I didn’t learn how to follow Jesus the conventional way. In fact, I’m not sure what the “conventional way” means. Well, I went to church as a child and summer bible school, and I memorized some beautiful songs and learned the most popular Bible stories, but I didn’t learn how to follow Jesus there. I was baptized as a teenager, joined the youth group, and attended some cool conferences, listened to some talented speakers and gained more knowledge about Jesus but I didn’t learn how to follow Jesus there. Over the course of fifteen years, I met with multiple religious leaders including Catholic, Protestant, and even new age spiritualists but I did not learn how to follow Jesus there. Although every experience was part of the necessary preparation for my walk with the Lord, I met rejection, disappointment and ultimately more confusion. I think most of us have had one or two unfortunate circumstances with churches and I thank the Lord for the many amazing churches and leaders who teach real Truth and bring lives to Christ.
I read countless self-help, motivational, and spiritual books to help bring self-awareness and insights but I did not learn how to follow Jesus there.
However, the active pursuit of finding the peace and joy that was missing deep within my soul fueled the quest to keep searching and ultimately led me to the knowledge of how to follow Jesus. The church experiences, reading the books and numerous conversations about the meaning and purpose of life were all important strands within the fabric precisely woven over a multi-year journey to become my garment of truth. A truth so vibrant and real it glows with His everlasting Light.
So, how did I learn how to follow Jesus? I simply said YES, Lord! Through faith, I kept seeking Him and asking for His direction, and when the opportunities came, I said YES God, I will go, and I will follow. The willingness to follow a plan that is not ours and to blindly go to places and help people without knowing why takes courage, but it is the way to learn how to trust in God and follow Jesus. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19) That is the answer that we seek but sometimes afraid to accept. Big task or small task, we must be willing to put down our nets and follow Him when we are called to do His work. We learn through the agreement to go and find out what He has prepared to reveal to our hearts and souls that have fallen asleep and hardened by the distractions of the abundant world. We learn who He is and what He wants from us and for us through these experiences.
Sharing these experiences are not to boast but to witness for the glory of God. I said YES to the callings to Africa and to help young Africans gain an education. I said YES to helping the criminal, the drug addicted, children in need and the corporate professionals struggling with job pressures. And I said YES Lord, to receiving the inner healing that was necessary for my life to understand, obey and pursue righteousness. I said YES to receive the revelations from the discipleship teachings and trials in my life required to fill in the weak cracks in my character. I said YES to the far away destination that took me to a place of solitude and intimacy to learn how to put God first above all others and all things. This experience transformed my life, my marriage and radically changed my approach to life and the focus of my work.
Most importantly, in the pursuit of learning how to follow Jesus, I said YES to the daily study of the Bible, the living Word of God where all of the knowledge of how to follow Jesus is written. I say YES with gratitude and joy to spending time alone with God every day to equip my spirit with the Light of Christ. Do I stumble and fall short sometimes? Absolutely! Through obedience, we seek righteousness, not perfection, in the eyes of the Lord.
Following Jesus will not remain a mystery if you choose to seek Him. There is a practical methodology towards gaining the understanding that brings growth through revelation as we mature our faith in Christ. However, Jesus said that faith could start from the smallest seed, a mustard seed. (Matthew 13:31-32) I assure you that several years ago when I said YES God, I will go to Africa and had no idea why or what I was doing there at the time, I had a mere mustard seed of faith and I began to learn how to follow Jesus there. He revealed the gift of revelation and understanding about the real struggles in our world and what it means to love all others as ourselves. I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if I had said, “NO Lord, not now” or “I don’t have the courage.” When visiting the Mediterranean islands and touring so many incredible churches planted in the early beginnings of Christianity, I thought about what our lives on earth would be like if Apostle Paul had said, “NO Lord, I won’t go.” Or in modern times the response might be, “I’m so busy with my work, my family, soccer practice, cheerleading, vacations, and so many other activities, it is impossible for me to find the time.”
What is God prompting you to do? Say YES, and learn how to truly follow Jesus and watch the mustard seed blossom into a tree of life. Not just this life but eternal life.