What does following involve? What does it commit us to? And most importantly, who exactly is it we are called to follow? Jesus did not say, ‘Come and find me.’ He said, ‘Come and follow me.’ There is a world of difference between looking for someone and being found by that person.
Throughout our lives we are all influenced by people in one way or another, and at the same time we influence others, be it our families, our friends, our work colleagues, church members and all the other relational contacts we have. We are continually subjected to a myriad of different inputs from both within and outside our framework of relationships; the likes of advertising, social media, political ideologies, superstars and celebrities we rightly or wrongly look up to, influential speakers and leaders, whether religious or political. The list is endless.
All of these, to one degree or another, affect our everyday lives. Some of these influences are seasonal, whereby we go through phases of buying into a particular idea, belief or viewpoint because it suits our circumstances at the time, or we may need that input in the issues we are experiencing at that moment. At other times, influences can be lifelong or life-changing.
If we are honest, when someone unfamiliar says to us, ‘Come with me,’ or, ‘Follow me,’ most of us try to weigh up the options. We want to know first who they are and what their motives might be in beckoning us. We want to know where we are going. We want to assure ourselves that we are not being conned or putting ourselves in any kind of danger or disadvantage by accepting such a vague invitation.
Of course, there are times when we can be naïve and gullible and easily lured into something we later regret, just because of a whim or momentary lapse of thinking. As such, we walk into it with our eyes shut.
When Jesus approached individuals such as fishermen, tax collectors, zealots and the like and beckoned them to follow Him, with the vaguest of promises such as, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19), I wonder what would have been going through their minds to drop everything so readily and go after Him?
Yes, Jesus’ reputation was beginning to get around through word of mouth and they would have already been exposed to Him in a limited way before He called them. Yet something inside persuaded them they were doing the right thing because there was little hesitation that we know of in their response. They just got up and followed. Challenged or curious, they went with Him.
Andrew and another began as disciples of John the Baptist. People were listening to this prophet’s proclamation and call to repentance, and many were baptised in the process. He always pointed people away from himself and towards Jesus. John did not beat about the bush with the urgency of his preaching. When the time was right, it was clear to him that his two followers now needed to ‘switch tracks’ and so pointed them to Jesus with a declaration that caught their attention: ‘And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”’ (John 1:36). It was the second time in two days John used this term concerning Jesus.
I suppose at various times in our lives, we make decisions concerning our lifestyles and who we socially associate with. Sometimes we divert our allegiances and pursue new directions through invitation, conviction or opportunity. Whether career changes, new relationships or friendship groups, our social networks can change, expand or divert.
Now here is an interesting thought. How would you introduce Jesus to someone you hope would come to know and follow Him? John did not simply say, ‘Look guys, that’s the One I’ve been talking about,’ or, ‘This is the one you need to tag onto from now on.’ Instead, John identified Jesus prophetically by the most important aspect of who He was in terms of what He came to accomplish. ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ Jesus was made known by the sacrifice He came to endure and suffer for our sake, perhaps in reference to the Suffering Servant prophecy of Isaiah 53.
Was it this that captivated the inquisitiveness of these two disciples, as they then chased after Jesus? They certainly caught His attention when He stopped, turned around and asked them what they wanted. They responded with a bland opening question, as you do when you want to engage someone in conversation; like, ‘Hi, not seen you around here before,’ or, ‘What do you do?’ or, as in this case, ‘Where are You staying?’ (John 1:38). And the offer was taken up with, ‘Come and see’ (John 1:39).
The invitation, I would suggest, was to follow Him. Perhaps that was the pull they needed; just a ‘come and see’. We are invited to be where He is. I do not think these two disciples knew at that stage where that was going to lead them.
How might that pan out in our relationship with Jesus, where trust is required, when we are not given a map or schedule? It should bring several questions to mind if we are serious. How committed are we in following? What are our expectations of Jesus? Who or what do we anticipate engaging with? What might we hope to discover? Where might that take us?
