Curious to know what all the fuss was about Pippa and I eventually entered the world of Twitter and now Instagram. It is a world where you ‘follow’ other people and are yourselves ‘followed’.
Many celebrities have huge followings. People become avid spectators of their lives, relationships and lifestyle, diets and fashion choices. They want to know all about them, interact with them and be like them. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is natural to want to follow those we admire. Following celebrities on social media can be fun and even enlightening.
However, following people on Instagram or Twitter is one thing; being a true follower of someone is quite another. It means fully devoting yourself to their cause, living by their example and even doing what they tell you to do. Choose the right people to follow. It really does matter whom you follow. Millions, for example, followed Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. Still today, millions follow evil dictators, terrorists and gang leaders.
Some people are sceptical about tradition and institutions and do not know whom to follow. The traditional models, which often came from or were championed by our families, institutions and political leaders, have, to some extent, broken down. This leaves many people unsure of whom to follow.
Jesus said many times, ‘Follow me.’ Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus has the largest number of followers. Over 2.4 billion people in the world today profess to follow Jesus. Jesus’ followers are called ‘disciples’. They want to be with him, to know him, to be like him and to do everything that Jesus asks them to do.
Follow Jesus’ examplePsalm 40:1-8
When you are going through difficult times you will be strengthened as you remember past blessings and the times that God has delivered you.
David writes about the time when he was in ‘the slimy pit’, full of ‘mud and mire’ (v.2a). He may be describing some experience of sin, sickness or the depth of depression. Corrie ten Boom said, ‘There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.’
‘The pit’ of depression can be a terrible place. In these times we remember all our failures and disappointments. We start to believe that nothing good could ever happen to us. We feel miserable and helpless. We start to think that we will never rise above our problems and fulfil God’s call in our lives.
In his helplessness David says, ‘I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud’ (vv.1–2a, MSG).
After God lifted him out of the slimy pit, ‘He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip’ (v.2b, MSG). God put a new song of worship in David’s mouth and his witness led many others to ‘put their trust in [the Lord]’ (v.3).
David describes the great blessing of ignoring ‘what the world worships’ (v.4, MSG) and following the Lord: ‘Blessed are those who make the Lord their trust... The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare’ (vv.4–5).
David writes, ‘You have given me the capacity to hear and obey’ (v.6, AMP). The secret of his success was praying and obeying.
David offers himself to follow God’s will in its entirety. He says, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart’ (vv.7–8).
This too was Jesus’ secret of success. According to the writer of Hebrews these verses found perfect fulfilment in Jesus. He tells us that Jesus himself quoted verses 6–8 in this psalm (see Hebrews 10:5–10). Jesus prayed and he obeyed. He said, ‘I have come to do your will, O God’ (v.7). The writer of Hebrews continues, ‘And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (v.10).
Follow Jesus’ example and offer yourself to do God’s will. David says that those who make the Lord their trust will be blessed. You will see all kinds of ‘wonders’ (Psalm 40:5) and ‘things you planned for us no one can recount… they would be too many to declare’ (v.5).
Lord, thank you for the times when you have lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, set my feet on a rock, given me a firm place to stand, put a new song in my mouth and enabled me to testify so that others put their trust in the Lord. Help me today to pray and to obey.
Follow Jesus’ instructionsLuke 8:40-9:9
Jesus did not have social media, broadcast capacity, big screens or even a simple microphone with which to get the message out. He did not need them. He had ‘power and authority’, which he gives to his followers (9:1).
While it is fine to use every available means to get the message of Jesus out, we must not get so caught up with modern means of communication that we forget what is at the heart of it all. Follow Jesus’ example and his instructions, which we read about in this passage.
Jesus healed a woman who had been subject to bleeding and raised Jairus’ daughter back to life. Jairus and the woman are two very different characters: one male, the other female; one an individual, the other part of a crowd; one influential, the other seemingly insignificant; one told Jesus about his daughter, the other was called ‘daughter’ by Jesus; one was healthy and the other was sick.
Yet both were dependent on Jesus’ power and authority, and both reacted in the same way on approaching Jesus. Jairus ‘came and fell at Jesus’ feet’ (8:41) and the woman ‘came trembling and fell at his feet’ (v.47).
Both had the right response to Jesus. They recognised his power and were prepared to follow his instructions and believe that Jesus had the power to heal. Jesus said to the woman: ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace’ (v.48). And he said to Jairus: ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed’ (v.50). These are stories of both extraordinary power, and extraordinary compassion.
It was said of Jesus, ‘All who touched him were healed’ (Mark 6:56). When the woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years touched him, he said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me’ (Luke 8:46). She was ‘instantly healed’ (v.47). Jesus then raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. People were ‘astonished’ (v.56). Jesus ministered with great power and authority.
It is even more astonishing that he passes this on to you. Power and authority are words we rightly associate with Jesus’ ministry. However, they are not unique to Jesus. Jesus called his disciples together and ‘gave them power and authority… to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’ (9:1–2). This is the ministry to which every one of Jesus’ disciples is called (Matthew 28:18–20). His power and authority are available to you today.
Lord, help me to follow your instructions – to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Help me to follow your example closely and to learn to minister with power and authority.
Follow Jesus wholeheartedlyNumbers 31:25-32:42
God’s power and authority are given to those who follow the Lord wholeheartedly (32:22). Caleb and Joshua are picked out as the exceptions from the Israelites because only the two of them ‘followed the Lord wholeheartedly’ (v.12). This is what God’s people are called to do.
Moses warned the people not to ‘turn away from following him’ (v.15). He warned them not to sin against the Law: ‘you may be sure that your sin will find you out’ (v.23). The constant challenge of the Scriptures is to follow the Lord with all our hearts and not to dabble with sin.
Reading this through the lens of the New Testament, to ‘follow the Lord’ is to follow Jesus. ‘Jesus is Lord’ is the central claim of the New Testament. (See for example Romans 10:9.)
We see in these passages how much is available to those who follow Jesus wholeheartedly, put their faith and trust in him and offer themselves to do his will. This is what you are called to. As you do this, Jesus sends you out into the world with power and authority to proclaim the gospel and heal the sick.
Lord, I want to be like Caleb and Joshua and follow you wholeheartedly. Today I want to follow your example and offer myself to do your will. Help me to minister with power and authority, to proclaim the gospel and heal the sick.
Jesus ‘sent them out to preach the kingdom of God… He told them: “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.”’
You should see what we take with us when we travel to different countries. We seem incapable of travelling lightly! I must tell Nicky that they didn’t seem to take a squash racquet with them!
Verse of the Day
‘… the Lord… set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand’ (Psalm 40:1–2).
Cartoon © Charlie Mackesy.
Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004) p. 196
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.