When Ernest Shackleton was trying to recruit men to sign up for his expedition across the Antarctic, legend has it that he posted an advert in the Times newspaper:
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
Thousands of people applied.
Jesus also put out invitations for people to join him and his kingdom movement; an insurgency operation aimed at overthrowing the established order. He challenged his hearers to join him and form part of a new community known for its radical generosity, enemy love and devotion to one another.
To be part of his band of believers he called people to turn their backs on their old lives, to give up everything and to accept persecution as a likely reality. Thousands applied, hundreds followed him but at times only the original twelve could handle it.
Living as a follower of Jesus has never been the easy option in life. It is the narrow way, the denial of self and the fragrance of death to some. It requires guts to follow Jesus and an appetite for adventure like that of those men who applied to be part of Shackleton’s mission.
“Living as a follower of Jesus has never been the easy option in life. It is the narrow way, the denial of self and the fragrance of death to some.”
What’s in a name?
Passivity isn’t possible for the Christian, at least it shouldn’t be, since living as a Christian requires activity and exertion. Don’t believe me? Consider the terms used in the Bible to describe the church.
In the book of Acts there are seven different words or terms used to describe the earliest Christians. Those words are: Followers of the Way, Believers, Disciples, Those who call on the name of the Lord, Saints, Christians and Brothers and Sisters. It’s worth observing that all seven refer to or imply activity. Christians are those who follow, believe, obey, pray, live righteously (saints), mimic Jesus’ lifestyle (Christians) and behave brotherly or sisterly toward one another.
On top of that Christians are also called: ambassadors, witnesses, soldiers and athletes. Actively pursuing and living for Jesus is meant to be a constant and ongoing part of a Christian’s experience.
Don’t give up
When driving a car it’s sometimes the case that another road user doesn’t see you and pulls out in front or cuts into your lane forcing you to slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid them. When this happens you might get angry or panicky but rarely does anyone just stop their car and get out exclaiming ‘I give up! Driving clearly isn’t for me, it’s too risky; I’ll walk from now on!’. Even if that’s how you feel you wouldn’t do it because doing that wouldn’t help you get to where you’re going. ‘I have a destination to reach,’ you think ‘and nothing, no amount of crazy drivers, is going to stop me getting there.’
It’s the same in the Christian life. Things will trip us up, we will fall down and stumble and stutter in prayer and struggle to believe. The good things in this life will fight for our attention and devotion. We will be tempted to live for our careers, or for our partner’s affection or our kid’s approval. We will be tempted to believe that money or approval is the source of life’s joy. We will look to the things around us to derive our identity instead of looking to Jesus. But don’t give up.
We have a destination to reach, eternal, full-fat and overflowing joy. We’re being made more and more into the character of Jesus, we’re proving and enjoying the power of God. We’re being prepared for a never-ending, whole-hearted satisfying life with God in the new Creation.
No man gets left behind
The people you’re living your life around matter to God. The people you stand next to Sunday by Sunday matter to God and the friends in your life matter to God. Given that the Christian life is hard, that it requires an ongoing commitment, and given that there’s plenty of things that could potentially derail us, we should expect that the people around us may need us. And, if they’re anything like you, they’re unlikely to tell you that they need you.
What marked Christianity out from the religions of its day and what set its course for becoming the dominant faith in the western world was its community. Whereas people were used to simply attending a temple, making an offering and going home again the Christians lived their lives together. They shared their possessions, met daily in one another’s homes, prayed together, wept together and ate meals together; they challenged one another to trust Jesus under horrible circumstances, they committed themselves to one another and they served one another.
“We need to start looking out for one another and adopt the military’s ‘no man gets left behind’ attitude”
We need one another, the people around you need you. We need to start looking out for one another and adopt the military’s ‘no man gets left behind’ attitude. The church needs more men and women who are willing to love the people around them enough to make their walk with Jesus part of ‘their business.’ Are they in a group? Do they need encouragement to come to church? Could they do with someone praying for them? We won’t know unless we ask, we won’t ask unless we care and we won’t care unless we realise how much they matter to God.
As we enter this next season consider two verses and two questions:
“In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5
Who’s in danger of being left behind?
As one body we have a responsibility towards each other, to help one another, to love and even to challenge one another. In your circle, who’s in danger of being left behind? Who is isolated or drifting? Who needs a phone call, an invite, some prayer and support?
“We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3:12-14
How will we finish well?
True faith is alive. It’s active. It works, endures and perseveres. We want to finish the race stronger than when we started and complete the work God has given us. With that in mind, how are we actively pursuing Christ right now? What changes do we need to make to ensure we’re still growing, still learning, still listening to God for the years and decades to come?