Jesus doesn’t take us into the unknown, but into His known. He knows where He is going and where He wants us to be. But it requires surrender and commitment on our part. He is constantly on the move and takes us with Him. It is a journey that can take us out of our comfortable and familiar setting. It needs to become our priority if we are to truly fulfil His purpose for us.
When I was nine years old and for the first time, as a family, we went to visit my relatives in Poland, we stopped off en route at my uncle and aunt’s apartment in Germany and stayed with them a couple of days. It was a particularly significant time for my mother and father, who had not seen any of their relatives since leaving Poland at the start of the Second World War.
There was much excitement all round and an emotional coming together after so many years apart. Not having children of their own, my uncle and aunt intended to spoil us somewhat by taking us on an expensive shopping spree. My treat was a train set and my sister’s an ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ doll, which she adored.
When we got back to their apartment, my father and uncle proceeded to unpack the train set and put it together. They then started to play with it. I’m not sure I got a look in. They were like two little children at Christmas. Their excuse, when I tried to muscle in, was that they were just checking to make sure it worked properly. I’m sure many parents use that line when playing with their children’s toys.
Where am I going with this? It’s about branching out. The tracks of this train set made up a basic oval shape and so the locomotive and two attached carriages just went round and round with the occasional variation of going the other way, or the loco pushing rather than pulling. But that’s all it did.
I wonder if at times we can get stuck in a rut in our churches in a similar way, where things can just go round and round in a predictable fashion year after year, with the occasional alteration. We can become so conditioned to the familiar that our expectations remain static and our anticipation of something else, something different, remains diminished. I’m not sure that is what God intends His church to be like. Do you? If not, then what?
Following that first visit to Germany, my uncle began to send me additional parts for the train set, beginning with a pair of turnout tracks where I could switch and branch out onto another section, another line and direction. It opened up all kinds of possibilities and diverse layouts, as you can imagine. Gone was the familiar repetition and in came explorative ventures. More tracks and more trains were added year upon year. The whole thing grew. And when I outgrew it, the whole investment was passed on to my son and he in turn passed it on to his son.
Isn’t that what following Jesus is about? To switch tracks and branch out into ever new ventures of encounter and engagement, where He takes us to new places, new opportunities and ever-expanding kingdom dynamics that we can embrace and pass on to others.
For Andrew and the other disciple, it was an intriguing start. Jesus showed them where He was staying, and they remained with Him the rest of that day. That was not the end, but the beginning. They would no doubt have spent time talking, asking questions, listening with intrigue to all Jesus shared with them; and, I suggest, wanting more.
I wonder if at times we appreciate just who He is, in the fullness of His splendour and majesty and awe; the One who came to redeem humankind from the tyranny of sin that caused wrecked lives and subjected the whole of creation to be corrupted and off kilter. I wonder if we recognise the immense privilege it is to be in His presence; He who is above all things, greater than all things, who holds all things, who restores all things. I would imagine if we could truly and fully comprehend Him, we would not want to leave His side. What could possibly be more captivating than an invitation to be with Him? Committing ongoing time in His presence, putting everything else aside and just being with Him and seeing what He shows us, tells us, releases to us and where He directs our path. That is precious time.
When Jesus beckoned them both to ‘come and see’, He was not showing them His headquarters or a head office of His mission. Where He was staying was not a permanent residency. Jesus would have no ‘fixed abode’ in this mission. There is no consumerism involved here; no supporters club to sign up to. Just a journey that requires sacrifice and perhaps even hardship, because our anchor and foundation are not in a building or an institution, but a person, who is constantly on the move and takes us with Him.
And so came others too, one after another that He gathered, as the team grew. A team of followers heading who knows where. For the next three years they went wherever Jesus went. They journeyed together, ate together; did everything together. And in that time, they saw extraordinary things. They were taken way out of their comfort zones and way beyond any earthly experience they could possibly imagine. It was at times so far-fetched it was blowing their minds, yet at the same time, quite ordinary in the context of where they found themselves travelling. But still they followed and witnessed and experienced and joined in and did as He did. They were being transformed in the process; shaped to be all they were created and called to be.
