Trees intrigue me with the lessons they yield about following Jesus. The terms “Christ follower” or “Jesus follower” have grown in usage lately, for the good. Why? They require action. Following. Too often, “Christian” refers to what we believe, to the nation we live in. But following goes deeper. On that stroll with John through the redwoods of Cowell State Park near Mount Hermon, we found the Fremont Tree. A sign read that “legend claims that in 1848, Col. John C. Fremont slept here.”
The small opening may have sheltered The Great Pathfinder from the rain, but likely gave little room to stretch out. Ten years later a reporter asked him about the accuracy of the legend, and he replied, “It makes a good story. Let it stand.” But in thinking of a cramped bed, a comment by Jesus slammed into my mind. One that challenges me to this day, three months later. “Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’” (Matthew 8:19-20 NLT).
Almost sounds like Jesus tried to talk him out of following, doesn’t it? But I think not. Jesus merely wanted this potential follower to know what following could mean. Giving up a warm, comfortable My Pillow mattress. Following could bring hardship and sacrifice. Or more. Of the 12 apostles, 11 died for their faith. The only exception, John, was exiled on an island. In examining interactions with interested people, Jesus consistently hit them with hardship. To Nicodemus, likely the preeminent teacher of Israel, he had to give up all he’d attained and be born again. The rich young ruler had to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. He confronted each with their greatest obstacle to following.
Jesus made this clear with the general statement, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT).
Our question: if we claim to follow Jesus, how willing are we to follow his lifestyle? One of sacrifice. One of hardship. One of intimacy with God. I suspect the two go pretty closely together.
Kick Starting the Application
Do you accept the reality that following Jesus can result in sacrifice and hardship? Think of several times you’ve sacrificed as you follow. How did they influence your intimacy with him? How might they have impacted others? What is your greatest obstacle to following? Do you sense God may be calling you to sacrifice some comfort to follow? Will you say yes to him?