Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Art of Following

by Tim Howard

While driving the streets of Boston, Massachusetts a while back, I became disoriented and irritated. I’m sure Boston is not the only city in the world that is challenging to navigate but it ranks among the top ten in my book. It’s not uncommon to be driving down one street and for no apparent reason the name of that street changes to something else and just when you think you’re making progress, you end up lost. On this one occasion I reached a point frustration and stopped to ask for help. When a man stops to ask someone for directions, it’s proof positive that he’s at the breaking point!

To my surprise, the people were very kind and one man actually said he would show me the way. His exact words were “ Follow Me, I will take you there”. I was very grateful, relieved and hopeful even though I didn’t realize another challenge awaited me around the first corner. It was mid-day and the traffic was horrendous. If you have ever had to follow someone through six lanes, busy intersections, congested streets and honking taxi drivers you have discovered it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is an art to following!

Luke 2 records a story I've read many times and quite frankly, find it a bit amusing. It’s the time when Jesus was a twelve-year-old boy and his parents lost him. How do you lose God? That’s the amusing part! Here’s the story: "After the feast was over where they had gone with Jesus, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company they traveled on for a day, then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find Him they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him. After three days they found Him in the Temple courts sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." From this historical record, I noted how easy it is to lose track of Jesus when you're not keeping your eyes on Him. Jesus is full of surprises and can change directions without warning just like the kind gentleman who was leading me through the streets of Boston. If you aren’t watching closely, you can end up going north on Route 93 while he’s going east on Route 90.

If you are to learn the art of following you will need two qualities. The first is FOCUS: constantly checking to see where Jesus, this dynamic leader is going, never losing sight of His plan and purposes. The second is FLEXIBILITY: knowing He is the God of surprises; you must be willing to make certain adjustments.

He speeds up sometimes and slows down at other times. He goes on one road for a while then He takes another one. He's not inconsistent, fickle or undecided but He is traveling a sure and certain route because He knows the road and you don't.

Jesus' baseline invitation and command to us is: Follow Me! Luke 9:23, "If anyone would come after Me let him take up his cross daily and follow Me."

Believe it or not, God has already been in your future. Psalms 139 makes it clear that He “goes before us.” He charts a path for us and knows where we should stop, when we need to rest and the best route for the journey. All you need to do is learn the art of following.

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