These obscure, unknown individuals would in time turn the world upside down. Mike Breen writes:
It doesn’t appear that Jesus chooses these guys on the basis of their resumes or their spiritual gift inventories. He simply offers them a relationship with himself and a vision to follow.
We are first called into relationship with Jesus. In the outworking of that relationship, an equipping and commissioning is released, for walking in His purposes. It is here we begin to discover the uniqueness of who we are and what we are called to.
But why? What was it all for? Jesus did not come to start another religion, but to reconcile the world to God by restoring a broken relationship with Him. He did this by demonstrating God’s love for humanity through His teaching and healing miracles, and through signs and wonders; but also, and ultimately, to sacrifice His life on a cross, thus destroying and removing the barrier between humanity and God that sin created.
It is significant to understand that Jesus accomplished this as a man, with human limitations but empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. As such, He modelled what He wanted us to embrace and live under. He brings His world into ours and wants us to continue to live under His kingdom reign and draw others into it.
Stepping into the unexpected
So how does following begin for us? For some, encountering and coming to know God in a personal way can be sudden, unexpected and dramatic. For others, it can be a more gentle and gradual process of discovery. God knows and understands each one of us personally, even before we know Him. As such, He knows the kind of approach to make, for us to engage with and accept the offer He presents us with to follow Him.
Our character, personality and experience of life shape and influence how we respond. As such, God is mindful that encountering Him as a loving Father, who has our best interests at heart and longs to draw us close to Him, needs to be experienced in a way that will not cause us to be fearful and run away.
Some of us need a gentle approach to come to terms with and process such an invitation, whereby coming to faith is a steady and measured unfolding. It is a journey that encourages a fragile or tentative mindset that may be cautious, sceptical or uncertain of the truth that God by His Holy Spirit presents us with, to settle in our hearts over time.
For others, our lifestyle may need a radical or dramatic change of direction, and the only way God can draw our attention to Himself is through a sudden sharp shock of an encounter, where we do not have the space or time to rationalise or dismiss His offer, because He knows, left to our own devices, we would not respond in a positive way. That was certainly the case in my experience. Having grown up in a strict but loving Christian family and steeped in biblical and doctrinal teaching, you could argue I had all the resources necessary to maintain and grow in faith, and on one level that was true. But as a young and impressionable teenager with the world in front of me and presented with all kinds of exciting and seductive experiences and world views, an external religious diet did not touch the place in me that longed to discover something more, and it soon led me to turn away from the Church and, consequently, to turn away from God.
My previous participation through a religious lens rather than a relational place of belonging was the only way I knew how to experience God. In this indifferent and rebellious lifestyle a divine encounter took place; when I least expected it and, to be honest, was not in the least bit looking for it.
Why this dramatic way? Because God knew it would be the only means by which He would get my full attention. In that, His timing was everything and, in fact, crucial for things to come to a head, where surrender to His call was not only possible in my self-centred lifestyle but had become desirable. In my previous book, I AM Relational, I describe that encounter with Jesus, which transformed my experience of God from an external religious observance to a relational reality and the dramatic impact it had on my life. It was an experience from which there was no looking back or returning to what I had previously known:
In the core of my being I came face to face with Jesus, not visible to my eyes, but visible to my soul. Everything that I had grown up with and was taught about God suddenly made sense, but not just in my head. This was encounter that reached right into my heart. It was relational. It was a ‘knowing’ that no mere explanation could describe. It was a reality that left me sitting there for a while, unable to move or to stand. I felt physically drained, as if I’d just run a marathon. Something had shifted. An awakening that relocated my perspective about who I was… and who He was.
