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Mary Loudermilk

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“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matthew 4:19, New King James Version).

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to live at the same time as Jesus? I have. Sometimes as I read the Bible, I try to imagine myself in that setting. Would I have been a believer or a skeptic? I hope I would have chosen to believe in Him.

This morning I read the passage of Jesus calling His first disciples. Simon Peter and Andrew, fishermen brothers, were casting their nets into the sea when Jesus told them, “Follow me.” They immediately left their nets behind and went with Him. A little farther along the way, Jesus found another pair of brothers, James and John, mending their nets. He called out to them as well, and they immediately left their father and hired servants behind to follow Him. Had any of the four met Him before or heard Him speak? What did they see or feel that compelled them to drop everything and go?

And then I asked myself: Would I be willing to do the same? Could I drop everything on the spur of the moment and go with Jesus?

The Choice

Not all the Lord called were willing to leave everything behind to follow Him. In Matthew 19:16-23 we read the story of a young man who desired eternal life. When questioned by the Lord, he assured Him he had kept the commandments from his youth up. Was there anything else he lacked, he asked. Then Jesus spoke these words:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (verse 21).

The young man turned away sorrowfully. Although he had asked what he lacked, he wasn’t ready for the answer. He owned many possessions and was unwilling to give it away to follow an uncertain life with Jesus. He would not take the risk. Treasure here felt more important than treasure in heaven.

To become a disciple of Jesus requires a deliberate choice. The focus of our life changes, and we willingly relinquish control to Someone Else. We see the result of the disciples’ decision, but they left their nets behind without really knowing the full impact of that decision. It impacted not only those of their day but also millions of others down through the ages. Had the rich young man determined to sacrifice everything and follow Jesus, perhaps we would now know his name along with Peter and the other disciples.

The Impact

It’s not just the original twelve disciples who faced a decision. We experience the same choice today. When Jesus invites us to “Follow Me,” it isn’t to join Him on the dusty roads of Israel. It’s to walk our modern road together and face its challenges. Are we willing to step out by faith? Are we willing to relinquish control of our lives to the One who holds the future? Our decision will affect the course of our life as well as affect those whose lives we touch. Choose wisely.

Prayer: Lord, I want to follow You with my whole heart, mind, and soul. Help me to relinquish all control of my life to You and trust You to guide me in all I do. Although I cannot see the future, I feel secure when I am walking life’s path with You. Whatever direction You lead, I know it is for my good.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, English Standard Version).

I sat in my usual pew on a recent Sunday morning, joining in worship with my church family. As I sat surrounded by these lovingly familiar faces, my thoughts began to whirl. Questions flooded my mind. Not questions of doubt, but questions of “what if.”

What if

. . . my parents had been non-believers and I’d never been taught about the things of God?
. . . I lived in a part of the world where I was forbidden to worship openly?
. . . I lived where the law forbids owning a Bible?
. . . I’d been born where no one had ever taken the gospel?

Although these questions stirred an overwhelming spirit of thankfulness within me, I also felt sadness. Why?

Because

. . . many children are never taken to church by their parents.
. . . many believers around the world suffer persecution for their beliefs.
. . . some governments ban people from owning a Bible.
. . . untold numbers have still never heard the name of Jesus.

As I mentioned, the two emotions that rolled through my mind were thankfulness and sadness. But a third feeling began to fill my mind as well: responsibility. What does God expect me to do about those who do not enjoy the same freedoms and blessings I have? Does one voice make a difference? What can I personally do to reach those who do not know the Lord?

I can

. . . Pray.

We are instructed to pray for workers in the harvest. So many souls need the truth of God’s Word, but more workers are needed. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38, ESV). I can also pray for those who do not have the freedom to worship God

. . . Proclaim.

I may not be a preacher, but I can still tell someone about the Lord. Each of us has a testimony and can tell others what the Lord has done in our lives. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples proclaim that his name is exalted” (Isaiah 12:4, ESV).

. . . Provide Answers.

It may be someone at work or perhaps a neighbor who has questions—and you are the one nearest them with the answers. They long for the peace they see in your life. Allow God to use you. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15, NIV).

. . . Provide Support.

Although I may not be able to travel to the far corners of the world with the gospel, I can support others who do go. God blesses the giver as well as the one who goes. “The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25, NJKV).

I really am thankful for God’s mercy in my life, but I want to accept the responsibility of doing whatever possible to see others enjoy this same relationship with Him.

Prayer: Lord, You have promised power to those filled with Your Spirit—power to be witnesses wherever You place us in life. Please use me in whatever way possible to see others become Your disciple.

 

The oppressed and the poor look for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched from thirst. I, the LORD, will respond to their prayers; I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them. I will make streams flow down the slopes and produce springs in the middle of the valleys. I will turn the desert into a pool of water and the arid land into springs” (Isaiah 41:17-18, New English Translation).

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he faced a nearly impossible task. While seventy souls entered Egypt, 400 years later the children of Israel numbered possibly two million. Food, water, and shelter for seventy in harsh desert conditions would be challenging, but consider how difficult it would be to provide for hundreds of thousands plus all their animals. It didn’t take long before Moses had some very unhappy, complaining people on his hands. With no water how could they even exist?

“But the people were very thirsty there for water, and they murmured against Moses and said, ‘Why in the world did you bring us up out of Egypt – to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?’” (Exodus 17:3, NET).

It’s easy to complain when we are in a dry, difficult place. We’ve probably all grumbled and whined at some point in our walk with God. Yet good things can happen during a wilderness experience when God is there with us. When the Israelites thought things impossible, God stepped in to supply over and above their needs. He didn’t just provide a trickle of water or even a small stream. What good would that have done for so many people? He made it like rivers flowing in the desert. Psalm 78:15 says:

“He broke open rocks in the wilderness, and gave them enough water to fill the depths of the sea. He caused streams to flow from the rock, and made the water flow like rivers” (NET).

When we feel stranded in a dry, barren place, desperate for answers, He offers hope. God’s Word assures us He will respond to our prayers and will not abandon us in our situation. Don’t despair; rivers can flow in the desert. Trust Him to provide above and beyond every need.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for meeting me in my place of need. When I walk through the wilderness, You are there to guide me and turn my dry desert into a flowing river. You nourish my soul and satisfy my thirst.