Work by faith for the glory of God

One of Martin Luther’s more provocative statements goes like this: “…the farmer in the field, or the farmer’s wife in the farmhouse, if they are doing their work by faith for the glory of God, are fulfilling as high and holy a calling as the pastor in the pulpit.”
Brother Lawrence said something similar thing in his book The Practice of the Presence of God where he determined to make sure he saw the presence of God in his kitchen as well as the church. His simple daily prayer was, “Lord of all pots and pans and things…make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.”
Every Christian is called. ‘Calling’ is God’s way of expressing his will for each and everyone of us. We are all called to be saved, it is God’s desire “that no one perish, but everyone come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) We are also called to grow in discipleship, love of each other, and move onto maturity.
When we respond to his call it is an act of faith, belief and obedience. Each of us has a choice. We can choose to live ordinary lives, doing ordinary things, in ordinary ways without any extraordinary sense of purpose. Or, we can choose to invest time, talent and treasure in being obedient to God’s will and direction in our lives no matter what the task and how simple it seems.
This was one of the great rediscoveries of the Protestant Reformation: it doesn’t matter what you do or who you are, when God calls you he calls you to a life of serving him. It doesn’t matter what it is, it is whether we do it faithfully and lovingly that matters.
This is both an encouragment and challenge to us all. We can ask ourselves, is my life lived by faith for the glory of God? We can easily discount what we do just because it doesn’t seem significant, big, or spiritual enough. But we need to be reminded that anything we do, whether it is at work, at home, at school, voluntary or not, can be the highest and holiest of calls.
As you live this coming week, let me encourage you to talk it over with God. You may be surprised that he sees what you do in a very different way. Perhaps you work for the glory God in a way you hadn’t previously considered!

Stephen L Baxter

The Diversity of Jesus’ Church – in India!

Back in 1990, Jenny and I with our three young children and nine eager fellow travellers set out for a short term mission trek visiting our sister church which worked in the slums of Chennai (then called Madras). Chennai is in the province of Tamil Nadu, and is famous for its curries and very dark-skinned inhabitants. 


For six weeks we shared life with our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ. It was there we learnt about the diversity of God’s church in ways we could never have imagined. It was a confronting, uncomfortable and challenging time; yet it was nevertheless an encouraging and life-changing experience.
On Sundays we sat on the floor through 2½ hour long services, with women on the right and men on the left, in humid, sweltering conditions. Most of the time we had little or no idea what was going on as men prayed and preached and women sang and wailed. We watched as the pastor prayed for Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians alike and then asked us to join in.
Dance in Worship
Two of our group in ‘half-saris’ (worn by older teen girls) dancing to a worship song as learnt at home. They are dancing surrounded by the women’s half of the congregation.

As leaders, one of our main tasks was to counsel our team as they experienced culture shock, and guide them to a godly and biblical way to understand the gulf of differences that existed between the Indians and us. The way they lived their Christian life, their theology and practice of church was something we had never encountered or experienced before.
We often pined for home, yet we learnt so much during those six weeks and it was sad when we came to leave. While their church services seemed so disordered, often leaving us confused and uncomfortable, we could not deny the reality that God was at work amongst them, despite our disquiet and questions.
As I look back now I think it was the first time I realised that despite what I’d assumed, the opposite of disorder is not order, or certainly not my idea of order. When things are uncomfortable, confusing and seemingly out of hand, I look for stability in what I know and what I experience. But living in Chennai  that was impossible, there was no escape. I couldn’t walk away, I couldn’t withdraw. After all, I was the leader.
Friends
Jenny with our three children and some Indian friends

What God taught me was that peace is the opposite of disorder, not order. The apostle Paul says as much in a little verse in 1 Corinthians where he says, “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace” (14:33). What a simple but profound statement, written to what was most likely the most dysfunctional church of the New Testament. Here was snobbery, sexual promiscuity, over-enthusiastic expression of spirituality, and disorderly times of worship. The church was divided and confused, and in the midst of their disarray Paul reminds them of the importance of peace, after all Jesus is the King of Peace (Hebrews 7:2) and the angels announcedat his birth that he would bring “peace on earth.”
Preaching
Here I am preaching at 2am at the New Year’s Eve all night prayer vigil!

