While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV)
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)
When we begin to embrace heavenly realities, our earthly existence is transformed. The harsh realities of life do not disappear, but our perspective shifts from this present age, to the age to come. When we begin to embrace discipleship as Jesus taught it, we begin to be awakened to the shallowness of much of western Christianity. Many churches that people attend today seem more like pep rallies, than places of worship. The emphasis is on a surface level reading of Scripture, a good pep talk from the pastor, and a focus on the felt needs of the congregation. If you have a pastor and elders in your Church that model the life of Christ, and call you to do the same, count yourself blessed. There are signs of a spiritual awakening in some Churches today. I see many young people who are being challenged to think through hard biblical texts, and the implications of walking them out.
At this present time much of the church in the western world is too distracted by self-improvement programs, politics, and personal prosperity, to grasp the call of Jesus to “follow me.” Regardless of what many popular American preachers are saying, the call to follow Jesus is a radical commitment that may very well cost us some of our health, and our wealth, and yes, maybe even our lives. Then again it may not. God gives wealth to those to whom he sovereignly chooses. But health and wealth are given for the glory of God, and the advancement of his Kingdom, not to fulfill our personal lust.
God cannot be manipulated by taking his word out of context. Healing and material provision are “the children’s bread” but the Apostle Paul went through seasons of both poverty, and prosperity, but experienced contentment just the same. Maybe we should start a contentment movement as opposed to a prosperity movement. In the eyes of much of our seeker friendly, materialistic, comfort driven Church culture, the Apostles would be considered failures in our day. They walked away from successful business, and in Paul’s case, religious prominence, and respectability. But in God’s economy they were highly successful students of their master, Jesus Christ.