The Focus of Discipleship

There are many verses in the gospels from Jesus’ own mouth that talk about the cost of discipleship. In this article we will be looking at the focus of discipleship. There were three types of people that want to follow Jesus, or are called by Jesus and the excuses that they make in the wake of the asking.

In Luke 9:57–62, Jesus and His twelve disciples were on the road to Jerusalem where Jesus would ultimately be tortured, crucified and buried. When they went went through Samaria the people did not receive them. This was probably meant to say that they did not give Jesus or His disciples a place to stay or take care of their needs. Instead, they went to another village. It was probably in this village, or just outside this village where this takes place.

Too quick to follow Jesus

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” (Luke 9:57 NKJV)

This is the person who is too quick to follow Jesus and not counting the cost. As Inigo Montoya said in the movie, The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” The man who asked to follow Jesus had a different definition of “follow” that Jesus had. To this person their definition of follow was one of receiving and getting their needs met. Healing the sick, raising the dead, and feeding people out of thin air can be looked at as a glamorous life, and one that comes with many benefits. “Follow” to him could have meant, to come along for the ride.

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.” (Luke 9:58 NKJV)

But Jesus had a much different definition of “follow.” To Him it was one of complete surrender and total obedience and service. Not only that, but the act of following carries a great deal of weight in which most would give up and quit. They were constantly on the move in a different place all the time. It was a hard life. Even though you were healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and spreading the gospel, it didn’t mean that they were reciprocated for those gifts. This was Jesus’ meaning of follow. It comes with a price, no rest, and no place of ownership in anything. Foxes have holes, and birds have nests. But Jesus didn’t even have those things.

Imagine if Jesus turned around and said to this person, ‘Wherever? Really? ‘Cause I’m on my way to Jerusalem where I’m going to be tortured and killed. I don’t really know what will happen to my disciples either. You in now?’

Long delay to follow Jesus

This next person is personally called by the Lord to follow Him.

Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (Luke 9:59 NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60 NKJV)

This man was personally called by Jesus to follow Him, but he was too slow in deciding to do that. It wasn’t that the man’s father was dead and needed to bury him, but that he was taking care of his father until he died. This could have gone on for an infinite amount of time, and no one knows how long it would have taken. When Jesus calls us, He wants us to go NOW, not later.

I can imagine that some of my friends are laughing because I do the same thing, or at least did in the past. There were many times that I was given opportunities to move forward and for whatever reason I “chickened out.” Other opportunities came up, I was distracted by other things, or I was worried about what would happen if I failed. The previous man didn’t think enough about the cost, this man might have thought too much.

Case in point. I felt as if the Lord wanted my wife and I to sell our house and travel the United States by RV preaching the gospel. We prayed about it, sought the Lord, and then it was time to look for a rig. Then we found one. But my wife and I saw the opportunity right before us, and we got scared. Then, her mom was wanting to move and needed all her Hallmark Christmas Ornaments sold. Before you know it, I was opeining an Ebay store to sell these (which I’m still doing) and never got that RV. Sure, I’m serving the Lord in other areas like Got Questions, as an Elder in my church, and sharing the gospel as an evangelist; but I’m not in that RV. Was it a test? Was it the Lord’s will? Don’t know. I know that I never had 100% peace about the RV life, but I read verses like this and wonder if I made the right decesion.

Going back to the verses, it was a noble thing to take care of the father; even one of the Ten Commandments is to honor your father and mother. So when wavering between the Lord and a good and noble thing we should side with the Lord. What we don’t know in this situation is how many siblings the man had. It could have been just him, or part of a family of twenty. We just don’t know the situation. But I believe the reason why we don’t know the situation is that it just doesn’t matter. It is the Lord who should take precedence above all things – even good ones.

Short delay to follow Jesus

The first man was too quick to follow Jesus without counting the cost; the previous man offered to follow Jesus after an infinite delay; this next man offered to follow Jesus after a relatively short delay.

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” (Luke 9:61 NKJV)

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NKJV)

Saying goodbye to your loved ones is not a terrible thing. Jesus is not saying that we cannot say goodbye to the ones that we care about; but that our loved ones: friends and family, can have a tendency to talk us out of things, and discourage us to serve the Lord.

When plowing a field there are two things you need to do to be successful: keep your eye forward on what you are plowing, and hold on tight.

Following Jesus takes direction, focus, and a ton of work. When you are plowing, you are always moving forward. There is no “reverse” in a plowing team. It’s all forward motion and the plowman directs the team in the direction he wants to go.

But there are distractions I’m sure in plowing. Looking around and not focusing on an immovable object in the distance ahead of you to aim for, the cuts in the ground will not be straight. For the Christian, our immovable object and goal in the distance is the Lord. The paths we cut in the ground is our walk.

Not only is it important to hold on tight, but also to keep your feet firmly planted. Several years ago I helped a friend rototill a plot of land. It was really hard work. The machine occasionally has a mind of its own, unexpectedly jumping out of the ground like a whale breaching the surface of the ocean. If your feet weren’t planted, it would drag you several feet. We need to be firmly planted in Christ and concentrating on the work He has called us to do.

When all things are said and done, whatever is produced out of the ground is the fruit of our walk. We don’t look at how hard it was, but have joy knowing we served the Lord with focus and intentionality as He is our goal and focus.

What are your thoughts?

So what about you? Are you too quick to serve the Lord without thinking, or do you have things that easily distract you from doing the Lord’s work? Is there anything you feel the Lord is asking you to do and you are just unsure of or having second thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

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