Reward for Following Jesus

June 2, 2009

27Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

 28And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much,[NIV- a hundred times as much] and will inherit eternal life.

30 “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matthew 19:27-30)

 As a man who follows closely what God speaks to me, I can most definitely appreciate this passage. Being of the character that allows one to step out in faith what one believes he is hearing from God, one comes under scrutiny.

The disciples had good cause to ask this question. They had left their lives to follow a miracle-man, a teacher and a prophet, as far as they knew. They followed Jesus for three years, and had no idea what would eventually come of it. Imagine you are at work, doing your job. Fishermen, tax collectors, Pharisees, and prostitutes. These are just a few of the “careers” Jesus interrupted. What about you- on your next shift? Baristas, nurses, machinists, sales clerks, police, priests, pastors, prostitutes and fishermen. All of these He still calls. What if the next time you are at work a man walks in and performs a miracle, saying no more than, “I am from the Father. Follow me.”? Will you? Maybe He supplies enough food for everyone out of enough for only one, or fills the till to overflowing with dimes. Maybe He has you look at the paperwork and it’s already done, or heals someone right in front of you. Will you follow?

That’s exactly what these people did. Simon-Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. So I wonder how many are actually willing to do what Jesus calls us to, however simple or complex or impossible it may seem. These twelve men did follow Jesus and at the point of the verses in Matthew above, they wanted to know what they were going to get from it.

Take for example the fishermen. Their entire livelihood is their boat and nets. When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He promised nothing. He gave no reason, other than the feeling that there was more to this man than just mere flesh. Sure, He had caught a bunch of fish, but it could’ve been coincidence, couldn’t it? Most assuredly not. So Jesus tells them what is in store. They would sit on twelve thrones and have the honor of judging Israel.

This is great for those twelve men, but it’s the next line that caught me. Everyone who leaves his home, family or farm (I take that to mean property) for the sake of Jesus will be rewarded many times over and will receive eternal life. This is nothing to take frivolously. It is a great promise for a life of difficult decisions and much willful loss.

Case in point- I have heard the voice of God. He first told me I was to go to Africa in 2005. Upon His telling me this, I was in disbelief at what I had heard, but there is something about the presence of God that causes you to check your disbelief. God knows what He says, and to whom He says it. So I went that next year, in 2006, having everything fit exactly as He said it would. There, I went out to a great hill overlooking a distant, picturesque valley. I began to pray, thanking God for this “once in a lifetime opportunity to serve.” Suddenly, I was cut short by the immense feeling of heaviness by what I’d just said, particularly the phrase “once in a lifetime.” The same feeling of a Holy presence was there with me. I knew I was before God Almighty once again. He spoke, telling me that I would return. Foolishly, I was in disbelief, until a Maasai man confirmed the statement. He had been nowhere nearby when this conversation with God had taken place. I was immediately humbled, wondering why God hadn’t just struck me down for my disbelief in His perfect Word.

In 2007, I was married. My wife knew full well God’s call on my life. She, too, was informed by God of my trip, and several other things, in a similar way. In the first few months of 2008, there was great bloodshed in Kenya, my destination, following a presidential election in that country. I asked God to confirm the call for me to go there, as many Christian churches were burned and believers killed. God told me to face my fears and to go to Kenya as Ananias went to Saul, a Christian-killer who later became Paul, the writer of the majority of the Bible’s New Testament. (See Acts 9:1-19) Ananias was afraid to face the man known for killing believers. On top of that, God wanted Ananias to go and pray for Saul, which would reveal Ananias as a Christian. In the same way that God assured Ananias, He did for me.

Trouble is, there are a great number who tell me how unwise it is. This is what I’ve been told:

  • Don’t go there alone.
  • Don’t go there without a church (which wants membership and/or your tithes).
  • Don’t go at all.
  • It isn’t economically sound.
  • It isn’t practical.
  • It isn’t safe.
  • It isn’t necessary.
  • It’s wrong to leave your family.

Some of these things may be true, but they are not excuses. When it comes to God’s command, there is never an excuse to neglect it. Allow me point out a few details about our Biblical heroes:

  • Noah built an ark: Not necessary (there was no rain).
  • Lot followed two strangers command to get out of Sodom: Foolish by today’s standard.
  • Abraham took his son up to an alter to kill him: Today he’d be arrested and committed.
  • Jacob worked 14 years in a field for a woman. Today, I think he’d be accused of all sort of sin, from burning lust to insanity.
  • Moses held up a stick several times, each resulting in a miracle. The Israelites still complained, but today I think they wouldn’t have let him get as far as he did. They might wander for 140 years!
  • Esther risked her life for an audience with the king. That’s not safe.
  • The fishermen dropped their nets, left their boats (their livelihood) and families and followed Jesus. That’s not economically sound and today would show “poor family relationships”.
  • Peter got out of a boat to walk on water with Jesus. Not very practical.
  • Daniel prayed openly to God, despite a law prohibiting it. Many would say that his prayers weren’t necessary.
  • Jesus died for the sins of everyone-for YOUR sins. Even Peter told Him not to. Jesus’ response? “Get behind me Satan!” Jesus pointed out to Peter that that wasn’t God’s will; it was the will of man.

All of these and SO many more are men and women we call heroes. We look upon them in such high esteem, in such regard. Yet, if any of them were a man or woman in a typical congregation, they would be rebuked for their faith, cast aside, insulted, talked down or outright ejected from the church! We no longer hold in high admiration the strong, enduring faith of such believers, but we try to reason them down as the world would. We attempt to explain away the impracticality of the deed they wish to do. With this continuing on, there is little hope for the church.

No wonder the Bible calls for a great falling away of the faith. These people have no faith left, just religion. Religion that is accompanied by lighting, sound systems, meetings, décor, “group activities”, busyness, hyped up music and user-friendly preaching. They have laid aside Spiritual gifts and teaching that rocks the boat. They refuse to offend a sinner, and in result the Holy Spirit is boxed up, gossip is labeled as “keeping informed for the purpose of prayer”, adultery is a simple and often mistake, sin is allowed so long as we pray later, and there are no prophetic words, no deep soul cleansings, no demons cast out, no healings, no miracles, no Jesus. There is no Jesus is these churches, just the use of His Name, powerless by the covering up of sin and the list of convenient excuses.

What a contrast between the Bible’s definition of a believer and the current worldly church. Jesus made a promise to reward those who will leave something behind and follow Him. It seems so simple. Who wouldn’t want to go out in Jesus’ Name and receive an eternal reward? Given the current religious climate, I can see why it is a rewardable and rare practice.

Justin Lessard

May 2009

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