What is that to you?
You must follow me.
The words quoted above are taken from a discussion that our Lord had with the apostle Peter. We are familiar with the context. When told about the future of his own life, Peter immediately inquired about the Lord’s plans for John. The desire to consider the calling of others and to contrast it with his own characterized his initial response. This tendency seems to still be common among followers of Christ. It finds expression in the comparison not only of the varying gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit, but in the effectiveness (to our own eyes) of the use of those gifts.
It is not unusual to hear someone say “If only I had their gifts or their talents.” It is a more common thing for people to think those thoughts without ever expressing them. They may consider themselves disadvantaged by having a gift (in their own eyes) which is less prominent or visible . By focusing on others, they may fail to allow the Holy Spirit to fully develop and use their own gift. In addition, they may regard themselves as a second class citizen in God’s Kingdom, thereby producing an incorrect view of God’s sovereignty and His love.
More common than the above, however, is the nagging thought that we somehow don’t measure up to others who have the same gift with which we have been endowed. We struggle to make an impact with others and find it very slow going. In the midst of our labor we may attend a conference in which the speaker gives glowing reports about a ministry which seems similar to ours but which is characterized by apparent success. We read different books and use other methods but change in the lives of others seems to progress so slowly. It is well for us to remember the Lord’s words “What is that to you, you must follow me.”
What does it mean to follow Him? The scriptures give us clear answers to that question. These answers were emphasized to me by an experience I had years ago while hiking in Colorado. For many years we had the opportunity to attend the Kansas Navigator summer conference at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs . The afternoons were often free time and we enjoyed hiking the abundant trails nearby. One trail in particular was about eleven miles in length and required transport to Eagle lake near Woodland, Colorado. This trail descended initially through lush flower filled meadows but quickly became a narrow trail descending rapidly into brush lined paths traversing cliffs and boulders. At one point our guide stopped and said “Listen carefully. In the next hundred yards the trail will divide two times. In each case, the trail to the right looks like it might be the correct one to follow. It is not. One leads to a dead end. The other leads to a sudden blind drop off of seventy five feet straight down. You will need to stay to the left. Trust me. I have been this way before. Follow me.” Our group was large enough and the path was so narrowed with brush so that we were not always able to keep our guide in view. But we did what he said. We listened. We trusted. We obeyed. (Years later when I was the guide, I personally verified carefully what our guide said about the paths to the right. He was correct about both of them.)
The above experience underlines to me what the Lord desires me to do as I follow Him. He desires that I listen, not only to His voice in the scriptures but to the gently nudging of His voice to my inner spirit as I wait before Him. He desires that I trust Him, and that I obey Him. The Hymn that we sing so often is yet so true. “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
The alternative to following Christ and keeping our eyes on Him is to allow our eyes to focus elsewhere. If our eyes, our minds, or our hearts deviate from Him they will find themselves contemplating ourselves, others, or our circumstances. To allow them to do so produces one of two results, both of which are close cousins, namely either pride or discouragement. Their roots are the same. They both come from comparing ourselves and our circumstances with others and their circumstances. If we think we compare favorably, then we sow the seeds of pride. If we compare unfavorably, the seeds of discouragement are sown.
The perils of not following our Lord and keeping our eyes on Him are no less deadly than a seventy five foot fall would have been had I not listened to the guide at Glen Eyrie. The Lord knows this, and that is why He said to Peter, and also says to us “What is that to you, you must follow me.”
In Christ, Richard Spann