The lessons I learnt in Chennai served me well just a few years later when I became the Managing Director of Australia’s largest Christian magazine at the time (On Being magazine). Through the magazine I came in contact with people with quite a wide diversity of experiences and expressions in following Jesus. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Christians from all persuasions and walks of life. Some were more conservative even fundamental, some were liberal, some charismatic and Pentecostal, some were orthodox and some unorthodox. Many thought their way of being and doing church was the “right” way, and some really struggled to appreciate the uniqueness of each other’s gifts, heritage and experience.
However, I found the experience of learning about all this variety was rich and rewarding. I was constantly reminded of God’s love of diversity and the how body of Christ is made up people from different backgrounds, heritage and experience. Such a range in understanding is not a problem to God, and I learnt that it shouldn’t be a problem to me either.
This is one of the things I find delightful about Hobart Baptist. We are made up of three quite distinct and different congregations. In essence it is a small expression of the diversity of the body of Christ. Alongside our more traditional Baptist heritage, we have our Karen congregation and their experience of church, living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border. And alongside these we have Church With No Walls expressing their faith in God in different ways again.
I am constantly encouraged by the willingness of people to work at being one church in the midst of our diversity, endeavouring to encourage one another through the exercise of grace, forgiveness and love. Despite our differences we are to work at being united, and in doing so be obedient to the command of Jesus. On the night before he died Jesus prayed for us (John 14-17) and insisted that as disciples we demonstrate our unity by our love for one another.
That is not to say we agree on everything, in fact the reality is we don’t. But we can agree to be united despite our differences. Often Christians make the mistake of wanting other Christians to think the way they do. Still others believe everyone should worship or work the way they do. But we were made to be different – different gifts but the same Spirit, different services but the same Lord, different ministries but the same God (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The Bible is clear: we are called to unity but not uniformity.
Unity is not about having big services with all the congregations together, nor is unity singing the same songs and doing everything the same way. That is conformity or sameness. Such uniformity is unbiblical.
How is it possible to live with such diversity? I believe unity is a journey, not a static point. Our focus is not order (although that maybe important) but peace. Why? Because we can experience peace even in the midst of disorder or when we feel uncomfortable. Unity is being united in purpose and allowing each other to get on with what they are called to. We may sing different songs, conduct our services differently and see the world differently, but what is important is that we all reach for the same goal. We want to see each other’s ministries flourish; we therefore pray for each other and help out wherever we can. This is unity! That is what God taught Jenny and me in India.
We discovered God is much bigger than our experience, our theology and our ability to understand. Our thinking was too small at the best of times. Once we relaxed and experienced peace, we were able to see God at work in new ways, and learnt to appreciate their “dis”-order in a new way.
We learnt that we can’t limit God to our comfort zone and say, “God, I only want you to work in what I’m comfortable with.” We learnt that Jesus is not a comfortable Saviour, and if we were looking for comfort we need to look elsewhere than Jesus. So despite the fact that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, it did not mean he was the Prince of Comfort. And although the Holy Spirit is called the comforter the Spirit’s job is not to make us comfortable.
God has not finished with Hobart Baptist Church, there is much more that the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – desires for us. And if God is at work amongst us, we can guarantee that the journey will be uncomfortable and challenging; for me as well as you. Our assurance is that God is with us, and Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is our Saviour.
I encourage you to be at prayer for the various forms of the Church in Hobart and elsewhere. Pray also for those who are experiencing a sense of disorder wehre they are; that they may seek God’s peace, the peace that passes understanding; and that they may grow in love for others despite differences.
Stephen L Baxter

Hospitality and the Healthy Church

Writer Henri Nouwen once noted that hospitality means,

“The creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”

