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Following Jesus Today: Must I Leave Everything Behind?

July 7, 2020 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 5:9-11 (NRSV)

For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

For more context, you can read Luke 5:1-11 here.

Focus

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Sometimes Jesus calls people to follow him by leaving their current lives behind and starting over again in a brand new location. This happened to the first disciples of Jesus, for example. For most of us, however, following Jesus is something we do in our familiar cities, families, and workplaces. To be sure, following Jesus still requires plenty of leaving behind. Jesus will ask us to discard our worldly values, unjust practices, prejudicial biases, selfish materialism, and inborn “me first” attitude. We will come to see our whole life, including our daily work and everyday relationships, as contexts in which can follow Jesus faithfully.

Devotion

When I was in elementary school, a missionary couple serving in a small Latin American country returned to the United States on furlough. The Beckers shared their experiences in my Sunday School class, impressing upon us how simple their life was in their adopted country. When it was time for Q&A, one of my friends asked in a serious tone, “Do you have McDonalds where you live?” The Beckers answered with similar seriousness, “No, we don’t. That’s something we had to give up.” We were all impressed. For us, leaving McDonald’s behind would be a major sacrifice. We thought missionaries sure had a hard life.

The notion of giving up everything to follow Jesus didn’t begin with twentieth-century missionaries, however. In fact, that idea appears in our passage from Luke 5. When Jesus called Simon, promising that he would now be “catching people,” Simon and his partners “left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11). Indeed, they left their jobs, their homes, their families, and most of their possessions behind so that they might actually follow Jesus as he traveled throughout Galilee and Judea, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.

Are we supposed to do the same if we are going to follow Jesus?

For some people the answer to this question is “yes” (or “mostly, yes,” at any rate). The Beckers gave up just about everything in order to serve the Lord overseas. Like Simon, James, and John, they literally left almost everything and literally went away from their home in faithfulness to their particular calling.

Let me repeat that last phrase, “in faithfulness to their particular calling.” The reason that the Beckers had to leave so much behind was that they knew the Lord wanted them to go far away. They could not bring with them their home, friends, jobs, and local McDonald’s restaurant. They were able to bring their children, but not their extended family. Their act of leaving behind was required by their specific response to the specific call of Jesus.

Most of us won’t be called to this particular kind of work, however. For us, following Jesus is something we do in our familiar cities, families, and workplaces. Yes, we will follow Jesus even if we work at McDonald’s. To be sure, following Jesus still requires plenty of leaving behind. Jesus will ask us to discard our worldly values, unjust practices, prejudicial biases, selfish materialism, and inborn “me first” attitude. We will come to see our whole life, including our daily work and everyday relationships, as contexts in which can follow Jesus faithfully.

Reflect

Why do you think Simon, James, and John left everything to follow Jesus?

Have you ever left something behind (literally or figuratively) in response to the call of Jesus? If so, what was it? Why did you leave it behind?

Might there be things in your life now that Jesus is asking you to discard? If so, what are these things and what do you propose to do with them?

Act

If you sense that Jesus wants you to leave something behind in order to follow him more faithfully, ask for the strength to do it. Then, share what you have decided with a Christian brother or sister, someone who can support you, pray for you, and hold you accountable.

Pray

Lord Jesus, I wonder what I would have done if I had been in the boat with Simon Peter. Would I have responded to your call as Simon, James, and John did? Would I have been willing to leave so much behind in order to follow you? I hope so, by your grace.

Lord, today I don’t sense that you are calling me to a new location or a new job. But I am quite sure that you want me to follow you right where I am, with my family and friends, in my work and neighborhood, in my church and my city. Help me, Lord, to say “yes” to your call. Show me what I need to offload if I’m going to follow you faithfully. May I turn from all that keeps me from following you in every context of my life.

Thank you for calling me into relationship with you and into your service. May I live today for the praise of your glory! Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. An article on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Direct, Unmistakable Call to Particular Work


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2 thoughts on “Following Jesus Today: Must I Leave Everything Behind?

  1. I heard a pastor say “all means all and that’s what all means”.
    The writer of this has given the “Modern Christian” excuses to be someone other than a follower of Christ.
    Even the missionary must travel to a far away place and then they come back home and boast about what they have done in the name of Jesus, that is not what the Bible is saying that is what man is saying.
    There are many people here in our neighborhoods that need food and shelter.
    Meanwhile we are spending resources sending people far away. Is that what Jesus would do ?
    I am a sinner.
    I am a hypocrite.
    I believe I am to love my neighbor as I love myself.
    I don’t do the best I can.
    I do believe in Salvation by Jesus because it takes away my guilt and shame.
    I am selfish.
    I call myself a Christian.
    “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”
    There is always room for improvement.
    Thank you for allowing me to share.
    I give you permission to share my opinion.
    Daniel J Kinsley

    • Mark Roberts says:

      Hello, Daniel. Thanks for taking time to add your comment. Well, my intention was not to give anyone an excuse to be other than a follower of Jesus. Rather, I’m trying to figure out what it means for us to be authentic followers of Jesus in our time and place. Should we literally leave everything behind and go to another place, like the first disciples? Or would it be right, in some contexts, to spend our resources, including our own time, right here where we live? You seem to think this would be right, and I agree with you. Not everyone is called to go to another place in order to follow Jesus. Anyway, thanks again for taking time to comment. – Mark

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