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It’s a wonderful thing when someone truly hears God’s call to leave “secular” employment and get more directly involved in some kind of explicitly Christian organization. I have the greatest respect for those who follow Jesus on a disruptive and personally costly path. There is no question in my mind that sometimes God calls people away from one line of work (fishing for fish, for example) and into another line of work (fishing for people). Those who say “Yes” to Jesus are to be affirmed and supported.
But, I am concerned about the underlying message that is often communicated by those who leave their jobs to “follow Jesus.”
When Jesus came upon Simon (whom we know better as Peter) and Andrew, his brother, he called to them, “Come, follow me.” Notice that Jesus did not say, “Come, believe in me.” Of course Simon and Andrew wouldn’t have followed Jesus unless they believed that he was worthy of following. But, we must note carefully that Jesus invited Simon and Andrew to take action, to do something in response to his invitation, and not merely to believe and go back to fishing.
Those of us who are familiar with the ministry of Jesus can take for granted the fact that he called his disciples. But Jesus’ initiative would have surprised people in his culture, and not just those whom he called to follow him. Religious teachers in the time of Jesus didn’t recruit their own students. Rather, they received those who sought them out and asked to become followers. Jesus, by contrast, chose the ones whom he wanted to be his disciples.
In Mark 1:15 we read a summary of the good news preached by Jesus: “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
How did Jesus encourage people in his day to respond to this good news? How should we respond to it today?
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the question: Can I live in God’s kingdom now, or do I have to wait for the kingdom to come in the future? We discovered that the answer of Jesus to this question is nuanced. Yes, the kingdom has come near, and thus is present. Yet, the kingdom is not completely here, and so we continue to hope for its coming.
Can I live in the God’s kingdom now, or do I have to wait until the kingdom comes in the future? Christians have answered this question differently throughout the years. Some have emphasized the contemporary presence of the kingdom of God. They point to things Jesus said, such as, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21, KJV). Others emphasize the future coming of the kingdom. They underscore other sayings of Jesus, like: “For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18). Often, the debate among Christians about the timing of the coming of the kingdom leaves us confused. Which is it? Now? Or sometime in the future?
After announcing that God’s time had finally come, Jesus focused the “good news of God” in a few words: “The kingdom of God has come near” (1:15). What did this mean? How can this be good news for us today?
After Jesus’ baptism, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan. Following his temptation, Jesus began his ministry by preaching “the good news of God” (1:14). Mark provides a succinct summary of that good news: “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15)
If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you probably know someone who has. You get a new job and are excited about what lies ahead. You sense that God is in the process of your job transition and you’re thankful for his gracious guidance. But, almost from the start, things in your new situation don’t go as you had hoped. Perhaps you run into conflict with colleagues or a lack of support from your boss. Or, maybe there is a huge gap between what you thought your job would be and reality. Quickly, your sense of excitement disappears and you begin to feel confused. Discouragement and despair aren’t far away. You wonder where God is, whether you completely missed his guidance, and whether he will rescue you from the quicksand that seems to be swallowing you up.
The fact that we are God’s beloved children can make a difference in our work. In times of discouragement, we can be reassured by the fact that God cares for us. When we face opposition or injustice, we can be strengthened by the knowledge of who we are. When we feel lonely or isolated, we can remember that God is with us and will never let us go. In everything we do, we can seek to give joy to our Heavenly Father, knowing that he delights in us.
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