If I told you that I was going to run a marathon later this year, you would probably congratulate and encourage me. Were I to show you a picture of me the way I am now, you might raise an eyebrow, or two, or three. If you were being gentle about things, you might say something like, “That’s an ambitious undertaking. What are you doing to train?” My answer might cause a bit of amusement. “Well, I’m going to start jogging a little bit. Run around the block a couple of times and build up.” I have friends and relatives who actually run marathons. I would hope, at this point, that they might come to me and say gently, “Are you out of your ever-loving mind? If you want to run marathons, you need total commitment! You’ll need to overhaul your diet. You’ll need to do more than jog around the block a few times.” And knowing those friends and relatives, they would probably help me eat right and train right if I asked.
There’s an old joke about total commitment that helps me understand what that phrase means. A pig and a hen are talking about the farmer who does so much for them. The hen says, “Farmer Brown is so good to us. We should arrange for him to have a good breakfast of bacon and eggs.” The pig looks at the hen and says, “For you, that’s a sacrifice. For me, that’s total commitment.” When Jesus calls us, He calls us to a lifestyle of total commitment. We die to ourselves. We pick up our cross and follow Him. One day while He was walking people pledged their lives to Him – as soon as they took care of other things. Housing. Waiting for family to get things settled. Saying good bye to family…you know, with the whole good bye party kind of thing. “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62)
The problem with each of those prospective followers is that they came to Jesus on their own terms. “I will follow You if….” “I will follow You but….” I wonder how many followers Jesus turned away because they wanted to follow Him with their own conditions. We have a term for people who want to follow someone or a team because of their popularity: band wagoneers. People were ready to jump on the Jesus Band Wagon and ride with Him all the way to Rome. What they didn’t realize was that Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem and the Cross. In our churches today we often talk about Jesus forgiving our sin and the mercy of God. We may talk about the grace of God that helps you overcome your sin. How often do we call people to a life that might result in their death, a life that might leave you homeless, a life that will leave you friendless? People walk the aisle to accept Jesus and have the belief that somehow, magically, God will take all their troubles away.
You got sin? God will forgive. You keep having a problem with sin? God will give you the grace you need to overcome your sin. What He asks of us is total commitment. That means our response, when God calls, is “yes Lord.” That means nothing is more important than following God. That means we should be ready and able to sacrifice anything, including our lives, to obey Him. We are not called to a life of ease and self-indulgence when we come to Christ. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that our bank balances are going to grow if we believe enough. Following Jesus is a death sentence in many countries. Following Jesus might mean losing friends, jobs, and even family here. Following Jesus is worth any sacrifice.
Oh Lord, maybe I didn’t realize what it means to follow You when I first turned to You. I know now, even if I don’t fully understand. But that part is where faith comes in. Help me to be faithful and obedient to You remembering that a relationship with You is far greater than anything the world offers.