It was, I imagine, a similar case for the apostle Paul, who was undoubtedly more extreme in His hostility towards a young and growing Church movement he was vehemently opposed to. I would not have described my rejection of the Church as hostile, just indifferent.
Paul, or Saul as he was then known, was a staunch Pharisee, zealous for his Jewish tradition, steeped in the Old Testament and defending its orthodoxy as he perceived it, for its identity and integrity to be maintained and upheld. He viewed this radical new movement of Christian disciples growing and spreading before him as a threat to his ordered religious way of life. So much so, he obtained official documents from the religious authorities to hunt down, arrest, imprison and, if necessary, kill any he came across, to halt the spread of this perceived threat.
Paul was focused, headstrong and determined in his mission. Nothing would deter him from his conviction, until the day he set out from Jerusalem on his way to Damascus, to round up culprits there:
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Sometimes we can be blinded to the circumstances we surround ourselves with, while pursuing an agenda filled with hatred or rage, where our equilibrium appears threatened or displaced. It can make us irrational in our thinking and give us a warped perspective because our way of life can feel endangered or challenged by circumstances or people outside our control. We can become preoccupied with hostility, prejudice and vendetta against what we perceive as an intrusion into our familiar and ordered world view.
As Paul journeyed to Damascus with fellow men alongside him, the day would no doubt have been firmly formulated in his mind. His game plan played out in his thoughts of the scenario upon arriving in Damascus; the fulfilment of this mission, and the added satisfaction and expectation of travelling back to Jerusalem leading an entourage of captive disciples of Jesus.
The day, however, was about to turn out in a way very different from what Paul had envisaged. It was in every sense a divine ambush. Heavenly light pierced him and threw him to the ground. A voice then confronted and questioned him concerning the motives for his persecution. Paul, by now startled, trembling and in shock at this sudden and unexpected encounter, tried to comprehend what was happening, questioning who he was hearing and what was going on; as would we all, in such a situation.
And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’
Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Jesus gives an intriguing response here. Paul is not accused of persecuting the Church, but of persecuting Jesus Himself. This is an important and significant point. Any persecution directed at a disciple of Jesus is an assault on Jesus Himself. Why? Because they are one. There is a bond of unity between Jesus and His church as one body. It is relational and it is intimate.
A follower of Jesus is therefore not someone who tags on at a distance behind, nor even someone who walks alongside, but someone who is indwelt by the very presence of God in Jesus Christ. It is that close, that intimate. It puts our relationship with God into quite a personal context. Even in our struggles and difficulties in life, He is there in the midst of it all.
It is fascinating how within such a scenario as Paul’s encounter on this road, one person can be touched in a life-changing way while others around are hardly affected. ‘And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one’ (Acts 9:7). It is a mystery how God can act in a crowd of people whereby some encounter His presence and others barely know anything has happened. I suggest that has partly to do with calling.
It was Paul, and not his companions, who was called directly by Jesus, not merely for the sake of being warned off from his persecuting agenda, but because God had a greater purpose for his life; a life Paul would not only be drawn into, but one in which he would also suffer hardship and danger, for the sake of accomplishing all that God had ordained for him. In the end it would cost him his life.
His shift in missional direction would lead him to champion the very people he was so determined to destroy. He was equipped for such a calling because all his previous life experiences and zeal for God would now be channelled into expanding rather than demolishing the very Church he had been chasing after. He would experience the agape love that was at the centre of this fledgling Christian fellowship. All his energies would now be put into strengthening, equipping, teaching, planting and expanding this Church for the sake of extending the kingdom of God and making Jesus known further and further afield.
