As I sit here thinking about each of you reading this, I have been drawn to the portion of Scriptures that Paul wrote — in particular, the letters he wrote to Timothy and the Philippians — while awaiting his death. Second Timothy was his last epistle, his last letter that he would write, his last charge and words written to another soul. And as I ponder this, I have asked myself the same. What would I tell you if this was the last blog I wrote to you, if this is the last thing you would ever read from me?
There are so many things that I, of course, would want to say, because I am great at rambling, but overall, there are two main things that I would want to constantly reiterate to any and every person I come across. Those are to (1) draw close and (2) push forward.
As followers of Jesus, we cannot follow Him if we are not close to Him. I often think of it as following someone in a car or following them along a trail in the woods.
When I follow my mother in the car, she drives crazy and crazy fast (sorry, mom, it’s true). I have to pay close attention, keep my eyes on her little red car swerving in and out of traffic the entire time, and stay close behind her. Otherwise, one whip of a turn and she is out of sight… and I am lost. Now, the great thing is that when she looks in her rearview and finds that I’m no longer following, she’ll pull over and wait for me. But we could get where we’re going much faster if I would simply keep my eyes on her and stay close.
Or perhaps, your heart is among the trees and you prefer the vision of the trail in your mind. The woods can be a scary place, just as this world can be. Creatures linger around every corner and because of all of the trees and foliage, it is easy to get turned around and lost in the woods (cue Kristoff’s song from Frozen 2… sorry, I’m a girl mom, plus it’s just a great film). Imagine following Jesus through a walk in these said woods. Often, walks with Him are off the beaten path and into the unknown (oh, hey, Frozen 2 again). Because of this, it is pertinent to walk closely beside or behind Him. If you get distracted or take your eyes off of Him, He may take a turn without you even noticing.
Now listen, He’s a good God, a good Father, and the very best leader imaginable, which means that He’ll be watching us, too. He’ll give us a heads up whether with a blinker (in our car scenario) or by motioning with His hand or simply telling us — but as followers, we must do our part, as well, and pay attention, keeping our eyes on Him so we can follow without as many hindrances and hiccups (but trust me, we’re human, there will always be a few).
So how do we follow closely? Great question.
Spend time with Him.
I’ve said it before, and I will continue to do so until I am blue in the face, because it is literally that simple.
Abide with Him, lean in close to His heart through prayer and reading Scripture. As you do so, your heartbeat will align with His and the closer you will follow. And if you don’t have a desire to spend time with Him — ASK HIM FOR IT.
He won’t deny you, friend. He loves you pulling you in. As James told us in James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
Spending time with Him will also help you with discerning His voice.
If we’re going to follow someone, we better be able to recognize their voice when they are speaking. That way, even if we get turned around, even if we can’t see Him, we can hear Him and begin to move in His direction.
As I was driving to Asheville, NC to speak at a women’s conference last year, Siri decided to take me on a backroad for the entire last hour of my drive. I love using my Maps app and have no idea how anyone got around without it. I often find myself relying not just on the phone speaking the directions to me, but also on the map that appears. I love looking at it as I go to make sure I can see when it’s asking me to turn. Call me crazy, but I can’t always calculate where I am being asked to turn in .2 miles or 200 feet when there are multiple options for turning. So I like to watch the map to literally see when it’s coming in order to not miss it. Well, unfortunately for me on that drive to Asheville, roughly the last forty-five miles left to drive came with zero cell phone service. Thank the Lord in heaven that the voice continued to speak the directions to me, but I could no longer see the map with the roads and twists and turns. It was completely blank… a lot like life.
We don’t always get to see His plan, but rather have to listen closely to His voice to know where to go and when to turn.
So spend time with Him. Not in order to gain more knowledge, not in order to gain whatever request you are demanding from Him, and not because you know you need to spend time with Him. Spend time with Him simply to get to know Him. As you do this, you will begin to delight in Him, to discern His voice, to know and trust His heart, and to follow Him more closely.
Push forward in your purpose. DO NOT STOP RUNNING YOUR RACE.
Purpose has always been a driving force for me, personally. As followers of Jesus, we all have the same purpose — to love God, love people, and make disciples. Believe it or not, our personal faith is not just about us. If it was, He would have taken us on home the day we decided to choose Him. But He didn’t. Why? Because following Him is about more than us. It’s about bringing others along with us. It’s not about just receiving eternal life and good things from our heavenly Father. It’s about sharing those things with those around us.
If we are at the center of our faith, we are missing the point of our faith.
And though we all have the same overarching purpose, how we live that out looks different for each of us, because we have all been uniquely created and knitted together. The way I live out purpose, is not the way that you do. That’s why we’re all needed to make up the body. The people I will influence are not the people you will influence. So we must keep pushing forward and doing our part.
Because friend, regardless of your age, regardless of if you think you are too young to do what He’s asking you to do or too old. Regardless of if you think you’ve already accomplished a lot in your life and now you can just coast… I’ve got news for you. If you still have breath in your lungs you still have a purpose to fulfill and you best be getting to it. Because there are souls on the line. There are people on the line whom God has chosen you to utilize in reaching, and they are waiting for you.
So stop questioning your calling and start answering it. Each and every day. That may mean that you finally stop putting it off and call that person He has placed on your heart. That may mean that you stop making excuses and start writing that blog, book, or business plan. That may mean you stop hiding behind “shyness” and begin leading that group or book club. Yes, when we begin to walk in our purpose on purpose, it can feel scary. But feel the fear and do it anyway. He said to “take courage”. Courage doesn’t mean you won’t be afraid. It means you will push forward regardless of what you may feel and what others may think. Because there are souls on the line, and they are too important for us to sit idly by continuing to make excuses for why we just can’t begin today.
So as Paul said to Timothy in his final letter…
Friend, “as for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5)
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