There were many times throughout the Gospels Jesus repeated these words, “Follow Me.” At times it was to call specific people such as Peter and Andrew, or Phillip and Matthew. There were other times, when people approached Him, announcing they were going to “follow Him”,…some with good intentions, some not so much. And then there was the crowds that only occasionally followed Him…but they were most times merely looking for dinner and a show. So what does it really mean to “Follow Me.” It starts with what is called believing trust…I believe that Jesus died for my sins and thus I will trust in Him. And as I trust in Him, I grow more and more like in Him everyday, following His example as how I should live. Finally, “Follow Me” grows into a life-long relationship with Jesus…a fellowship of faith and life… filled with love, peace, and hope.
Most historians agree that the Book of James was written shortly before he was martyred by fanatical Jewish Leaders for preaching the Gospel. So to have him exhorting fellow Believers to look at the trials in their lives as something good not bad is incredible. James went on, telling them, he knew they were completely aware of all their past afflictions, trials, and persecutions, and how their faith had been tested each time…but that they needed to continue to persevere with patience and endurance… learning to suffer well with a tranquil mind. I don’t know about you, but suffering well these past many weeks has been difficult! And now with the “Stay at Home” order being extended another month for COVID 19…looking at it with good cheer and gladness of heart is very difficult. But Jesus reminds me in the Beatitudes that I should rejoice and be glad in my trials, (Matthew 5:12) and that I need to continue to persevere so that when I have done the Will of God, I’ll receive what He has promised. (Hebrews 10:36) Thus with all this encouragement, I will joyfully accept persecution. (Hebrews 10:34)
So, I’ll ask you this question today…When was the last time you were calm and totally at peace, without a care in the world? For the vast majority of us, it’s been quite a while. This Corona virus has managed to disrupt our routines, throw our home life into confusion, and leave us feeling like we have no control. That’s because when disorder with all its turmoil and instability takes up residency either within us or our home…all peace fades away. But there is a answer for this and His Name is Jesus…for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is called the Gospel of Peace. Now it doesn’t mean you will never have to experience disorder in your life, but it does mean that by having a relationship with Jesus you can be set free from the distress brought about by it.
If we take anything away from the past few months it’s this – COVID19 isn’t a respecter of socio-economic status. It doesn’t matter how much money you make a year, how big a portfolio you have, or what kind of car you drive…the virus is nondiscriminatory when choosing its victims. And amassing large amounts of “things” won’t stop the virus from invading your body if you’re exposed. Job very wisely tells us that we can’t save ourselves by hoarding “things” nor that we can put our trust in those “things”, for our only security comes from God alone. (Job 20:20 & Job 31:24) When Jesus spoke these words in Luke, He was warning us about the sin of covetousness and selfishness…for we do not exist for “things”… we live to have relationship with Him.
This has to be one of the hardest verses in the Bible to do, and do well. This verse says that if we want to follow Jesus we must make a conscious decision to renounce our old self and instead follow the example of our crucified Christ. And no one, including Jesus, Himself, ever said it would be easy, for there is a tremendous cost to following the Lord. Considering it takes daily getting our priorities right and properly arranging our lives so that Jesus ranks supreme in everything we do, carrying our cross becomes a trial of faith and obedience.
Human emotions can be all over the place…from jubilation to despair. But when your trust is firmly fixed on Jesus, the highs and lows aren’t as severe. For when your faith is based on Him and what He can do and not on fate or luck…you can face any bad news with confidence that Jesus will see you through. This is shown to us in Psalm 112:7, “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear.” Thank you Lord for that certainty we can have.
I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of this daily! It’s brought even clearer to me in I Samuel 17:47, when it says, “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.” But how many times have I marched out into battle with a toothpick thinking I was somehow “helping God”? I’ve found one of the greatest Psalms during these times of fear and despair is Psalm 91…it’s a wonderful antidote against that overwhelming feeling of dread, and can help me then refocus my mind where I can – Face Fear with Faith in my heavenly Father.