The Modern Pilgrim’s Journey- Pilgrim Finds Himself Alone
Going deeper with God can be costly and lonely. In my younger ministry years, I didn’t want to pay a price or be alone. Every time God revealed a new understanding of his Word and purposes, I eagerly shared it with everyone under my leadership. I expected them to be as excited about it as me and change accordingly.
I became frustrated with people who golf clapped me. When my tribe didn’t chime in with a passion to follow my new path, I considered them spiritual midgets. Yes, well, that’s who I used to be. I share this so you know how God can change a knucklehead. Maybe gain patience for the knuckleheads in your life? My grace quotient and ability to understand God’s unique methods of teaching his children back then, were grossly underdeveloped at that time. Further, I didn’t comprehend how lonely taking my cross and following Jesus could be.
And that loneliness of the pilgrimage is what I’m speaking into today. Jesus discussed sacrifices and Matthew, Mark and Luke all recounted it.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23, Mark 8:34 ESV.
How many disciples helped Jesus carry his cross? How many of the guys who lived and breathed with him for three years showed up when he struggled to carry that heavy beam after a night of torture and abuse? Jesus spoke volumes his followers couldn’t understand, when he talked about cross carrying.
There is an implied loneliness that is easy for us to see, this side of Calvary. We know that following Jesus means we will go it alone with him at times, just as he did on the Via Dolorosa. And sometimes, it means leaving others behind while we choose to continue to follow. That’s why Jesus said,
“There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother of father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold in this time…….and in the age to come..” Mark 10:28-31
Choosing to pilgrimage with God this year may cost you. Are you willing to follow him, no matter what? As I studied for this post, the old chorus, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” came to mind. When I read its composer’s story, my sacrifices seemed miniscule.
About 150 years ago, a great revival swept through Wales, England and then launched gospel missionaries into the North-East part of India. At that time, the area was populated by tribes of ferocious head-hunters. These tribes equated manliness with the number of human heads hanging on your wall. The brave Welsh missionaries encountered great hostility to the gospel. Finally, one missionary led one man, his wife and their two sons to Jesus Christ.
Their faith became like a virus that others caught. Enraged, the village chief hauled the new believers before the entire town. He insisted that the first family who came to Christ renounce their faith or face immediate execution. The accused man and his family stood before the chief and his warriors. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the man composed a song on the spot, using the tune of an Indian folk song. He sang, “I have decided to follow Jesus (3x), no turning back, no turning back.”
The chief ordered the archers to murder the man’s two young sons. As the boys laid on the ground, bleeding out, the chief shouted, “Will you now renounce this faith, or will I kill your wife, too?” The man sang a second verse, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow (3x), no turning back, no turning back.” Furious, the chief ordered his archers again. The man’s wife laid dying beside her sons.
“I’ll give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live,” screamed the chief. The man sang his final verse. “The cross before me, the world behind me (3x), no turning back, no turning back.” Arrows found their mark again and the man joined his family in the presence of Christ. At that moment, God performed a miracle in the chief. He thought, “Why would this man and his family die for a man who lived 2,000 years ago on another continent? There must be a supernatural power behind this. I want it.” To the amazement of everyone, the chief abruptly shouted, “I too belong to Jesus Christ.” The entire village accepted Christ that day and gospel fire spread in Northern India.
Your tribe may not understand or follow you on your journey to go deeper and higher with God in 2020. They may even mock, threaten and try to make you feel bad about new choices like:
Attending church faithfully instead of watching online service in your jammies
Prioritizing morning Bible study and prayer times before other commitments.
Talking authentically with unsaved folks, about Jesus. (Sometimes this makes some Christians more uncomfortable than the lost)
Not watching certain TV shows and movies together anymore
Not overindulging in food and drink anymore
Refusing to gossip- my daughter lost an entire circle of friends at one point, because she refused to trash talk anymore.
Serving consistently in volunteer ministry
Giving tithes and offerings
Will you choose to follow Jesus, with no turning back? Will you obey him when he speaks to you? Where is he calling you up higher today? What or whom might he be asking you to leave behind? Whatever losses you incur, they cannot compare to the intimacy of fellowship with Christ when you take up your cross and follow him.
Encouraging Verses for Loneliness:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me,” Psalm 27:10.
“Turn to me and be gracious to me for I am lonely and afflicted,” Psalm 25:16.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” Isaiah 41:10.