In other words it is the art of creating an environment where people feel valued, cared for, comfortable and become open to change.
I believe God wants every church to be like that, including amongst the gathering of Christians I lead at Hobart Baptist. People remark how friendly our church is and that’s great feedback. But not an excuse to rest; we have still more to learn. It is easy to let our friendliness gravitate to being friendly to each other and forget about our guests. I often wonder about the number of people who have recently moved to Hobart and visit us for one or two Sundays but never return. I ask myself, do they find us friendly?
The apostle Peter hints that creating an environment where people feel valued, cared for and comfortable is not easy. In one of his letters he encourages Christians “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9) suggesting he knew it would be no easy task and one we can easily allow to fall away.
Although we may be a “friendly” church, I’m not sure every visitor experiences us that way. There are many reasons why, but one has to do with the fact that friendliness means different things to different people. Some visitors are more reserved and find too many conversations and too much fussing somewhat overwhelming, whereas others enjoy lots of contact and being made a fuss of.
Similarly, some are motivated by the gaps they see in a church and so feel wanted, whereas others will easily feel overwhelmed by the needs and sense they being “recruited” by well-meaning folk even on their first Sunday with us.
Such diversity in peoples’ likes and dislikes calls for great sensitivity on the part of the church. Creating the environment where people feel free to enter and explore according to their own pace requires sensitivity to know how to talk with people being careful not to overwhelm them with our enthusiasm.
Some of us are more gifted and sensitive in this regard than others. Some have the ability not only to enjoy meeting new people and helping them feel welcome, but are able to set them at ease in unfamiliar surroundings. Others of us don’t find it quite as easy, feeling a little overwhelmed ourselves at the thought of making the first move to greet another. Yet this is no reason not to try. Those who are more gifted can be an inspiration and model to the rest of us.
I heard recently the suggestion that the expression of hospitality is a sign of a healthy church. Just like Jesus was open and sensitive to people around him, the church that offers a welcome displays a heart like Jesus’. It is not surprising that words hospitality and hospital have a similar Latin root; and interesting in that they both lead to the same result: healing.
Hospitality is not an option for us. It is an extension of Jesus’ work through his Church. As we were welcomed by him into God’s family, he calls us to welcome those he brings into our midst. Whether that is before, during or after our service; we need to be alert for visitors standing by themselves. They can’t be left like that, but greeted with a smile and a sensitivity that doesn’t overload or overwhelm them.
Peter reminds us that hospitality is not an option. So let us be encouraged to get on with it and be alert, welcoming and sensitive. Let us work together to create an environment where people feel valued, cared for, and comfortable, and let’s get on and do it without grumbling.
Everyone has had good and bad experiences when visiting new churches. What’s your story?
Stephen L Baxter

God is Sovereign Over All – He works in spite of human failings

I believe to be one of the most important themes in the Book of Acts is the sovereignty of God.

God is sovereign over all
God is Sovereign over all, from Heaven to Earth

While some read Acts as if it is a manual for church life or church growth, (although there are things to learn about these) closer inspection reveals this is not Luke’s purpose in writing the story of the early church. Luke does not set out to describe how the early Christians got things right and in doing so forced God to act, rather, he tells the story of broken, flawed and fallen saints, just like you and me, through whom God worked in spite of their human failures. And even when they do appear to get things right, God often carries out his purposes in new, different and unexpected ways.
Luke begins exploring this theme right at the beginning in Acts 1. Here, 120 followers of Jesus look for a replacement for Judas, who is now dead. Although Matthias is chosen, Luke never mentions him again in his writings. It is Saul, introduced in Acts 8 and converted in Acts 9; who then undergoes a name change to Paul in Acts 13; who ultimately fulfils the task of apostle and is the driving force behind the gospel’s acceptance by Gentiles. The man-made-made choice in Acts 1, is overturned by God in Acts 13.
Similarly Stephen and Philip, two of those chosen in Acts 6 to be deacons to care for widows, become more effective evangelists than the apostles they were appointed to assist. And then, despite the fact that Jesus told his disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and right across the world (Acts 1:8), it is not their initiative but the persecution described in Acts 8 following the death of Stephen, that finally gets them out of Jerusalem. They took no initiative at all, but God used persecution to get them moving.
Obviously there isn’t the space to explore all the examples of human failings in Acts, but these few serve to illustrate that Luke does not give us a formula that we can follow to get the results we desire. There is no simple pattern outlined that we are to follow that will ensure a church grows – just as there is no pattern to follow ensuring we receive the power of the Spirit as happened at Pentecost.
One of the primary purposes of the Book of Acts is to show the story of God at work. Luke starts his account before the birth of the church and follows its growth through persecution until it reaches the capital of the known world, Rome. Throughout the story Paul illustrates how God acts the way he wants, when he wants, and no one can thwart his purposes. Then even when the church appears to get it right, God retains the right to do it his own way.
Working through the Book of Acts, the reader comes back again and again to this theme of the sovereignty of God. There are no formulas, no patterns, no manuals, just a loving God, at work in his world, drawing people to himself.
Can you think of times in your life when, despite your own poor efforts, God turned up anyway?
If so, Id love to hear about them!
Stephen L Baxter

