Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Ultimate Guide to Following Jesus

I love the idea of guidebooks.

I love that they shine a lamp on the feet of those undertaking a journey into a specific area of life. There are guidebooks for just about anything: travel, food, art, makeup, fashion, interior design, the list goes on. A few days ago I was hit with a spiritual truth about how God works and I thought to myself, “It would have been nice if someone had told me this in advance. We should have a guidebook for this sort of thing.” And then ta-da! I had one of those light bulb moments – stop wishing someone else wrote one and share a post on what you’ve learned so far! So, that’s what I’m doing with this post. I’m going to share some key factors that will arise for anyone that decides to take that lifelong sojourn with Christ. They say preparation is the key to success in life. Well, let’s hope this article better prepares a number of us for success in our spiritual lives and relationship with Jesus into eternity :) Here’s a list of a few things to expect on your life walk with Jesus:

1.       Loss: Saying “Yes” to Jesus means saying “No” to a host of other things. Be aware that it is costly to follow Jesus. In all fairness, He did say it would be. In Luke 14:27-28 Jesus says, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” Oh boy. Not the easiest pill to swallow. That’s probably why “prosperity gospel sermons” tend to have that part left out. It will cost you time (to study the Word of God, to pray, to fellowship with Believers, to wait on God’s plan in your life, etc), people (there are some relationships in your life that are of more harm than help to your spiritual growth), sins (you know those sins you just love to indulge; we all have them and we’re all called to replace our love for them with greater love for God instead), ego (the essence of Jesus was humility – a life spent following him is a life spent chipping away at one’s natural egotistical inclinations on a daily basis…oh boy!), and control (there’s nothing quite as frustrating as feeling out of control yet one of the first things a person realizes when following Jesus is that he/she is 100% not in control of this life and simply has the choice on how to respond to the ever-changing circumstances of life.

2.       Murphy’s Law: The moment you say “Yes” to Jesus, there is an automatic target placed on your back. In other words, the devil starts gunning for you. Physical and spiritual attacks start coming into your life from all sides – this is when you might lose your job or someone in your family gets really sick or you find out your spouse is having an affair or your child gets heavily involved in drug abuse. This is when Murphy’s Law kicks in: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. It’s important to note this when it is happening to avoid being blindsided and spiritually destroyed by it (believe me, it’s easy to be). Being mindful of this and constantly studying the Word of God/inundating oneself with the things of God keeps one spiritually steady when the daily battles hit (I can tell you from experience that without actively maintaining a relationship with God and renewing my mind with the truth of God on a daily basis, I lose far more battles than I win). A great scripture to meditate on regarding this is Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It’s a reminder that God is fully aware of what’s happening in your life and it will ALL (“good”, “bad”, and “ugly”) be used for your good…eventually.

3.       Miracles: The funny thing about miracles is that they don’t start occurring after you choose to follow Christ; they’ve actually been part of your life long before. The difference is that when you start to follow Jesus, you begin to see that the things you considered mundane occurrences (i.e. swerving just in time during rush hour traffic right before you collided with an 18-wheeler) in your life are actually daily miracles you’ve always been blessed with yet sorely took for granted. Everything around you begins to scream “miracle!” The fact that you woke up with all your limbs intact or that you have a paying job or that you just ate a delicious grilled cheese sandwich – miracle.  It’s like you’re a blind person receiving sight for the first time. It’s pretty breathtaking. (It’s important to note that spiritual blindness comes back into one’s life when gratitude and joy for God begins to dissipate.)

4.       Peace That Surpasses All Understanding: This is a really interesting one. It’s true that when you fall in love with God and immerse yourself in the Bible, reading about the ways of God and the stories of Jesus’ life and mission, you begin to feel surrounded by a protective peace that is hard to penetrate. It’s the type of peace where you could just find out that your business is going under and it’s time to file for bankruptcy yet you’re not particularly bothered because you’re too joyful about the fact that you know Jesus, He loves you, and one day you’ll get to spend eternity with Him. I experienced this type of peace early on when I first started my journey with Jesus. A lot of things “should” have upset me yet I was too joyful to be phased by them. It’s really a senseless and sweeter-than-sweet type of peace. The only time this peace leaves is when you take your eyes off of Jesus and the glory of God and start looking more intently at your tough circumstances/environment instead. It’s a peace I need to get back to ASAP.

5.       Self-Esteem: There is something about letting the truth of who Jesus is and what He did for you on the Cross settle in your spirit. Once it does, you become infected with the awareness that whether anyone likes it or not, you really are worth a pretty penny. When you think, “The Son of God, the all-powerful and all-consuming force that is greatness, died for me. He took beatings, insults, criticism, mockery, spit, and death because He loves a whole bunch of people, including ME,” you’re bound to feel a whole lot more chipper. Now feelings come and go, and people with their words and behavior can knock a good feeling right on out in a couple of seconds. But, if you accept that your identity lies in what Jesus did for you at the Cross, and you choose to live your life with the desire to fulfill your God-given purpose, insecurities (physical, financial, intellectual, marital, etc) and other people’s opinions might shake you but they won’t be able to keep you down for long.

