By David Faust
The Lord invites us to talk with him about all kinds of things. We can thank him for our blessings, confess our shortcomings, ask him for help, and—as numerous Old Testament passages indicate—even debate with him. But in case you haven’t noticed, God doesn’t always find it necessary to ask our opinion.
The Lord grants us free will, but his sovereignty is never in question. Our choices matter, but he has the last word. He desires a covenant relationship with his people, but we don’t determine the terms of the covenant; he does. The Wonderful Counselor doesn’t need our advice. “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?” (Isaiah 40:13, 14). We’re valuable members of God’s team, but he is the coach. We’re his coworkers, but he is the boss.
In quick succession Jesus encountered three men who professed a desire to become his disciples, but they tried to negotiate the terms of the arrangement. One said, “I will follow you wherever you go,” but Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:57, 58). Anyone looking for the easy way should think twice before joining up with Jesus. On his team, you find no foxholes where you can escape enemy fire, no birds’ nests to keep you high and dry when things get dangerous on the ground.
The would-be disciple said, “I will follow you wherever you go,” but where was Jesus going? To the cross! Jesus was honest about the cost of discipleship. He didn’t woo potential followers with shallow promises of health and wealth. There is no higher purpose in life than to follow Jesus, but the road where he leads is often marked by danger and difficulty, not comfort and ease.
Jesus told another man, “Follow me,” and the fellow replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus’ reply sounds unexpectedly demanding: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (vv. 59, 60). Certainly there’s nothing wrong with attending your father’s funeral. In fact, a funeral can be a great occasion to “proclaim the kingdom of God.” But we flirt with danger whenever we say, “I will follow you, Lord, but first . . .”
No Reverse Gear
“Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’” That sounds like a reasonable request. There’s nothing wrong with saying a proper farewell to loved ones, but the Lord understands the deeper motivations of the human heart. In this case, evidently he recognized that the potential disciple was procrastinating, stalling, groping for an excuse to stay put when Jesus called him to launch out. The Lord told him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (vv. 61, 62).
Like a car with no reverse gear, the Christian life is meant to proceed in one direction: forward. God’s kingdom deserves top priority. It trumps all other considerations. When Jesus’ instructions are clear, there’s no room for excuses and there’s no turning back. Our job? No further negotiation. Just follow.
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for July 14, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Psalms 130, 131
1 Chronicles 15, 16
1 Chronicles 17—19
Psalms 133, 134
1 Chronicles 20—22
1 Thessalonians 1
1 Chronicles 23—25
1 Thessalonians 2:1–9
1 Chronicles 26—28
1 Thessalonians 2:10–20
1 Chronicles 29