Living for God’s Glory

St Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna
St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

During our recent holiday, which included time in Europe, Jenny and I visited our fair share of church buildings. Magnificent monoliths, towering ceilings and incredibly ornate interiors greeted us in every city. Although they were said to be built “for the glory of God,” we had our suspicions that more than just God’s glory was in focus. It was the glory of an emperor, a ruler, a nation or of humanity itself that was also being glorified.
These grand structures seem far removed from the church we find described in book of Acts. Rather than displaying glory and power through breathtaking and awe-inspiring buildings, God’s glory in Acts is evidenced in changes in lives and the formation of new all-embracing communities. Rather than focussing on what the church does for God in promoting his glory in the world, the story of Acts focuses on what God is doing for humanity through his people the church.
Luke’s account of the life of the early church in Acts reinforces that it is Jesus who builds his church, not us. In a world obsessed with success, activism and results, this is a much needed reminder.
In his book The Politics of God and the Politics of Man, Jacques Ellul observes how our modern society seems to believe the only purpose of life is to get things done. Whether it is personally

St Stephens Vienna
One side chapel in St Stephen’s Cathedral

and corporately, success is defined by setting goals and accomplishing them, or at least trying to accomplish them.
For instance, when we introduce ourselves to others one of the first things we mention is what we do, what we have done, and were we have succeeded. Our worth, and the worth of every organisation is measured by what it has done and the difference it has made in the world.
Ellul goes on to suggest that Christians are no different. While it is true we are called to accomplish things for God, we often slip into measuring our worth as Christian on the basis of whether we are doing something “worthwhile” or not. However, this is not how God would want us to view things.
Beginning with Genesis and picking examples throughout the Bible, Ellul suggests that meaning and worth is not to be found in activism, results, and success.
Genesis 2 describes Eden as a luscious garden providing all the food Adam and Eve needed. But just a few verses later, God commands Adam to work the soil and care for it? The obvious question is what for? If Eden provided the food, why did Adam need to work the soil?
Then when it comes to prayer, Ellul asks, if God knows what we need, and is able to do everything whether we pray or not, then why do we need to ask? It’s the same with the gospel, we are saved entirely by grace and any work we do to gain salvation is inconsequential, so what is the point of living a life a righteousness life? What does it accomplish?
We are confronted with the same questions in the book of Acts. Here we face the question, “What did these early Christians do for God that he could not have done just as well without them?” The answer is nothing!
After studying Jesus’ parable about faithful service in Luke 17:7-10 with its conclusion “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty,” Ellul argues that the world has got it wrong when it believes aiming for success and accomplishment is the only effective motive for action. A more reliable and effective motive is to act out of love for God, and you do it just because he asked.
Ellul’s conclusion is that “we have nothing to achieve, nothing to win, nothing to provide” and although there are things to do and tasks to accomplish, we are under no illusion that God needs us nor that we have made any essential contribution to his work.
The supreme example of this is of course Jesus. He did not strive for success or accomplishment, in fact in the eyes of his world he died a failure as another false messiah on a Roman cross. The gospels record that throughout his life he was concerned with one thing: faithfulness to the will of Father. It was his faithfulness, not his accomplishments that won for us salvation.
What is true for Jesus is true for his people and this is what we find working out in Acts. The early church was not focussed on accomplishments, activism, results, and success. Its focus was on loving God and loving each other, and allowing Jesus to get about building his church. They are constantly playing catch up as Jesus moves ahead of them time after time. As they do this they experienced the grace and freedom of God. Saving the world wasn’t up to them, that’s God’s job.
As we work our way through Acts during the next few weeks as Hobart Baptist, it is my prayer we will experience more and more of the grace and freedom these early Christians experienced. Grace allowed them to rest and let the Holy Spirit be at work in and through them, and the freedom released them from the tyranny of striving for success.
May you too experience the job of living for God not as work, but as the delight of worship.
Stephen L Baxter

