FOLLOWING JESUS – the sequel

24 May 2020

I am smack in the middle of the third anniversary of probably the most transitional week of my life, and especially of my ministry (and I’m including my wife in this also since we are in and do everything together – she is always ‘the other part of me’).

Transitional, in that it changed pretty much everything I had known and done for the previous 45 years leading up to that week – three years ago.

Today is a Lord’s Day, and I am probably thinking about it more today because three years ago in 2017, that most transitional week was book-ended by two Lord’s Days: 21 May and 28 May. On 21 May, I announced and gave the church I was pastoring a one-week notice that I would be resigning the next Lord’s Day, 28 May … to be effective immediately.

And that’s how the transition turned.

It was such a momentous transition because when I got up on Monday morning, 29 May 2017, for the first time in 45 years, I was not a church pastor in some capacity or another. I assumed my first church pastorate on Wednesday night, 4 July 1973. I had pastored ever since. I was used to preaching and teaching multiple times every week. Then, on that Monday morning after resigning my last pastorate, I was like, “OK, what do I (we) do now? Where do we go from here?”

We had not made any advance plans for this transition. But, we had already made some commitments:

[1] We were going to follow Jesus wherever He chose to lead us and place us

[2] We were going to continue serving Jesus in whatever tasks and responsibilities He would be pleased to assign to us  

[3] and – it would be in the context and fellowship of a local church body … yet, at that moment, unknown to us

Everything I did was done in the context of “following Jesus.”

I had adopted as “My One Word”1 for 2017 the word “follow” because I sensed going into 2017 that life-turning changes and transitions of some order would likely be coming our way over the course of the year.

They did.

So, when I made my announcement that I would be resigning the next Lord’s Day, I preached my message that morning from John 12.26:

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Of course, verse 26 is in the larger context of especially verses 20-26:

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

So, I developed my message in these three steps:

  1. verse 24 – A Parable to learn (a parable about following) – the seed falling into the ground and dying to grow fruit – of course, if you follow Jesus, that’s where you must go because that’s where He is going (see verses 27-33)
  2. verse 25 – A Priority to apply – about being willing to ‘lose’ your life to yourself by living to follow Christ
  3. verse 26 – A Life-Plan to follow [1] follow Jesus [2] serve where Jesus wants to work through you [3] you will please the Father when you follow Jesus

Here is the message I preached to announce our intention to follow Jesus wherever the next step would lead us … with Him!

So, as I say, here three years later, I’m thinking about it a lot.

However, I’m thinking about it all in a contented and thankful way. Following Jesus is always the rewarding and joyful step to take.

“All the way, my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy who through life has been my Guide?” ~Fanny J. Crosby

“He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O word with heavenly comfort fraught!” ~Joseph H. Gilmore

I must say that neither of us (my wife, Debbie, and me) had any fore-intention of taking any of the further steps to follow Jesus that He has led us into. We didn’t know – had no idea whatever – what our next step(s) would be. But, we trusted Jesus and followed Him. Where we are now and what we are doing now was not at all in our line of sight and vision.

It was not our foresight … it was Jesus’! “For He Himself knew what He would do!” (John 6.6) We had not even looked in the direction of the compass where Jesus has led us.

But, it has been – and is – a happy trail to walk in. Jesus promised it would be when He said, “and where I am, there will My servant be also.”

The road we have taken over the past three years was not only a road we had previously not taken, and not only was it a road that we had no idea of taking, but we followed Jesus when He pointed us to it and led us in it.

“And that has made all the difference!”2

1 If you don’t know what “My One Word” is, you can learn about it here:

2 “The Road Not Taken” – poem by Robert Frost

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