6.       Doubts: There are several levels of doubt that tend to hit a Christian at different stages in his/her life. One is the doubt that God really exists. The idea of “faith” is a grand one and to an intellectual mind drawn to logical/scientific propensities, the idea of an invisible supernatural being that cannot be physically seen or touched can sometimes feel a little “too out there”. Another level is the doubt that God really loves you. The more one falls in love with God and realizes the depth of His goodness/glory and then compares it to the extent of the wretchedness of the sin being struggled with in his/her own life, it becomes hard to believe that God can truly love us. The next level of doubt that can hit is on the opposite spectrum – it’s the doubt that God is really good. When you consider the terribly sad and painful things (rape, domestic violence, murder, human trafficking, oppression, severe medical illness, etc) that have happened in your life, and in the world, you can begin to feel overwhelmed by anger and bitterness. You might wonder, “What kind of a good God, with the power to change/stop anything, allows such evil things to happen?” And as things only seem to worsen in the world today, and the critics of Christianity/Christians only seem to grow louder, it can feel harder to hold on to the hope that God really is as good as He says He is. Another level is the doubt that God’s purpose for your life is worth pursuing. There are several stories in the Bible of people God called for great purposes that had doubts. God called Abraham to be the “Father of many nations” when he was in his older years and his wife, Sarah, had never been able to conceive a child beforehand. When God told him that he and Sarah would have a son, Isaac, Abraham laughed. When Sarah heard it, she too laughed. David had his own doubts when after being anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel and defeating the giant Golliath, he shortly after found himself on the run, hiding in caves, because King Saul wanted to kill him. He was a laughingstock to some. He surely had his fair share of doubts. There are more recent known figures like Mother Theresa, who was plagued with doubts in the later years of her life and wrote that she felt extreme loneliness, isolation from God, and lack of faith. Doubt happens. So, what can one do when the flood of doubt comes with a vengeance? Pray more. Read and recite the Word of God out loud more. Talk openly to God more. Seek counsel from respected and trusted believers. Fight to hold onto faith…even if it feels like you’re hanging on by a thread. A quote that surprisingly gives me comfort in moments of doubt and pushes me to hold on to hope is one by the well-known Christian author and thinker, C.S. Lewis, who battled his own fair share of doubts in his life: “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” I appreciate the honesty of his words.

7.       Convictions: I noticed this one rather severely when I got serious about my walk with Christ and started welcoming the guidance of the Holy Spirit into my life. There were many sinful things in my life that I had no problem with before I started following Jesus. Some things I outright knew were not of God and some I didn’t yet either way, I had no problem continuing along in them. That changed after I started growing in love with Jesus. I started feeling convicted about so many things in my life that were out of the Will of God. It’s like the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the truth of the weight of sin in my life and I couldn’t act like I didn’t know it. I simply found it harder to sin as happily and freely as I did before. Now this doesn’t mean I’m sinless – no. I still get tempted in many areas of my life and have specific sins I struggle with; the keyword however is “struggle”. I struggle with sin now. Before, I indulged it with ease. Now, I actively put up a fight against sin and while there are some battles I’ve lost, there are quite the number that have been won because I’ve been mindful of the sweetness of my relationship with Christ when it is not littered and polluted by daily immersion in sin. The less one willingly chooses sin over God, the less guilt and discomfort one feels in relationship with Christ. Conviction is one of those spiritual gifts that can seem like a bloody annoyance at times (especially when a particular sin is screaming your name) but I can’t deny that it truly is a lifesaver.

These are just a few of the things to expect as we make our way through life with Jesus. It’s important to be aware of them. It’s important to expect them. It’s important to accept them. That is of course, if we truly desire to make it to the finish line with Jesus. Now, the list doesn’t end here. There’s more to it but I figured this post was getting a wee bit long. Don’t let that stop you from adding anymore to the list that you know of or have experienced.

Are there any things you've experienced following Jesus that you didn't expect? Any things you weren't prepared for? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Sharing gives us a chance to connect and without a doubt (pun intended), connection is the remedy to loneliness.

Cheers to more connection folks!

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4 comments:

  1. Following Christ makes you learn like Paul to Abound in much or be Abased when in little. You learn how to mix up with those in reality you wouldnt have any thing to do with maybe rich or poor folks. As small as I am, I have been exposed to meet those that i never thought i could have met without Christ.
    Its good to be with Christ wholeheartedly not with partial surrenderdness.
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    Nice reading from you. This post long sha, i think this could make an ebook.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, bros! I know it is a LONG post lol. You brought up some fantastic points. And I especially love that you referenced the Apostle Paul - I think his life is a great example of the beauty and complexity involved in following Jesus.

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  2. You are truly inspirational. Keep it up

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    1. Thank you Ibiso! I just write it as I experience it. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

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