In my experience I’ve witnessed some very sad things. I’ve seen some wonderfully naturally talented people find new life in Christ. Their initial transformation was profound, powereful and amazing.
Then all of a sudden… they are gone.
At one time I kind of blamed myself or my style or my message for these apparent failures of discipleship. “If I had connected better, or run a better program they would not have left. Where did we fail?”
For some people i literally invested scores of hours, sometimes over many months counseling, caring, teaching, praying with this one soul. It was my best effort, but they are gone. What could I have done differently?
I give you a few of my thoughts. Life is like a road we walk. Jesus called it a narrow way. All of us following Christ are on that road. At times even the serious follower can get sidetracked, distracted and overcommitted. Oh yes, overcommitted- the word for “to busy”. I’ll say a little more about that later.
Maybe some of the problem is the message we preach. We preach relief. If you come to Jesus you will get relief from whatever it is you are struggling with. It may be sin, guilt, sickness, failure and even life’s problems. Most seekers are quite passionate…. to find relief. Some get enough of God to be relieved and that seems to be enough.
We offer a host of relief giving programs, from spirited worship, small groups, inner healing programs, deliverance and even from self esteem issues. We direct our words and build our programs to people’s felt needs.. which are often not their real needs.
Stop for a moment. Jesus did not come to primarily bring relief. Make no mistake about it, you can get relief at times without transformation or relationship.
Jesus taught that the road you walk with him is narrow and may be restricted, costly, lonely, hard and demanding, but it leads to eternal life and to Him.
Lets go back to the word “overcommitted”. It’s a funny thing when people seem to be to busy at church, overcommitted as they say or burned out, they need a break- a break from what? If it was really overcommitment, back off a bit, say “no” once in while. “No” being the most liberating word in the english language. Instead they do back off, from ministry, church, worship, prayer, bible reading, christian fellowship and at time faith in Christ.
Less activity in spiritual matters does not necessarily mean less commitment. They get busy at something else and Jesus falls by the way side. They leave the road entirely. By the way, they rarely come back! It wasn’t a break they took, it was a life decision to go another way.
I believe it is necessary to separate our relationship with God from our service to him and yet they are intimately intertwined. You cannot successfully work for Christ long term if you are not 100% committed to following Him. Part of walking this narrow way is that you must love Christ more than anything or anyone else. He, His person and His values must come first.
This putting Him first, makes you a worshipper, everywhere. As our three year old was walking around the house humming the other day and Denie asks, Emma what are you doing? ” “I’m just worshipping Jesus.” You don’t serve well if you don’t love and you don’t love well unless you worship.
Then you’ll have to say no to lots of things to stay on the road. The road is really quite focused… on following Christ. That may be ministry but the ministry is the overflow of following Christ. You can’t keep a foot on the road and a foot off the road. Anything that interferes with your devotion to Christ must be a big “NO!”
It is a narrow way. It does lead to heaven. The broad easy road- don’t kid yourself, it’s not going there.
To stay on the road you must breath the words of Paul who said it after years of following Christ;
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. (Phil 3:10)
I am convinced that many drop off the road because they neither understand nor are willing to give Christ the 100% commitment it takes to know him.