Catching the Wave

Last week at Hobart Baptist I began a series of sermons to work through the Book of Acts. I expect that as we read through Luke’s account of the early days of the church, we will be struck by the sense of momentum and adventure.
Those early days saw the emergence of communities of faith that were unique in the world because of their mutual accountability and generosity. People were drawn to God through an amazing mixture of radical community, miracles, and Holy Spirit-empowered living and witness. The result was a church that grew at an exponential rate.
But it was not all easy. The adventure was full of moments of great challenge and crisis. There were imprisonments and conflicts, persecution and even premature death. In a strange way these all added to the sense of wonder and adventure.
The impression you get reading Acts is that Jesus is building his church and the people are playing ‘catch up’. Time and time again God pops up and takes the initiative and everyone has to readjust to the new thing that his happening. Just like a surfer who sits on his surfboard waiting for a wave, Acts is like a story about a wave generated by the Holy Spirit which the followers of Jesus struggle to catch.  It is the story of God on the move and his people going along for the ride.
Perhaps you could also work your way through the book of Acts over the next few weeks?
If you do, it is my prayer that God will help you to see what the Holy Spirit is doing in your church community today; and then having perceived what he is doing we will have the courage to “catch the wave” and continuing being part of God’s great adventure.
I’d love to have your thoughts as you read it through! How does your ‘surfing’ go?
Stephen L Baxter

The Strange Fascination of Hardship (as suggested by F.W. Boreham)

When one thinks of past pastors of Hobart Baptist Church none loom larger than F.W. Boreham. According to Laurie Rowston, our resident historian, Boreham had “one of the most powerful and influential ministries in the Hobart Tabernacle’s history.”
He was pastor here at Hobart Baptist from 1906-16 and you will find his picture on the wall in the Soundy Lounge next to the main tabernacle, along with all the past pastors of this church. The photo shown here is of Frank Boreham with his wife Stella.
During his life Boreham authored some 47 books and more than 3000 editorials appearing in the Hobart Mercury every week for 47 years between 1912 and 1959. Some even suggest he is Australian’s bestselling Christian author of all time. During his time in Hobart church membership rose to 320 and many more were attracted by his captivating preaching. He later remarked that ten of the happiest and most satisfying years of his life were spent here.
It was here in Hobart that he decided to publish a book of his essays. In one of his essays published in The Luggage of Life in 1912, Boreham suggested we make a “blunder when we try to persuade people that the way to heaven is easy.” It is not only untrue it is also uninviting, he suggested saying:

“Hardship has a strange fascination for people [they] love to be challenged, taunted and dared.”

Boreham went on to illustrate this with a number of examples including Scott’s expedition to the South Pole when 6,000 men volunteered to join him. He then went on to say that Jesus challenges the daring in us all and throughout the ages people have responded to his call: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Matt 16:24-25)
Boreham had his share of sorrow during his life, including nearly dying from a railway accident in his teens, but he wrote they were never wasted for “aye the dews of sorrows were lustered by His love.” His whole life was spent following Jesus and endeavouring to help people find the way to heaven not matter how difficult it might be.
I wonder what F.W. Boreham would think of the people of Hobart Baptist Church and other Christians in the world today? It’s obviously hard to say, but I’m sure he would want to encourage us to rise to the challenges we face. He would want us to give all we can to help the church be all that God has called us to be. He would want us never to be daunted by the task and fall into despair, but to “challenged, taunted and dared” by it.
May God inspire and encourage you to be all he has called you to be today.
Stephen L Baxter

The Church and Discipleship in Acts 2

Conflict
Intense conflict and difficult behaviour

In his book, Never Call Them Jerks, Arthur Boers asks the question, “Are churches particularly vulnerable to intense conflict and difficult behaviour?” Sadly his conclusion is yes, and his book explores some of the reasons why and what we can do about it. Thankfully, we don’t have to be prisoners to conflict and difficult behaviour but anticipate healthy relationships.
In the early chapters of the book of Acts, Luke describes the birth of the church which has been a role model for churches ever since. It can serve as an encouragement to us of what can happen with a mixed group of ‘ordinary people’!
I recently read a list of 10 points of a ‘healthy’ church, drawing on Luke’s description of the early church in Acts 2:42-47.

