By: Sherry Pryor
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Matthew 16:24 NKJV
The “deny himself” part of that Scripture is one I struggle with from time to time. Okay, maybe more than I wish to admit out loud. It is the core of servanthood to King Jesus and His people. It is the core of being able to commit to imitating Jesus. It is the core of being a leader by being a follower of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus taught using compassion, love, and servanthood in all He did. The title ‘King’ brings to mind thoughts of those serving Him, but instead the total opposite is true. King Jesus came as a messenger of God in the living flesh to serve by teaching us God’s purpose for us and through us. To be a leader you must then be a servant. If your wish is to be first, then you will have more expectations, responsibilities, and accountabilities bestowed upon you. Being a good and faithful servant will bring struggles and the challenge of allowing yourself to die daily so you can live in Christ.
“...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
Mark 10:43-44 NIV
Am I the only one who struggles some days with relinquishing control over to Jesus? Am I alone in the fight to admit in my words and, mostly, in my actions that I am weak and cannot do anything on my own? My brain, along with my heart, knows and believes that any and all praise, victories, and failures are orchestrated by the greater power of the Father Almighty. It is His love and grace that guide my path each day. So why do I sabotage the beauty of His plan by misaligning my wants and my will against His will for my life? How do I lead by surrendering? How do I change without giving up what is comfortable? How do I know that by surrendering to the change, I am going to be able to maintain the person I am transformed into being?
“It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.”
Ecclesiastes 5:5 NIV
I am still new in my walk with Jesus. I am still asking questions and suppose I always will. But, by reading and meditating on the Word of God, I am finding answers to the questions I am asking. In order to be a disciple, I must first learn to follow well. I must first be able to accept God’s will in order to ask God to grant me the ability to lead others to Christ. Through complete surrender, I am able to be an obedient follower of Christ. To “deny himself” is to know we make the daily choice to surrender all to God. It may bring pain, persecution, and uncomfortable moments, but if you follow Jesus’ teachings, it will bring light to darkness, peace and joy to chaos and sadness, and freedom to bondage.
Any weaknesses we may have in leading ourselves and others to the comprehension and acceptance of our Lord and Savior is designed by our Lord and Savior. So make your promises to Jesus. Align yourself with God’s will, and, when you falter, ask for forgiveness.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV
Jesus built into every human being the desire to be led; the desire to be a follower. That is exactly how God wants us to be. He made ‘following’ the central theme of our very existence – to be ‘taken care of’ – to be a ‘follower’ and NOT a leader – to be totally dependent!
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
It is in our weaknesses that we must be ever vigilant in reading and meditating on God’s Words to ensure we are following His Word. Otherwise, we may fall prey to those who are presenting themselves as leaders instead of an exemplary example of an obedient follower of King Jesus – the only true leader.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”
1 John 4:1-2 NIV
I have found five helpful acts that help me strive daily to be a righteous, obedient follower:
1. Being in prayer – Prayer of Adoration/Blessing; Prayer of Contrition/Repentance; Prayer of Thanksgiving or Gratitude; Prayer of Supplication/Petition/Intercession
Praying the Lord’s Prayer daily, found in Matthew 6:9-13, reminds us to glorify God by giving Him thanks and praise. By doing so, He will keep us safe from temptation and evil. When we fail, we can ask for forgiveness of our sins, and those that sin against us, and He will hear us.
2. Actively reading the Word – There is a saying, “You cannot pour from an empty glass.” Reading gives us substance, content, and knowledge. Reading God’s Word helps us gain wisdom, releases our chains, gives us hope, and lifts our burdens. The Word also reminds us of His promises, as well as enables us to fight our battles and ultimately defeat the devil. Through our active pursuit of His truth, our faith is strengthened and our spirit nourished. Finally, but not lastly, actively reading the Word of God, the Bible, helps build a closer relationship with God our Father.
“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
Proverbs 30:5 ESV
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”
Psalm 119:130 ESV
3. Following the commands He puts on your heart – There are times when the Lord will ask you to do things, or to not do things, and it will bring hardship in holding strong in God’s will for you. Challenges and persecution may arise with what God puts on your heart to carry out. But always know God will be with you in all He asks you to do and be.
“...The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Hebrews 13:6 KJV
“Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.”
James 1:12 CEB
4. Seeking godly community – Being part of a Christ-based community keeps you strong in your walk with Jesus. The community of Christ believes in the Trinity, the doctrines of faith in God, repentance of sin, baptism by immersion, and resurrection of the dead.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:12 NIV
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4 NIV
5. Obeying the truth – We must obey God rather than men. God’s promises, if we obey Him, are that He’ll save us, watch over us, take care of us, and give us our needs.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32 HCSB
My prayer for each of us as we follow Jesus who leads us is this:
Oh Mighty Father, I am praying that You will help me and others like me to be a strong leader as Your follower. Please bring understanding unto your words so we are prepared to guide others to Your message when the need arises. Lead my ears, my eyes, and my heart to those who are seeking You and to those who are in step with Your. I surrender all to You. Amen.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NKJV