a relative term, it could be millions) the poor are always welcome.  There are those among us who will be first and others will be last.  You may overlook them.  Jesus doesn’t.

 

Faith Tests

So God speaks to you, not once but often, promising something huge.  He tells you to do something about it and you obey.  And then all hell breaks loose.

First of all, the exact opposite to what God promises happens.  You pray for healing believing God has spoken to you saying that that person, or yourself, will be healed and you feel more sick.  You pray for money because God has promised you will be rich financially and your poverty gets worse. You ask for that deliverance from addiction that you know He has promised and you fall more heavily than ever.

If that is your experience you are in good company.  Moses had exactly the same experience in spades. You can read all about it in the first 6 chapters of the book of Exodus in the bible.

There was no doubting God had spoken to him in that burning bush.  He had seen the signs of the rod turning into a snake and his leprous arm miraculously clean.  Aaron, his brother, was with him and he also knew that God had spoken to them both.  Then they went and did what they were told.  They went right up to the ruler enslaving their people and told him that the Lord had commanded him to let the people of Israel go.

So now Pharoah rolls over and out walk the people of Israel taking with them a bunch of Pharaoh’s people’s goods and money.  You wish!!

No, the first thing that happens is the very opposite of what they asked for: the slavery gets worse.  The people are discouraged and no one believes Moses and Aaron anymore.

22 Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:22-23).

God then repeats His promises and explains why He is going to deliver the people of Israel.  Moses is still not convinced that it will happen if it has anything to do with him:

12 “But Lord!” Moses objected. “My own people won’t listen to me anymore. How can I expect Pharaoh to listen? I’m such a clumsy speaker!”

In my own experience I have found that when something God has said to me is challenged I don’t doubt God, I usually doubt myself.  The promise is clear enough and there is no doubting God’s ability to bring something about.  So I reckon that the reason it is not happening must be to do with me.  It seems the most logical explanation.

Moses did have something to do.  He and Aaron were given orders from God for the people and for Pharaoh.  The Lord commanded and they obeyed.

Now if you are reading the passage that I am referring to in Exodus 6 you will notice a strange thing happening at verses 14-30.  The writer goes into this seemingly pointless listing of Moses & Aaron’s ancestors.  I can just imagine this story being told around a camp fire by a Jewish village elder to children and others who may have been hearing it for the first time.  The suspense is deliberate.  Our heroes have been told by God to do something and all that has happened has been the opposite to what they have been promised.  Instead of taking us out of our suspense we are left waiting.  What will happen next?  How will God deliver His people as He has promised?  When will it happen, next week, next month, next year? In 400 years?!

In this case we know the story.  The miracles of the rod and Moses’ leprous arm are almost petty in comparison to what God does next.  It doesn’t take God long to fulfil His promise to deliver the people out of slavery and it sure is spectacular when He does.

There are, of course, other stories in the bible of people who got a promise from God and then experienced the exact opposite immediately or soon afterwards.  Abraham is one example, David is another.  In their cases the time spans between the promise being given and being fulfilled were quite different and called for even more patience.

However, in every case the promises God gave were fulfilled.

If you are in the middle of waiting for a promise from God to be fulfilled and it looks like the opposite – or nothing – is happening, take heart, you are in good company.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

Hebrews 11:1,2.