" 'Come, follow Me,' Jesus said," Matthew 4:19.....Where did we think Jesus' invitation would lead us? The One we follow was familiar with obscurity and waiting, betrayal and slander, injustice and rejection, and physical and emotional suffering. Yet somehow we think that following Jesus means that we will avoid such pain." Alicia Britt Chole
How do we answer Chole's question(s)? When He invited us to come and follow Him, did we glibly assume that the path would lead to a life of unending blessing? One that yielded a unending supply of good things, constant happiness, and as little pain as possible? We may not want to admit that we did, but if it isn't, why then are we so shocked when the journey of being with Him leads through dark and terrifying valleys, and times of seemingly endless trial and suffering? That's not what we signed up for. Didn't the preacher say that He had a "wonderful plan" for my life, a great destiny and dream for me, for us? Was it all a lie? Is it all a lie? No, it is not. The lie is not found in any part of His invitation. The lie is found in how we have presented that invitation.
In his book, Uncomfortable Truth, Brett McCracken said, "Evangelical leaders appear increasingly comfortable with jettisoning those parts of the Bible that might interfere with their ministry to contemporary America." Jesus Christ invited us to His Life....all and every part of His Life....and that Life is centered upon two things: His cross and His resurrection. He invites us into His resurrection Life, but we cannot enter into it apart from first entering into His cross style Life. This is what it really means to follow Him. He is not primarily concerned with our external comforts, our ideas of success, and especially our definition of what is good or even best. He invites us into the blessed life that is to be found in following and being with and in Him. It is blessed, but the pathway, the journey, will be strewn with incidents of suffering, loss, heartache, and sorrow. Not constant, and not always, but it will be there. It cannot but be there, for the life He calls us into will come into a full head on collision with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Satan is not concerned with the lives of comfort seekers. They pose no threat to his kingdom. But those who come to Christ with the full intention of being His, of taking up His cross, will shake his kingdom to its foundations and turn it upside down. Such lives overcome all and everything he might bring against them. Such lives are not obtained in fields of ease, but upon the rough terrain of the desert and wilderness that He will most certainly lead us through. In those places we discard everything that is not essential to life, until all that is left is Him...and His Life. We die to ourselves, and as Chole says, "Death to self rarely comes covered in confetti." And in the journey we come to know what Paul meant when he said whatever was "loss" in his life was no loss at all because he gained the "surpassing" wonder of Christ. That is what He invites us into.
As pastor, husband, wife, father, mother, follower of the King, just what did you think He was inviting you into? Do you find yourself frustrated and angry, even disillusioned? Good. We need to be freed of all illusions as to what it means to be His. He does not call us into a life made better by Him. He calls us into a life overthrown and transformed from the inside out by Him. It will cost us everything, yet we will gain everything and more in Him, with Him. Every moment of every day, in every type of condition, He invites us follow Him....again, and deeper into His Life. It's a call to our death ......and to His Life. Do we come? No matter the cost...do we come? Do you?