We live in a culture that values convenience, instant results and instant gratification. We are loathe to make sacrifices. I don’t know how many of you have ever fasted, I haven’t done it for some time, I do confess that when I did it regularly, I never enjoyed it! I also don’t think I did it very well. That aside, we need to address how being trained to convenience in our culture can get in the way of spiritual development. I am not going to focus on works or earning spiritual gifts. Yet, here is something to consider. Spiritual growth requires our involvement and commitment.
To better understand this let’s inject ourselves into first century culture in Israel. Most communication was verbal, access to a library was a luxury. For the majority of the population the bulk of their time was spent surviving. You had to raise your food, get supplies for your fire to heat your oven to cook, walk if you wanted to get somewhere and make your own clothing and shoes. No phones, no newspapers, no hot showers and a host of other conveniences. The newspaper was whatever was shared at the local market or by strangers passing through your village.
I share this to provide a bit of perspective. Now, think of John the Baptist then Jesus. Crowds followed both of them and frequently did so at great inconvenience. They went into the wilderness to find them. They needed to pack with them whatever food was required. Based on Jesus feeding the multitudes more than once, many of them either stayed too long or were unable to take enough with them when they followed Him. They ended up physically hungry because what they valued more than physical hunger was seeking to satisfy their spiritual hunger.
I recognize that while the crowds went out into the wilderness to hear from Jesus and followed Him around to desolate and dusty places this wasn’t all that happened. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding, healed in the synagogue and attended banquets. Yet wherever He went Jesus called for commitment because He wanted us to value what He offered.
Thus, in our present culture of convenience are we demonstrating that we value spiritual growth and are willing to be inconvenienced to achieve it? Study the history of revival and the commitment people made to prayer to see it happen. Hungry people traveled great distances to touch and catch the fire and vision. Jesus is still looking for the hungry, not the complacent. A few scriptures from Matthew demonstrate that.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 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.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” 23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. Matthew 8:18–23 (NKJV)
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28–29 (NKJV)
Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst, to pursue His kingdom, to follow Him and to take on His yoke, a euphemism for becoming His disciple.
Scripture has a way of sometimes casually highlighting truth. In the passage above where some found the call to follow Jesus inconvenient verse 23 captures the attitude of others, ‘His disciples followed Him.’ Plain simple unvarnished truth. Jesus disciples follow Him. It is that simple. When He calls us He expects us to follow. My good friend Evelyn stepped from time into eternity in December of 2017. On a couple of occasions she shared with me a simple encounter she had with Jesus in a vision. She said He appeared, looked at her and then turned and began walking. She knew He was saying, ‘follow me’ and that is what she did with her life.
He still calls and He still expects us to follow. Let’s do that. After all, much is waiting for us in walking with Him, but we may have to pray the price of inconvenience to receive it.