Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

     His presence was real—I could feel it in the darkness of my bedroom. At sixteen, my normal bedtime was early on school nights, and this particular night was no exception. As I lay there thinking about Jesus, suddenly I was keenly aware of His sweet presence. My heart responded, “Yes, Lord, I will follow You, wherever You lead, wherever You go, I will follow.” Little did I know what it truly meant to follow Jesus, or the cost involved.

     As I look back through the years to that time in my life, what emerges, instead of the perfectly straight, narrow path that was my heart’s desire, I see a crooked, rock-strewn trail, dotted with various pitfalls and snares. There were times when the pathway took dangerous turns, flattening out and blending with the broad ways of the world. Unsuspecting detours, unwelcome interruptions, and overwhelming temptations littered the trail. Occasionally the path narrowed, ascending upwards into glorious, heavenly heights, only to plunge into dark valleys of despair and uncertainty. Raging rivers of opposition and fear, swollen streams of pride, deserts of doubt and frustration, pounding waves of condemnation and destruction, howling winds of many voices, and slippery, icy ridges of hopelessness were there too, seeking to extinguish any resolve to follow Him. Clearly at certain times in the valleys of darkness, as well as in lofty peaks of light the enemy was actively engaged in seeking to hinder my walk with the Lord through sifting, and outright attacks both physically and mentally. My heart’s goal to serve Jesus may have been in the right place, but the priorities of my daily life usually took the lead, which then landed me in cycles of compromise, spiritual leanness, confusion, and failure.

     I was young when He called me—totally inexperienced in “church protocol” for missionaries (which in my mind was the only way a female could serve the Lord). Simply put, I was clueless as to what following Jesus really meant, and what true ministry is. I figured serving the Lord required somehow “signing up” for a life of Christian service in a church. There, I reasoned, I could receive the necessary preparation, education, and training. Bible schools or colleges were financially out of the question, the churches I sporadically attended were pathetically lacking in discipleship, (although in later years I did attend a great teaching church.) The problem was, after years of teaching and training, there was no outlet granted within that institution to share what the Lord had put upon my heart, so I opened up my home for Bible studies, in spite of the fact that the Church’s leadership frowned upon it. Eventually a great truth began to dawn on me, and that is no Bible school or seminary on earth can even half-way begin to equal the school of the Holy Spirit.

     A closer examination of my journey reveals God’s grace and love in certain people He “planted” along the way that had a profound influence upon my life. As beautiful, colorful and varied as wildflowers growing in a mountain meadow, these people shared of themselves the fragrance of invaluable insights gleaned from their own experiences, profound truths, golden encouragement and fresh challenges. To me, these people are a precious treasure. The Lord says, “I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures” Proverbs 8:20, 21. Jesus said,“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” All the material treasure on earth put together cannot equal the value of one priceless, eternal, truth. “Buy [pay the price for] the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” Proverbs 23:23. [Emphasis added.]

     Salvation may be free, but “working out” that salvation “with fear and trembling” comes with a price. Consider the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 who were told to go and “buy oil” because they were unprepared; and, the parable of the slothful, unprofitable servant in verses 14-30 who was rejected by the Lord.From the lips of Jesus also comes this, “If any man come to me, and hate not [by comparison to his or her love for Christ] his father, and mother, and wife, and children and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross [death to the self life], and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” [Emphasis added.]

     “Follow me,” Jesus said to fishermen Peter and Andrew, and I will make you fishers of men” Matthew 4:19b.Jesus likewise called John and James when they were with their father in their boat. All of these men immediately left their fishing business, and followed Him. And so it was with all of His disciples when Jesus called them. The first price they paid was leaving their means of living, and personal lifestyles to follow Him as He taught them to become “fishers of men.” He did not teach them how to build a mega church, or how to start a big money-making “ministry.” Jesus did not promise them wealth and health, fame and fortune, or great power and success such as those who love the world strive and struggle to obtain, and sometimes in the name of Christ. On the contrary, God’s Word assures us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12.

