Let’s face it, if you are a follower in a world that celebrates leaders, you don’t feel all that good about yourself. Walk into any bookstore, and you will note that many of the bestsellers are about how to be a great leader or how to make something of your life. Bestsellers are written by people who became successful by doing their own thing. Entrepreneurs are lauded for their independence and “out of the box” thinking. But nobody seems to notice followers, which makes being an authentic Christian an interesting challenge.
When Jesus called His inner circle to join His cause, He didn’t lure them by offering them great positions of leadership and notoriety. In fact, quite the opposite: He recruited them to be followers. And it needs to be noted that in spite of the bad press that following gets, He had no trouble building His team. He was so compelling that rugged fishermen, a greedy tax collector, a tough member of the resistance force, capable women, and many others left everything to become His followers. When He called them, He offered no conditions. No negotiations. No particulars. No contractual exceptions or arrangements. All He asked was that they follow. Those who responded to the call never saw it as a demotion. For them it was an honor!
But would it be an honor for you? After all, it sounds more like losing than winning. It feels like losing control, like losing the potential of managing your own life the way you want to manage it.
That’s exactly what following Jesus is all about! When He called the disciples, He framed it like this: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Note the formula. In essence He is saying, “Follow me, and let me make something of your life.” Most of us want to make something of our lives on our own terms, and are happy to fit Jesus into the picture now and then. But that’s not the way it works, and thankfully so. Left to ourselves, we tend to mess things up. Or, if we succeed, we become proud and consume time and energy reaching for the next golden ring, only to find that ultimately “the good life” is either illusive or unfulfilling.
It makes a lot of sense to give Jesus His well-deserved chance at being in charge. After all, He is smarter than we are, and since He has already proven how much He loves us, we know we can trust Him implicitly. He has our best in mind.
So what does following Jesus look like? It’s like the old “follow the leader” game we used to play as kids—with the Leader out in front, and His followers walking behind Him, doing whatever He does and going wherever He leads. We are to be following His example of forgiveness, truth, righteous attitudes and actions, honesty with ourselves and others, integrity, serving even at risk and loss to ourselves, loving our enemies, caring for the needy and the poor, loving the losers, and generously extending grace and mercy to the undeserving.
Letting Jesus make something of our lives is a plan worth implementing. The outcomes are so rewarding that it makes following a worthy pursuit. Your relationships, family, career, and even your leisure will all be more successful if you approach every situation as an opportunity to be a follower of Jesus. And, by the way, those who are called to lead are not exempt. Leadership that begins by following Christ is far more effective.
When He looks over His shoulder, be there!
- Read Matthew 4:18-22. Imagine yourself in Peter and Andrew’s shoes. Do you find Jesus as compelling as they did? Would you drop everything to follow Him? Have you?
- When Jesus transitioned His followers from fish to people, He showed them that nothing is more important than the needs and nurture of people, particularly in view of eternity. Is there anything in your life more important than the best interests of others? What would be different in your relationships if people were more important than your self-interests?
- In order for these early followers to give it all up for Jesus, they had to trust Him in the face of great risk. Is there something that Jesus asks you to do today that is risky? Can you trust Him?
- Who knows more about life and its challenges, you or Jesus? If your answer is Jesus, why are you still trying to manage your life on your terms?
- What one thing could you plan to do today to live out your calling as a follower?
- How does following Jesus affect our ability to lead others?