How Does Jesus Give Us the Courage to Continue Following?
Jesus did not promise that following him would be a walk in the park, but he did say that he would always be with us and would show himself to us along the way.
Now, I’ll be honest. On some days, that sounds like a consolation prize.
Like maybe we thought following Jesus would make things easy and fun, but it turns out we only get the promise that he will be with us and “show himself to us.”
Jesus Shows Himself to Followers
In John 14, Jesus repeatedly says (with various wording), “If you love me, you will obey me, and I will show myself to you.”
How does Christ show himself to us? Do you have to climb a mountain or go to a retreat? You can. But you don’t have to. I have benefited from and enjoyed retreats, conferences, and groups such as Bible Study Fellowship. Through each of those events, I’ve learned about God and connected with his people.
But most often he “shows himself to me” when I’ve brought him a desperate need from my regular life.
Like the time he gave me a glimpse of himself through a Cathedral Window cookie.
Remembering these things stirs affection and worship. That sincere affection makes me want to follow and obey him again.
Jesus explains this phenomenon when he says in John 14:15, “if you love me, you will obey me, and you will know the Spirit of God….”
Again in 14:21, Jesus says, “whoever obeys is the one who loves me…and I will show myself to him.”
And again in 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching and…God and I will make our home with him.“
I see a glorious cycle here:
God’s lovingkindness for us produces love for God inside us.
Love for God produces obedience in the good works he’s prepared.
Obedience–whether it means you stop disobeying or start obeying him–produces an opportunity to see him. As he “shows himself to us,” we witness his lovingkindness.
Seeing God’s lovingkindness produces love for him. And love for God produces obedience. Obedience produces an opportunity to see and know him.
It’s the life-cycle of your Christian walk where God receives glory, and we receive the blessing of seeing him.
Jesus Rewards Followers
Knowing Jesus as an intimate friend is the primary and lasting reward of doing the good works he’s prepared! And it propels us toward him.
There may be other rewards—admiration, satisfaction in knowing you helped someone, or even a note of thanks or appreciation. But you can’t count on any of that.
Sometimes our good work seems useless.
Sometimes people don’t admire the good work you do in obedience to Jesus.
You may pour your heart into a job, a project, a ministry, or a child because Christ invited you to do it. You may never receive a whisper of human appreciation.
You may try to help someone by giving them money and find out later they invested it in a “very valuable collector’s edition Beanie Baby” or that they lost it at the casino.
You may feel like those good works are useless or wasted, but when we view these opportunities as a way to follow Jesus into the good works he’s prepared so that we will know him, then none of it is wasted! We ARE following Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24 in the Amplified Versions says, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [greatest] reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you [actually] serve.”
You can’t count on your good work to transform people’s hearts or behavior. Only Jesus can do that.
But you can count on this: When you do the good work God prepared in advance for you to do, you will know Christ! And you will love him more. He is your great reward.
The World Does Not Know Her Name
He called you to follow him, and he has prepared you for a Kingdom job.
To be clear, I’m not describing one single gigantic task. It’s a million little things throughout the course of your regular life.
Maybe you’re not tied to an office or a schedule anymore and you’re available to make a weekly phone call to a friend, schedule coffee, or spend that time praying for someone who’s asked for prayer. Do you know how rare it is to discover a person who is able and willing to give their time? People inside and outside of the church spend millions trying to buy time. Your availability could be one aspect of the good works God has prepared for you to do.
Maybe you’ve raised four kids, and a young single mom moves into the house next door. Do you suppose God might have a good work prepared for you that you can walk in?
Perhaps you’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, and a woman in your Bible study or your office hints at a similar struggle. Can you share how Jesus has ministered to you in your struggle?
In 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT, we read, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
In sharing Christ’s work in our own lives, we influence people for Christ.
Years ago, on a radio broadcast, an interviewer asked a well-known Christian woman, “Who is the most influential Christian woman in America?” She answered, “The world does not know her name.”
I think of her answer every time I visit a small church and see the same women there year, after year, after year.
I marvel at the women who have served, accomplishing tasks that few people notice. Women who meet a need and desperately hope no one embarrasses them by noticing. Women who are doing the good work God prepared to benefit the people they bump into every week.
For example, I think of a widow I know who, despite being injured, raised someone else’s children. One of her greatest joys is taking a meal to anyone sick, injured, grieving, or just plain busy. She doesn’t do it because she’s afraid of what you’ll think if she doesn’t. She gives and gives because a long time ago, she was grieving, she was injured, she was busy.
And the world does not know her name.
I think of a woman who rocks a fussy baby in the church nursery. It’s not her baby, nor her grandbaby. She’s just loving a young mom by loving her child. She wipes congealed breast milk off her shoulder with a paper towel and goes right on patting and consoling so a young mom can have 20 minutes to worship. She will be back next week and next month, and next year because when she was a young single mom, she needed a small window of undistracted time to worship the God who sustained her.
And the world does not know her name.
I think of a woman who married a jerk. A “Christian” jerk. He’s not an abuser, but he’s a jerk who makes physical loneliness seem like paradise. This woman has overlooked a thousand wrongs, turned the other cheek, and turned her eyes upon Jesus. And for her young married friends, who find themselves gasping in the thin air of unmet expectations, spiraling down into disappointment, she’s like a triage nurse. She drags her from the wreckage and urges her on toward Christ—who makes beautiful things out of wreckage and disciples out of jerks.
And the world does not know her name.
These women are broken vessels whose fractured lives allow the light of Christ to shine through. These are women whose good works are “for the Lord” (see Colossians 3:23). None of it is wasted.
Followers Point Out the Holy
Occasionally, we do get to see Christ revealing himself to the people we’ve tried to love. We see him restoring after tragedy or over-filling nets with fish. In our astonishment, we can point to that miracle of transformation and say, “That is his work! That is exactly the kind of thing he does! I recognize it because I’ve seen him do it before!”
Followers of Jesus get to enjoy and point out the holy scenery on our pilgrimage. Ours is not a random path to nowhere. We are following Jesus to a destination.
Because of Jesus, you belong in his kingdom, and that’s where you are headed.
He has invited you to follow. He keeps you as his follower, even after you’ve failed. And he supplies the courage to keep following him toward his holy kingdom by showing himself to you along the way.
He’s done it repeatedly throughout the centuries. John wrote, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Your kingdom job is to enjoy the privilege of telling how Jesus showed himself to you as you followed him, and maybe someone who hears your story will want to follow Jesus too.