Follower of Jesus

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"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." Matthew 16:24-25

All throughout the Scriptures, we can see how the Lord uses the foolish things to confound the wise. Even when we look at the world around us, we can see how God uses the simple and mundane to speak the profound. It is no different in missions or in ministry—the Lord often times uses the things which seem ordinary to teach me things which can be used to accomplish his extraordinary work.

I’ve spent most of my life growing up on the mission field, but it wasn’t until the last few months that the Lord opened the door for me to plunge completely into serving him full time. At the onset of this new adventure with Jesus, I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea what I was going to do or how the Lord wanted me to specifically serve him.

I spent several months serving the Lord and growing closer to Him while attending Bible College, and I knew that he was calling me to continue to serve him in Romania. However, I didn’t know what that would look like. So, after coming home from Bible College, I took a few weeks to rest and seek the Lord for wisdom. For two weeks, I prayed and asked him to show me what to do, but I still did not have a specific answer. I was looking for God to speak something clearly to me or to give me an epiphany of understanding, but--as I said before--he often chooses to use that which is overlooked to show us that which is to be distinguished as invaluable.

I spent New Year’s weekend at a friend’s house. She and her family had a small party for New Year’s Eve, so I stayed the night at her apartment. Before ringing in the New Year with fireworks and sparklers, everyone was talking about what they thought this year would hold. They talked about what shifts might take place in the economy and how political decisions would affect Romania as a nation.

My friend and I, however, decided that we would spend the final moments of the year thanking the Lord for his blessings toward us. So, we sat on two chairs in her living room and prayed. After that, she opened her Bible and told me that for years she would pick a Psalm to be her theme Psalm for the year. As she sat flipping through the Psalms, I began to turn through the pages of my own Bible.

My eyes gradually surveyed the Psalms looking for one that would speak to my heart. I felt the Lord telling me to open to Matthew 16:24-25. I had this passage of Scripture memorized for as long as I could remember. It is one my father’s favorite passages and we have recited it together since before I could even read the Scriptures myself. To me, Matthew 16:24-25 was as familiar as John 3:16 or the Lord’s Prayer. For some reason, the Lord wanted me to read this particular portion of the Scriptures.

As my eyes scanned these familiar verses, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart that this was exactly what he was calling me to do. I was looking for a revelation from the Lord as to how to serve him in ministry. In his might, he answered me in a way which I least expected. The Lord used a verse I had memorized and read repeatedly from childhood to speak to me in a manner that was both incredibly clear and deeply profound. God used the simple words of his Son--

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

to teach me that he was calling me to daily pick up my cross and obediently follow what he had for me each day. The Lord used a simple verse to remind me of a simple truth--this simple truth was exactly what he was calling me to do in this new season of life.

I had assumed that in order to truly serve the Lord in a worthy manner I had to have a specific calling which would allow me to move mountains for him. But, my assumptions were based on my own standards and not on the standards of the One who is capable of moving every mountain.

Serving God looks different for diverse kinds of people in varying cultures and nations, but the root of it all comes down to our obedience to Christ. Each one of us has a specific calling from the Lord and we've received specific giftings to be able to live out that calling. At the end of the day, we're all being called to do the same thing—we're all being called to live lives that are not led for our own desires, but that are lived out to the obedience of Christ.

God has called me to serve him by serving the people of Romania. He may be calling you to do the same in your community, or he may be calling you to serve him as a teacher, a secretary, a grocery clerk, a nurse, or a stay-at-home mother. Regardless of where he's placed each of us, we're all called to obey the same instructions: lay down ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow him.

Your cross might look much different than mine. My cross certainly differs from the girl next to me, but the attitudes of our hearts should look exactly the same because all of our hearts should be following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

For the last six months, Matthew 16:24-25 has been at the head of my “job description." It's my prayer that it will remain there for the rest of my life.

Whether you serve the Lord in ministry full time, part time, or only occasionally, it's my hope that these simple words of Jesus Christ will be at the forefront of all that you do. The instructions are straightforward. We must have obedient hearts that are willing to adhere to them. It doesn't matter what walk of life we belong to—if we're to be true daughters of the King, then we all need to lay down ourselves, pick up the crosses that Jesus has given each of us to carry, and follow steadfastly after him.

by Elli Jejeran, CCEA Missionary to Romania