When God calls us into that relationship of following Him, it is not a random choice He makes. Nor is it, for example, like that of an employer, appointing someone in the context of hiring or recruiting them for a task or job; having advertised the post, asked for applications, interviewed candidates and then selected the most appropriate interviewee from a short list, based on their character, experience and qualifications. Jesus did not and does not use any such criteria. Calling us is deliberate and specific. You and I were called long before any of us were created. It was not based on anything we have done or could do that would merit His choosing us. Nor is His calling dependent on our condition or status, but on His purpose and will for us. Paul describes it like this:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to Hispurpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
While this is not initiated by us but by Him, what each of us is called to cannot be accomplished by anyone else in the way we would accomplish it. You and I are that unique and precious in our individuality. We are that significant; called to a purpose uniquely our own. We each have an individual and collective relationship with Him and, as such, form part of His body.
We have free will, certainly. God is not dictatorial. But even if I choose to reject that which I have been called to and it is given to another, it will be implemented differently because my uniqueness is different from theirs. It is in and through what I bring to the task that my calling is significant and why I have been purposed for it. That applies to each one of us.
He knows our strengths and weaknesses and encourages us not only to follow Him but, in the process, in our daily walk, also to be transformed by Him. Our identity lies in Him as part of His body, yet is uniquely individual in it, as different as an eye is to an ear or a foot to a hand. Whether that calling is gradual or sudden, I believe God was already at work in us long before we became conscious of it.
Did you notice something else Jesus confronted Paul with, in that encounter on the journey to Damascus? He highlighted Paul’s wrestling with himself and struggling with something that lay inside, whereby he was ‘kick[ing] against the goads’ (Acts 9:5). What did Jesus mean? What was He referring to? A goad was a tool used by herdsmen for driving or spurring on cattle and other livestock, to guide their movement and direction. It was like a spiked stick used for prodding if the animal became stubborn.
What was Paul fighting against or resistant to? Because clearly there was something going on inside him which Jesus recognised and identified when He made that comment to him. It seems Paul was so obsessed with this movement and any alternative form of religious viewpoint or ideology to that of the Jewish faith he knew and cherished that he found himself fighting unknowingly with God Himself.
Paul may have been resolute and steadfast in his determination to stamp out this Christian Church, but I would suggest maybe there was something else niggling him inside that was unsettling; something that perhaps made him feel uneasy with some of his actions, however justified he convinced himself he was in carrying out his persecutions.
As a Pharisee and prominent figure in the religious council, he would have been committed to serving God in the Jewish faith that he had been brought up in, and the service he had been trained for under the guidance of his teacher, Gamaliel.Perhaps something of God would have been stirring in him and making him become increasingly uncomfortable with what he saw in himself. There may have been doubts in his mind over some of the teaching of this ‘sect’, as he saw it, that he would have heard about, and some of that may have started to filter into his heart. ‘What if they are right?’ It’s an interesting thought.
I certainly remember the years I had drifted away from the Church and any connection with God as a time that occasionally made me feel unsettled and uncomfortable when any mention or conversation about religion came up. I could not tell you specifically what it was, but the fact that something was gnawing away at me amid my ‘secular’ lifestyle was at times creating an awkward longing for, and yet at the same time rejection of, an undiscovered truth inside that was subconsciously there, waiting to burst out, even though I would not then have said I recognised it for what it was.
God can often be drawing us closer by first making us feel uncomfortable with our lifestyle, or our actions, or even our attitudes, whether towards ourselves or others. There then comes a growing restlessness with our ‘lot’. It is here that an inner challenge starts to grow; a seed planted that begins to germinate and preoccupy us, even if subconsciously, creating not so much doubt as longing.
This is certainly what I experienced long before surrendering my life to God. It is a longing for something we feel is missing or not quite whole in our lives. It is a gap in our inner being that only God can fill; a hunger that only He can satisfy. ‘And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”’ (John 6:35).
Sometimes it causes us to ask questions of ourselves as dissatisfaction spreads and we become more open to possibilities; the possibility that God may be speaking to us. Perhaps that prodding by God is something we all experience in one way or another when we have strayed away and are distant from Him. Whether as a sprint or as a marathon, we then begin to engage with that wrestling inside until we answer the call from the place of ‘knowing’ deep down, whether strongly or tentatively, that beckons us… ‘Follow Me.’
