As we move towards the end of the 4th week of Lent I will be posting several reflections on Walking with Jesus Toward the Cross: How Do We Follow? that I have received from around the world.
Today’s post” Following Jesus Each Day comes from Lynne M Baab. Lynne is the author of numerous books, most recently Reaching Out in a Networked World which considers the ways congregations can express their identity and values in an online world. She has also written several books and Bible study guides on spiritual disciplines, including Sabbath Keeping and Fasting, and lots of articles that are posted on her website, She is a Presbyterian minister with a PhD in communication, and she teaches pastoral theology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.
“Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day”
(Richard of Chichester, 1197-1253).
Lately I’ve been thinking that following Jesus is a daily affair, and that each day we need to consecrate our lives anew to Jesus. When I wake up in the morning, I usually lie in bed and pray for a while. Recently I’ve been trying to pray something like this, “God, my life is yours. Help me to do what you want me to do today. Help me to hear your voice and follow you today.”
Last year I taught a course on the missional church, so I read dozens of books on that topic. One of the things I appreciated most in the books was an emphasis on listening to God for specific guidance. Congregations that want to become missional, some of the authors write, should be trying to notice where God is already active in their community and join in to that movement of the Spirit. They should endeavor to figure out God’s call to them specifically and follow it, rather than trying to do a lot of good things or nice things.
Those authors were part of my inspiration as I pray each morning for God’s guidance and God’s help to follow that guidance. This day. Now. Let me hear your voice and follow it.
It has been fruitful for me to grow in that practice of daily submission. We don’t follow Jesus so he can help us live the life we want to live. No, we follow him so we can live the life he wants us to live. I believe that. I know that. But I still worry a bit that a strong emphasis on hearing God’s voice for me will push me further in the direction of individualistic, consumer faith, an all too common malaise in the church today.
So, then, what are the checks and balances that keep me from an individualistic perception of God’s will for me? I’d love to hear from other people what they believe are those checks and balances. I’ve come up with the notion that as long as I’m trying to submit to scripture, and as long as I’m sharing with other Christians my sense of God’s call to me—and listening to their feedback—I’m less likely to run off in some random direction that has little to do with the Gospel of Christ.
Human capacity for self-delusion is so powerful. Complacency that I have figured out God’s will for today comes far too easily, particularly when it seems that God’s will is something I enjoy and find satisfying. Therefore, the Cross of Christ plays a role as well. Am I willing to hear God’s voice to me in a way that will lead me into something challenging, difficult or painful? Or am I only willing to listen when God calls me to do something pleasant and comfortable?
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.