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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.