I have decided to follow Jesus - no turning back.
So what does it actually mean to give your all to God? It’s in so many songs. It’s one of those mantras that we repeat without blinking. But what does it mean? What does it require?
Clearly, it’s an important concept and an even more important action. But why is it so hard? Why is surrender so hard?
Let’s think about the disciples. They were young adults, fishermen. They had their lives ahead of them. They had a plan, were skilled in a trade, and knew what they were going to do. And the Bible says, “Immediately they dropped their nets and followed him.” Would I have dropped my net?
I was about to graduate high school, and, after working part-time for a few years, I didn’t have an abundance of cash money with which to sail away to college. I didn’t want to be in debt. I also didn’t want to run right into academia again. I was reminded of a dream in my heart. I wanted to be a missionary to Africa. (I know, how stereotypical of me, but we are all young once, and we all have to start somewhere.) As my graduation approached, I started looking for ways to get involved in missions, specifically using photography. Although I already knew about Youth With A Mission (YWAM), I began by asking the Internet.
I scanned and bagged groceries, made sandwiches and salads all summer and then I hopped on a plane for the longest time I would have been away from home in 18 years of life – to Orlando, Florida. Almost 5 years later, I’m still in YWAM.
The idea that we decide to follow Jesus can sometimes carry the connotation that we simply refrain from the “worst” sins, worldly passions or desires. Yes, we do. But friends, that’s the easy part. Our debt is already paid. Instead of trying to muster up some magical temptation-smashing thing deep within our minds, all we need to do is repent and receive the grace to choose righteousness instead. If that’s the easy part, what more is being asked of us?
In Mark 10, Jesus talks to the Rich Young Ruler.
“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”…Jesus answered… “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack, He said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.
There’s some reading between the lines that has to go on here. It wasn’t directly about money, though Jesus knew that this was a struggle to overcome. If you think about what would have been nearest and dearest to the young man’s heart, would money have been it? We come to the conclusion that keeping the commandments, being a “good person” just isn’t enough. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Jesus calls us to give up every hindrance to follow Him…because He’s worthy of giving up the right to the thing you love, value, or even fear the most. That is essentially what Jesus is getting at when speaking to this Rich Young Ruler.
Even in churches, there is a recurring statement. “You can have it all, Lord.” Sometimes I have trouble thinking about what more I could possibly give Him. I have already left my family and friends at home to come here and raise support to live and work for a missions organization. What else could there be?
I would hear words from so many people talking about songs and how I was going to write songs that would change the nations. About a year into those words, I did a worship training school that focused on song writing. I was inspired to write a song. Most of the words of this song just came to me. I genuinely felt like I could do anything Jesus asked of me. I really felt like He was worthy of my whole life. He is! The words of the chorus came to me almost as fast as I could write them down.
Bend me, oh break me, this yes I offer still. On the mountain, in the valley, it's my joy to do your will.
I feel like that’s a message I’m supposed to carry. And when my yes sounds like a whisper, that song is a reminder that my yes should be a zealous roar because I know who Jesus is.
We are called to live above our circumstances. Church, hear me in love when I say that we struggle with that. It’s SO true that there are “storms” and trials and frustrations and disappointments, but God did not cause those things. They are the result of a fallen and broken world. God promises peace for people who trust Him. God is bigger than the boogeyman. He’s bigger than any fear, any hindrance, any whatever. The story of humanity is about so much more than learning to praise God in the storm, though that’s good and right.
Giving your heart to Jesus is a one-and-done thing. He waits for your invitation, and He never turns it down. He fills your life as soon as you ask. Giving your life to Jesus is an every day thing. It’s not as if we have an imaginary pile of “all the things” that we give to Him and we’re done. Giving your life to Jesus is a literal submitting of your will to Him.
Personally, I don’t want a life without Jesus. There’s no true peace or love or goodness or joy without Him, or in a life half-heartedly lived for Him. I’m not trying to be harsh; it’s truth. He is the true vine, the living water, the way, the truth, the life, the Savior for all mankind. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
I believe Jesus wants to upgrade the term “follower”. The fishermen, who had a game plan for their lives, walked away from it all. To follow this Rabbi, or teacher, they took a risk and laid down their end game: everything they had going for them, the cultural norm, the socially acceptable thing to do, the safety of their plan, their solid job, their lives.
Jesus left a commission with the disciples in Matthew. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
This is our mission. Following Jesus is being a disciple. The word disciple is a very Bible-y word so here’s the definition: “One who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” Though that sounds a little cut and dried, think about what Jesus stood for. Was it healing? Was it love and justice and mercy? I understand not everyone is called to overseas missions. Not everyone is called to move from their home. But we are all called to be disciples and make disciples – to share the good news, bring people to Jesus wherever that is.
I have decided to follow Jesus because He’s good. I know without a doubt that anything He asks me to do is good.
I have decided to follow Jesus because He’s the most real and fulfilling thing I have ever experienced in this life.
I have decided to follow Jesus because I’ve been saved and there are people who have never heard His name.
I have decided to follow Jesus because He is my friend, and I know that He isn’t waving His magical wand in heaven deciding how my life goes. He walks with me.
I have decided to trust Him with all the moments of my day. I have decided to trust Him to guide my actions and my thoughts, to lean into Him with all my weight. I trust Him with all the days of my life – with my future, with my today.
I have decided that His dream and desire for every soul to know Him is way more important than my desire to have anything that I can’t carry with me into eternity.
I have decided. No turning back. No turning back.
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Lara Crotty | YWAM Orlando Alumni