I should have known it was coming. It seems that each time I preach, the message hits me hard before I ever get to the "pulpit" (which I don’t really use, by the way- I use a music stand or, preferrable, a stool).
Tomorrow morning I’m preaching about "Following God’s Lead" (see the last few sets of posts). I think in my mind I’ve always been tempted to idealize what happens when somebody follows God’s lead. I’m tempted to think that life should go smoothly if you follow God’s lead. After all, a quick look at Acts 8 makes it appear as if following Jesus always produces abundant results. As I’ve been studying about Philip I’ve been so impressed how God opened up door after door after door to meet people and do incredible, effective ministry. Philip would get hired in any church setting today because of the results produced through his dynamic skills and evangelistic gifts and his heart for God.
But in the seeming ease of Philip’s following after God, it can be easy to overlook the hardship. Acts 7 reminds us of the possible fate of someone who follows Jesus. Jesus told his first followers that they must pick up their cross daily to follow him. Paul usually starts his letters out by saying: "Paul, a prisoner for the Lord." Hebrews 11 talks about followers of faith that thrived in life and others who got sawed in half.
Philip experiences both the good and the bad of following Christ. Philip had begun a pretty vibrant ministry, full of perks and power and attention, in Jerusalem. Then the persecution began. Did the persecution mean that Philip was not following God’s lead? Was he not following God’s will for his life? Is that why he was forced to leave his home and the excellent ministry there? And what about Stephen, his friend, who was brutally killed because of his faith?
God sometimes leads us around bends in the road. If we follow Jesus, we are bound to get turned and bent and directed in ways that we hadn’t anticipated. The path doesn’t always make sense to us. We can’t always see where this new turn is going to take us. Sometimes the turn is sharp. Sometimes it leads to a frightening new location. Sometimes the turn forces us into oncoming traffic (that’s how I feel this week).
But still my soul resounds with the praises of heaven! I will follow Jesus today… and tomorrow… and the day after that… forever. Whether I am to become a Stephen or a Philip, I long to run the course set out for me with the face of an angel. I want to chase after my Lord, hot on the heels of my Savior. Jesus, I will follow.