Have you ever read a verse in a random, unexpected place (i.e. NOT the Bible), but had it strike a chord in a way that it never has before? That happened to me the other day. I started reading the book, Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, and it mentioned Luke 9:62, just as a random thought of one of the characters.
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
It hit me. It REALLY hit me. So I decided to look it up and read it in context. (For those of you who went to high school with me and had Mr. Davis as a Bible teacher…you know, context is key!) Basically, this section of Scripture is about when Jesus asks you to follow Him. Luke writes about a couple people that Jesus asks to follow Him, but in response they give excuses about having to bury their father, or say goodbye to their family. At first, you’d think, “Ok, that makes sense, at least they should be able to go to their dad’s funeral and say goodbye right?” Maybe, but that’s not the whole story.
I remember hearing a sermon on these verses a while back, and there’s an important part about the man who says he wants to go bury his father first that’s not written in this section: his father isn’t dead yet. Basically he was saying, “hold up one second Jesus, let me wait until my dad kicks the bucket so I can get my inheritance, be rich, and then I’ll be way more comfortable following you…but we’ll see. No promises.” Yea, ok buddy.
When Jesus says “follow Me,” it doesn’t mean, “follow me whenever it fits into your schedule,” or “follow me…but where are some places you’d prefer to go? We can go there so you will feel more comfortable.” He says, “follow me.” The end. So we can either say “yes,” and trust in His goodness and plan, or “no” and decide that we know better, and stay in our comfortable little bubble.
To be honest with you, one of the biggest worries I’ve had in following Jesus into this next stage of ministry, is whether or not we’ll end up back in Philly near my family, or in Indy near Stuart’s family. I know there is ample opportunity for ministry there, especially now that we’re with Athletes in Action. Currently, there is no AIA specific staff in Philly or Indianapolis, and there are a ton of athletically-inclined universities that could use a ministry such as AIA. So obviously it’s on our radar for after we finish our 2-year training in Dayton, and both Stuart and I would love to settle down in either city. But the reality is when Jesus asks me to follow him, that path may never lead back to Philly or Indy. It may lead somewhere completely new and different, and if I’m not willing to go without looking back, I’m not fit for the kingdom of God.
Even as I write that I cringe because it sounds so harsh, and I can just imagine my mom’s reaction to reading those words. (Don’t worry mom, there’s always a chance Jesus’s path will lead directly back to Philly!) But in reality, it’s more about where we’re going and why, than what we’re leaving behind. The Bible talks so much about our reward for following Jesus to the ends of the earth. Throughout scripture it talks about an end to our suffering and an eternal reward we are building up here on earth. Our time here is but a moment in the grand scheme of the world, and what we give up for the sake of Christ will be given back to us sevenfold when we reach Heaven.
And He said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come, eternal life.”
This can be a super difficult reality with following Jesus, and one I’m still working through. Am I willing to follow Jesus WHEREVER he leads me? Even if that’s to another country? (I thought being a 10 hour drive away from my family was difficult, I can’t imagine a 10+ hour FLIGHT…) But honestly, God might call Stuart and me to another country. He also might not. Right now, I just need to work on my willingness to follow Him wherever he asks me to go, and be prepared for the moment he says, “Follow me.”
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.'”