     What should we do then—those of us who hear the call to follow Him? Are we to drop everything and run off to Africa or some other far off place? Of course not! To follow Jesus may, or may not, be the same as it was for the early disciples; nevertheless, there will be changes in our life—changes in our way of living such as our unholy habits, immoral activities, and our selfish way of thinking and doing. There will be changes in our priorities and goals, changes in our understanding and perspective, and changes in our interests and preferences. And, there will be a great love for God’s Word, accompanied by a desire to study it, which is required if one is to follow Jesus. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15.

     To follow Christ means to go where He would go (such as apart to pray), do what He would do (show compassion to others, not having “respect of persons,” and do good works), say what He would say (as the Spirit leads and gives wisdom), give as Christ gave (sacrificially and liberally), and share the Gospel with lost souls wherever He places you. And, should the Lord grant you any measure of “success,” never touch His glory, but give all glory to God.

     When we commit to follow the Lord all the days of our life, we will face many challenges and temptations along the way. We will be a target for the enemy, but we will also gain the victory as we study our “warfare manual”—the Word of God—and follow His instructions. There will be times when our flesh grows weary with it all, and our hearts struggle with loneliness, and sorrow over both the state of the world and lost souls, and, yes, even the heaviness and exhaustion that accompanies overwork, along with discouragement when it all seems to be in vain. Our loving Lord understands these things, and encourages us with this promise, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 15:58. Do not overlook this beautiful promise as well, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” Hebrews 6:10-12.

      Sometimes when the Lord calls a person to follow Him, there is a tendency for pride to blossom on the false premise that he or she is “extra special” to God. We are warned in Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Human nature being what it is, it is easy for any Christian to fall into the same disposition that the disciples displayed when they argued over who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God, yet the Lord tells us whom He will look to. “…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” Isaiah 662b. Are you broken hearted? Consider this, The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” Psalm 34:18. What sacrifice pleases God? “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” Psalm 51:17. (See also Isaiah 57:15.) And, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” Hebrews 13:15.

     Are you willing to follow Jesus? Is He calling you to follow Him? If you are His sheep, then He is your Shepherd. You no longer belong to yourself because you have been bought with a price. He will lead you and guide you on the path He has chosen for you to walk daily. Sometimes when you think you should have more activity and action in your life, He will make you to lie down in green pastures in order to teach you how to simply rest in Him, and how to hear the “still, small voice.” When you want a “ministry” that resembles “shooting the rapids,” He may lead you beside the still waters so you learn to come into a place of peace and quiet where you can enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with Him. Through these places of rest and stillness, He will restore your soul from worldly enticements and entanglements, including spiritual error, false doctrines and teaching. In this quiet, secret place He will give you a greater awareness of His reality, and the truth of His Word. Therefore, He is able to lead you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake; that is, bringing glory to God and none other.

     He will lead you through the dark valleys of the shadow of death, where you will experience your own Calvary where the flesh (old man) is crucified “with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24.) In this shadowy place you will fear no evil for He is with you. God’s guidance, correction, and instruction bring protection as you follow Him. Through perilous valleys of evil, you do not fear, for His presence and the authority He has given you in His name comforts your soul.

     There comes a time as you follow Him that He will prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies, or those who oppose “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27b). This table, prepared by the Lord Himself will supply all that you need of the Bread of Life (as the showbread in the Tabernacle, representing Christ) and the living Word of God to not only satisfy your own soul with the joy of His life, but also with the riches of His wisdom, providing substance for you to impart to longing hearts, and hungry souls. The table He prepares contains the unleavened Bread of Life and the new wine of the Spirit wherein is communion and fellowship with the Lord Jesus. The Living Water is there for all who thirst, to drink and never thirst again. He will anoint your head with oil, or overflowing grace upon your life with the heavenly anointing that brings forth healing and deliverance to those held captive by Satan. (“And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing” Isaiah 10:27.) God will cause your cup, that perhaps formerly ran over with sin, fear and bitterness to run over with faith, hope and love.

     When Jesus is your shepherd, and when you are His sheep, following Him in faith and trust, His goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. His goodness and mercy shall preserve your soul and spirit through all of earth’s trials and tribulations until He calls you one last time. This call issued from the throne of the Most High God is the call you have been waiting for—the call to at last come home where you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

     Are you willing to follow?