Immobilised to be mobilised
I expect many of us have experienced situations that have seemed bizarre, even nightmarish, where our whole world suddenly hits the buffers because of something unexpected that has emerged. It feels surreal and leaves us in a daze and our normal rational perception abandons us. We go through all the worst-case scenarios, hoping we will suddenly wake up and it will all have been just a bad dream.
Paul, temporarily blinded by his encounter on the road, was led by his companions into Damascus. For three days he remained there without sight, neither eating nor drinking. The whole episode would no doubt have been replaying in his mind, over and over, as he wrestled with trying to make sense of it all.
As Paul prayed, he may well have been fearful that his sight would not return; thinking the unthinkable, that this staunch and influential figure would now be reduced to begging on the streets. His ego totally shattered and deflated. His world had suddenly and unexpectedly fallen apart and there seemed no respite, no apparent let-up… for three days.
Sometimes God needs to immobilise us to mobilise us. We can often live such busy and hurried lives that we miss opportunities to slow down or stop and reflect on our life’s journey and the direction we are heading in. The familiar routine, however pressurised, can sometimes seem more acceptable than an unknown stepping out into something new and different. We are often creatures of habit. We make assumptions about how our life is likely to pan out. Sometimes God requires our whole undivided attention to really speak to us. Sometimes we need to be ‘sidelined’ for that to happen.
Following my encounter with Jesus in that powerful and profound way, I had imagined my life would continue in the way I had planned; that somehow this new-found relationship with God would weave into my lifestyle, my ambitions and aspirations, and the direction I chose for myself. I had anticipated remaining in teaching, with perhaps some form of church attachment and involvement tagged on.
But the journey He was taking me (and my wife, Sheryl) on was anything but. The problem was, I was not listening, even though He was shouting loud and clear. I loved my teaching role. I loved the students, the staff I worked alongside, the subject I taught, the pastoral work I was involved in and, above all, seeing young lives transformed with varying degrees of success. I loved all of it. Why would I want to do anything else? It wasn’t always easy, and often fraught with challenges, but it was also so rewarding. But slowly all that would change.
Perhaps there were early signs in my childhood that pointed to this calling God was laying before me. Most seven- or eight-year-old boys at that time in the 1960s would play cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians, running around chasing one another with makeshift guns or swords or bows and arrows. I did too, lost in imaginary adventures up and down our street, in and out of people’s front gardens, and the occasional building site we trespassed on. But I also ‘played’ at being a priest. We had a large concrete flower trough in the garden that I pretended was an altar, like the one in the Catholic church we attended then as a family. I would borrow by mum’s cookbook stand and put our family Bible on it, positioning both on the trough and making out I was leading a church service. There would even be a cup centred precariously on the earth in the bed for ‘Communion’. It felt natural and ordinary. Perhaps His whisper was already being formed in my subconscious; those words, yet unspoken, that would ring in my ears in a church service I was invited to many years later that would become my own Damascus Road encounter.
But, returning to my teaching days, such a possibility as becoming a priest was a million miles away from my horizon and not even remotely on my radar. Even when, soon after Sheryl and I were married, someone at church randomly commented, ‘Have you ever thought of becoming a vicar?’, I hotly dismissed it outright, then and there, without even a second’s thought. I was pursuing a teaching career and that was that.
We took a school party to Austria on an educational visit, and I managed to arrange for my family to come too. Our two children, who were still young then, were made such a fuss of by the pupils on this trip, involving them in their games, carrying them on their shoulders, holding their hands as we walked up mountain footpaths. The trip went extremely well; so much so, we arranged for a return visit the following year with the next cohort.
