I’ve walked with Jesus for 30+ years now. I was blessed to grow up in a Christian household, with incredible parents who taught my brothers and I the Truth. When I was a kid, following Jesus was easy. After all, you got rewards in Sunday School for memorizing verses from the Bible, you got to look cool doing “sword drills” (being given a Scripture reference and quickly finding it in your Bible), and I had a bunch of fun adults who were so loving, it was easy to follow Jesus. An added bonus was that much of the US still believed in “being good”, which often aligned with Christian principles.
As I got into Junior High School, it got more difficult. The country started to turn, and major political issues became hot-buttons, things like abortion, feminism blurring the lines between men and women, and people starting to advocate that sin was no longer “that bad,” even arguing that one sin wasn’t as bad as another sin. And while this isn’t a political post, one can quickly see how someone who held to traditional Christian beliefs/values might have a harder time.
In High School, one person even told me, “I was a Christian once; you’ll be just like me in a year or two!” Determined to prove him wrong, I read up on Christian Apologetics, and I dug into deeper and deeper wells of fact and apologetics (basically, the study of how to defend a belief). I began to read books by Josh McDowell, William Lane Craig, and even J.P. Moreland (admittedly, I couldn’t understand Moreland until my later years of High School), deepening the roots of my faith, so to speak.
In High School, I began to, politely, debate my teachers and others who would give me the time, testing my beliefs and challenging feelings with facts. I was slandered, mocked, and often ridiculed because of my faith. But few could poke holes in my points, and fewer still could rebut the facts and figures that backed the truth. Some just resorted to making fun of me whenever they could, even making snide and hurtful statements about my family. And all the while, temptations abounded as I saw others who seemed to “enjoy” various things I knew I shouldn’t.
And then I got into college and found professed Christians who would debate the very Bible they claimed to believe. The world also got more bold in declaring Biblical truths “out-dated,” “irrelevant,” or just plain wrong! And yet, I met an amazing woman, and I thought my days of being solo were over. She and I seemed to be two peas in a pod. So, naturally, we got married and settled in a wonderful mountain community. Yet, some kids later, she decided she was done with me and left. Worse yet, she turned her back on everything we’d once believed.
As is outlined in The Heartfelt Mind-Meld, this was a traumatic experience not just because it was the end of our marriage, but because of how that marriage came to an end. I found myself questioning everything (or almost everything) I once believed. In the end, though, I could not argue against two facts: there is definitely a God, and the Bible is definitely true and accurate. Anyone who digs into these two facts has only ever found two choices: believe the truth in front of them, or deny it by any means.
Now, some would look at my life and think I’ve got it all. HA!!!! I have some things, yes. But so much of what I have I had to fight for, work into the wee-hours of the morning, and spend many times in prayer, sobbing because of the griefs. Even then, I remain keenly aware that I am always just a few missteps from losing it all. My life is painful at many turns, and honestly, it would be easier to turn my back on it all and just live however I felt best. But this is the crux of this post.
The other day, I was thinking back on the many years behind me, the many missed opportunities, and the many ways in which I feel my life has been wasted. (Now, before the comments roll in, let me just stop y’all and say, I know it’s been worth it and will be worth it, but let me take a moment to be real before y’all.) My life is NOT what I wanted it to be. My dreams have NOT been realized! And my hopes…well, let’s just say that I know all to well that “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. (Proverbs 13:12a)
So, why would I keep following Jesus? What in the world does He have to give me, to make this all worth it?! Why the heck do I keep holding to this Truth I speak of, and not just go live it up?!
Well, the answer is simple, but it’s implications are life changing! I keep following Jesus because nothing else will satisfy or resolve any of my pains or griefs. This world holds many pleasures, but they all take something away from you. Fill in the blank and anything you think of takes away your health, takes away your financial means, or takes away your family. Go to any system of belief (aka religion), and you’ll lose any or all of the above, can lose your freedom, will likely lose your ability to fully reason, and you’ll lose your ability to face reality because any religion will either deny reality, ignore reality, or it will leave you feeling empty.
Jesus isn’t some religion, though Christianity is known as a religion. He is the real God and a real Person, and best of all, He lived among us for some 30-ish years, so He understands the challenges, intimately, of being a human! He even lived in the first century, so we have it better than He did, in many respects!
I continue to follow Jesus because He has made Himself known, speaks directly to the realities of past, present, and future events, and He makes Himself available. Jesus opens Himself to being questioned, to being challenged, and to being known. He doesn’t rebuke me if I ask Him to help me in my unbelief. He doesn’t mind if I have a question. And He doesn’t recoil if I’m struggling to understand something.
I hope you can see that the reason I follow Jesus is not because of what He gives me so much as because of Who He is! I desire to follow truth, and He is the Truth! Many have tried to deny Him, and many have gone to their deaths still denying Him, but none have been able to truly disprove Him. Even one of those authors mentioned above, Josh McDowell, tried to disprove God and became a Christian because of the mountain of evidence He found.
Oh, and those pains and griefs I spoke of? Well, Jesus even told believers to expect them. In John 16:33, in some of Jesus final words to His first followers, He says, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus didn’t deny the reality of this world. Furthermore, He said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, remember it hated me first” and goes on to explain that, similarly, because believers follow Him, the world will hate them, too. In the US, we are only recently starting to see this, but across the globe, Christians in other nations, such as in China, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia (among others), suffer immense persecution.
I follow Jesus because He is authentic, He is the Truth, and He died and rose again so that I could know Him. In other words, He chose to show me (and any others who choose to believe) love while I (and others like me) showed hatred to Him. I could turn my back, but I’d never be able to look myself in the mirror. I could deny all I know to be true, but I would be fooling only myself. And I could sear my conscience, which He so graciously built in me, but I would only be harming myself and for no good reason.
In closing, I endure the criticism, the insults, and the pangs of the mistakes (and outright failures) of other Christians because my Lord, my brother, and my friend, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah/Christ, is worth it! Yes, there are “Christians” who don’t reflect Jesus, just as there are many other people in this world who aren’t loving, aren’t kind, or are downright evil. But Jesus isn’t those things!
He won’t make you feel good with a lie, but He will lovingly bandage your wounds and guide you into the truth. He won’t give you everything you want, but He will give you what you need. But most of all, dear Reader, He won’t force you to accept His Lordship or force you to have a relationship with Him, but He also can’t save you without that. He is righteous. And one day, His justice will be seen on Earth. Consequently, I hope that before that day, or your last day on this Earth (whichever comes first), that you will also choose to follow Him.
As was once said about Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, it is also fitting to say of Him:
“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis,emphasis mine
Choose the adventure, choose the Truth; turn from your sins today, and follow Jesus with me! If you’re willing, then He’s waiting for you!
Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10