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Follow Him, Stumbling
by Dennis Downing
“Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.’” (John 13:36-38 RSV)

    What do I have to offer the Lord?

    Sometimes I think it is my obedience. And then I sin again. My sin humiliates me. My failures frustrate and shame me, especially the ones I have worked so hard to overcome. I feel embarrassed even to pray.

    Surely, Peter must have felt frustrated too. He thought he was ready to lay down his life. But Peter had been prepared for that by Peter, not by Jesus. Jesus hadn’t yet called Peter to lay down his life, just to follow him.

    Has Jesus called you to lay down your life? Has he called you to be sinless? Or, has he called you to just follow him?

    When you fall into sin, when you fail at some attempted act of obedience or repentance, what bothers you most — his pain or your personal failure? Perhaps there is a clue there as to whom you are really following.

    Don’t we try to make “laying down our life” or “battling sin” easier than just following Jesus?

Following Jesus is a mystery.
    In fighting with sin, even in laying down our lives, often WE draw the battle lines, WE prepare ourselves, WE are in control. Following Jesus is a mystery. We don’t know where he is leading or what awaits us. There are always surprises. Perhaps that is what makes the following so hard.

    When you have followed Jesus long enough to truly know him, you will be willing to lay down your life. You will have been prepared for it by him. You won’t have to make any promises. You won’t have to offer to do it or ask for the opportunity. In fact, it will most likely take you by surprise. It will come when you least expect it and when you have the most to lose. That’s how you will know it came from him. It won’t be your idea. It will be his. Following him will lead you there.

    Until then, just do what he asked: “Follow me.”

    Don’t ask where you are going. Don’t try to get ready. Just follow him, stumbling. And be thankful. If you weren’t stumbling, you probably wouldn’t reach out for his hand. You’d try to keep doing it yourself. You’d try to stay in control.

    Maybe that’s why he lets us stumble. Perhaps it’s the only chance we give him to hold our hand. Could it be that is the only way he can really lead us where we need to go? It seems that if we stumble enough we will eventually get there, following him. So, just keep following, even if you stumble.


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