A week before our departure, with everything arranged, the unthinkable happened. I was playing in a charity football match at the school with staff and pupils, and towards the end of the game, I landed awkwardly having jumped up for the ball. I had ruptured a cruciate ligament in my knee and was rolling around on the ground in agony. Everyone there thought I was play-acting to claim a penalty, and one of the pupils even grabbed my injured leg and began tugging at it. It was then, amid my screams, they realised it was serious. The long and the short of it was, that for me, the school trip was over, and I would spend the next six weeks immobilised and on crutches.
It was throughout this period that God clearly spoke to me and began to plant seeds of ministry in my heart; seeds I had not previously considered or entertained as a possibility; but here and now, He had my undivided attention. I argued for a compromise; to do some form of lay ministry but remain in teaching.
This was in a way endorsed when a visiting Christian youth worker at the school later came up to me and told me that he was reading the newspaper and all he could see in front of him were the words, ‘Henry – Lay Reader’, and asked if that meant anything to me. These words were not physically printed on the sheet, but they would not go from his thoughts until he shared them with me. And so, I was accepted and trained as a Lay Reader in the Church of England. And I thought that was that. But a good friend of mine, whose spiritual advice I respected, pulled me up soon after and said, ‘Don’t be surprised if that is not the end of it. There is more to come.’
God had not finished with His intentions for me, but again I found myself not really paying attention. And so, an unexpected occurrence immobilised me in the same way as before, only this time for a longer period. It was just a kickabout in the park with my son. Nothing strenuous, nothing dramatic or taxing. I was simply running for the ball and braked suddenly. Only my knee did not embrace the sudden halt, and this time the cruciate ligament in the same knee as before totally severed.
After reconstructive surgery, I was laid up for months. He had my attention again, and now He was clearly leading me down the path of priesthood; not only in my own thoughts, but through people who would visit me. Repeatedly I heard the same words being echoed: ‘I am calling you to priesthood.’ The rest is history.
Paul, too, was laid up, immobilised, waiting. He then had a visitor. Ananias was a disciple of Jesus when God spoke to him with a message for Paul. But Ananias was extremely uncomfortable with this instruction and reluctant to comply. He knew of Paul’s reputation and no doubt feared for his life. But Ananias, despite his reservations, chose to obey the word and found Paul just as instructed. As he laid hands on him, ‘something like scales’ fell from Paul’s eyes and his sight was fully restored (Acts 9:18). He rose and was baptised. He was given a new direction and new commission: to bear the name of Jesus before the Gentiles, before kings and before the people of Israel – and, in the process, he would suffer much.
Having recuperated and after spending time in the company of the disciples in Damascus, Paul set out on this mission that would open all kinds of opportunities to plant churches in many areas and regions and to witness before all manner of religious and political audiences.
I was called to ministry after committing my life to Jesus, but not immediately. It came in stages. When I look back, I am not sure I would have launched into any form of ministry straight after committing my life to Him; nor would I have been ready to do so, spiritually or experientially. God had some refining and detoxing to work through in me before I was open to any suggestion of engaging in what would eventually follow.
We are all on journeys through the many corridors of life. We each have our own story to tell. God has a purpose for us even though we may not be conscious of His presence at work in us. We may not be ready to respond to His call. Not until we are able to do so in the manner He chooses. His timing is critical and always perfect. Of that we can be sure.
- What does your story look like? Are you someone who likes to branch out into new ventures or stay safe in a familiar and safe routine?
- God can sometimes show up in unexpected ways and present uncomfortable challenges to our way of life. Have there been times in your life’s journey where you have experienced something you did not expect that changed your course? How did you react?
- How would you respond to someone who came across very negatively and even aggressively towards your faith in Jesus? What could be your approach in helping them rethink their position of hostility and rejection?
 John 1:35-42.
 John 1:25-27
 John 1:29.
 Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad, The Passionate Church (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 2005), p112.
 Henry Pradella, I AM Relational (Watford: Instant Apostle, 2020), p85.
 1 Corinthians 12:27.
 1 Corinthians 12:14-16.
 Acts 22:3.
 Acts 9:8-9.