THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
1 Kings 19:16-21
Jesus calls everyone to follow him.
Since that is not an
easy thing to do, Jesus does not call us under false pretenses.
He does not just present the blessings that will come, but
also the difficulties and challenges. And so it was with one
would-be follower of Jesus. Bursting with enthusiasm, he exclaimed,
“I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk 9:57).
Jesus told him that the one he proposes to follow does not
have a place to call home and oftentimes has no rest (Lk 9:58).
But when one has decided
to follow him, Jesus expects a firm response and a total commitment.
One Jesus called said
he would follow, but only after his father had died. He was
a good man who was mindful of his obligation to care for his
aging father. But Jesus told him that the proclamation of
the kingdom of God was of far greater importance, and so had
the greater priority (Lk 9:60).
Another also said he
would follow, but wanted to spend some time with his family
first and arrange his family affairs. Again he was a good
man who cared for his loved ones. He was going to follow Jesus,
but wanted some final quality time with his family. But Jesus
told him that if he had decided to follow, that he needed
to be free of any sentimental attachments that would hinder
his work for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62). Indeed, how many
missionaries are troubled by loneliness and pining for the
comforts of home, such that their work is adversely affected?
Jesus is not being unreasonable. Rather, he is stressing the
importance of following him and of being focused on and committed
to the work that we have already decided to embrace. He knows
that there will be many distractions, attractions and obstructions.
Unless one is firmly committed, his following Christ will
always be under threat.
And so if we decide
to follow Jesus, we should do so totally and without reservation.
This is what Elisha
did. Elijah called him to the prophetic mission, as he was
plowing the field. Elisha responded by slaughtering the yoke
of oxen, burning the plowing equipment as fuel to cook their
flesh, and giving the food to his people (1 Kgs 19:21). Elisha
burned his bridges. He destroyed his means of doing agricultural
work. There was no turning back.
It is the same with
us. We cannot be lukewarm. We cannot keep our worldly options
open. We cannot have an ace up our sleeve just in case things
do not work out. We cannot have a Plan B when we have decided
to follow Jesus.
Jesus went all out
in carrying out the Father’s plan. Jesus went all out
for us. He held nothing back. He endured every affliction
and gave his life in the end. If we are to be his followers,
then he expects us to do the same.
Practically speaking, what does such following of Jesus mean?
First, we are to have
no other gods in our lives. Some of us do. We have already
chosen to follow Jesus, but we still look to other gods. These
might be money, power, position, worldly pleasure, or the
like. We are reminded by David: “Worthless are all the
false gods of the land. Accursed are all who delight in them.
They multiply their sorrows who court other gods.” (Ps
16:3-4a). Our response is firm: “Blood libations to
them I will not pour out, nor will I take their names upon
my lips.” (Ps 16:4b).
Second, we are no longer
to submit to slavery. “For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
(Gal 5:1). We were enslaved to the world, the flesh and the
devil. We had worldly and materialistic values and attractions,
we succumbed to the demands of our flesh for pleasure and
comfort, we were dictated to by Satan. But Jesus has set us
free from all these. However, there will always be that continuing
inner struggle within us. So we need to stand firm.
Third, we are to live
in and by the Spirit. This is the way to overcome the flesh.
“I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly
not gratify the desire of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16). But
beyond overcoming the flesh, it is the way by which we take
on the very nature of Christ. It is how we can become holy.
It is how we can strictly follow God’s ways. It is how
we can be empowered by the Spirit to help build the kingdom
and keep our commitment to Jesus.
So we are called to leave everything behind in order to follow
Jesus. What can we look forward to if we do so?
First, our future is
secure. In fact, our future can only be secure if it is in
Christ. Know that God has a wonderful plan for us. He has
destined us from all eternity for greatness in Him. If we
accept Him as our very life, if we submit and conform to His
way of life for us, if we trust in Him for everything, then
we have a great future to look forward to. “Lord, my
allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure.”
Second, God will bring
us to pleasant places, in this life and ultimately in the
next. God shows us the path to true life, a life lived in
Him. This is a path of great delights and joys, even as it
would include suffering and pain. “You will show me
the path to life, abounding joy in your presence” (Ps
16:11a). And after a delightful life on earth, we look forward
to heaven, to “the delights at your right hand forever.”
What then do we do, if we are to truly follow Christ? How
do we keep on track after we have decided to follow him?
First, we must always
keep our focus on Jesus. “I keep the Lord always before
me” (Ps 16:8a). We pray everyday, we read the Bible
every day, we are mindful of the Lord’s presence and
action in our life all through the day. We do not allow ourselves
to be distracted by the world, or if we are, then we turn
quickly to Jesus. We discipline our flesh. We reject the allures
of Satan. We look to Jesus to guide us through life and see
us through the ups and downs.
Second, since pain
and suffering will be part of our day-to-day lives, we always
take our refuge in Jesus. “Keep me safe, O God; in you
I take refuge.” (Ps 16:1). We do not look to alcohol
or drugs or illicit pleasures. We do not turn away from our
Christian commitments. We do not lose hope. We do not lose
our joy. And we always trust that Jesus will see us through.
Third, even as we always
hope in Christ, we live out fully the virtues of faith and
love. “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor
uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working
through love.” (Gal 5:6). We keep our faith in God no
matter what is happening in our lives. And in manifesting
our love for God, we concretize this love by our dealing with
other people, especially our brethren. We are to “serve
one another through love.” (Gal 5:13b). We are to love
our neighbor as ourselves (Gal 5:14).
God loves us so much that He calls us to follow His Son Jesus.
Jesus has already shown the way. Now he calls us to be his
followers, so that he can bring us along the right path, the
only path that leads back to the Father and to the eternal
joy of heaven.
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