  1. Teaching (v.42) In the last chapter of Matthew gospel Jesus says to the disciples to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Throughout Acts we see the disciples passing on Jesus’ teaching and this forms a foundation to the growth and maturity of the Church.
  2. Quality Fellowship (v.42) ‘Koinonia’ is the Greek word we translate ‘fellowship’. It is a special quality of relationship that is quite removed from the individualism, isolationism, separatism we find in our society today.
  3. Breaking of Bread (v.42) This can mean either sharing meals together or the Lord’s Supper. This was the focus of their fellowship and a constantreminder of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  4. Prayer (v. 42) and also in
    Prayer
    Prayer to be a first resource

    Acts 1:14, Luke describes how prayer was a vital partof life for the early disciples.  It was their “first resource, not the last resort.”
  5. Supernatural Awareness (v.43) God was at work in their midst which left keen sense of awe of the presence and power of God and an expectation of what he would continue to do.
  6. Authentic Community (v.44) They were together, not just in theory and not just on Sunday, but in the day-to-day experience of community. Care for each other’s spiritual, emotional and physical needs cannot not be done at a distance with only infrequent contact.
  7. Extravagant Generosity (v.45)They had a radical attitude to possessions which was outrageous, extravagant, impractical, and dangerous by our standards in a world obsessed by getting. Their  generosity sprung from the great joy they experienced in community.
    Genuine hospitality
    Genuine hospitality
  8. Genuine Hospitality (v.46) They opened their homes to each other whichwas an extension of their fellowship and generosity. Such hospitality of an open heart and an open home gives value of every human being and reflects the very heart of God.
  9. Grateful Praise (v.47)Thanks, acknowledgement and worship of God as creator and redeemer is the centre and heart of their life and helped keep all things in perspective, and is a sure sign of the work of the Spirit of God in their midst.
  10. Evangelism (v.47) Not surprisingly their life was infectious and others joined their community. This is the outcome and overflow of a healthy church life. When believers live together in authentic, consistent, powerful community, people are saved.

The exciting church reality Luke describes is available to us today as we live a life of discipleship. What happened then Jesus can bring to reality in and through us now.
Stephen L Baxter

Discipleship – An exciting adventure

Last week was a significant moment in the life of Hobart Baptist Church, but more importantly, it was significant for the 10 people baptised. It began their life of discipleship. God not only rescued them from their sin, but calls them to the greatest adventure of all – the adventure of being transformed to be more like Jesus and working with him in his work in the world.

Who will you marry?

What will your career be?

House for sale
Where will you live?

 
 
 
 
 
Following Jesus is the most important decision we make in our lives. It far exceeds decisions such as who you will marry, your chosen career, or where you might live. But this decision is only the beginning of the life of discipleship.
BonhoefferA number of years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer(1906-1945) famously wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” These words challenged many over the past
60 years or so, and they still do so today. They remind us that our choice to follow Jesus is not just about being rescued, but it begins a lifestyle of learning to live according to his will rather than our own. We put aside our self interests and submit to his.
Many have taken the journey of discipleship before us and they are our examples. Throughout church history hundreds of thousands of Christians have put aside careers, families, hopes and dreams. For two of Jesus disciples, James and John, it meant leaving the family fishing business behind (Matt 4:21-22). For Abraham, centuries before, it meant leaving behind the middle-class comforts of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen 11:31) and not knowing where he was going, trusting God would look after him and make him a great nation – and God did.
Living fruitful lives
Discipleship is not reserved for a special few but is the norm for anyone who believes Jesus is their Saviour and the rightful King of the entire world. Yet, Jesus warns us there are some who begin following Jesus that never go on to live fruitful lives for him.
There are many reasons for this but one of them is that following Jesus is not necessarily easy. Just like James, John and Abraham we can expect following Jesus will bring changes in our lives in many ways. We can expect to be challenged in every aspect of our lives: our thinking, attitudes, commitments and behaviour. We can expect to grow, and growth is often uncomfortable and challenging. We can expect to be confronted with things in our lives that are difficult to face. Even though we try to avoid them, God will not forget us. He is gentle, and while he will not force us to change, he will continue to pursue us because he loves us.

Costly discipleship: We can expect to grow, and growth is often uncomfortable and challenging.

What it means to follow
Being a disciple of Jesus is an exciting life of adventure, but it is challenging adventure. It demands things of us that in our own strength seem impossible; yet with God “all things are possible.” (Mk 10:27) It is only as we willingly follow him and allow him to change us that we begin to know him better and then he meets us in intimate and life-transforming ways.
Let us pray for the new followers of Jesus, even as we pray for ourselves, asking God to help us be purposeful, intentional and motivated in our following of Jesus. And may He mature us all to be more and more like Jesus and pray with him that His Kingdom may come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Stephen L Baxter