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Following Jesus is quite simple.

Following Jesus is quite difficult.

At first, these two truths seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. To help us understand walking with Jesus a little better, let’s take an example from the natural world.

Going to Lima, Peru, is quite simple.

Going to Lima, Peru, is quite difficult—when you discover it is necessary for you to walk there.

Imagine this. On your way to the Lima, your equipment malfunctions and supplies run out. Your legs grow tired and your feet sore. You become very hungry. You try everything you know to make that journey work, and it all fails. You become disappointed and discouraged. Somewhere along the journey, the government of Lima finds you and brings you safely into its environs. You are alive and safe. When you walk through the streets, people are cheering and celebrating. You ask, “Why are you celebrating? I didn’t do what was needed to get here.”

The crowd responds, “We’re not celebrating you. We knew you were struggling and couldn’t get here on your own. We’re celebrating the city that brought you here.”

Like going to Lima, the idea of following Jesus is quite simple.

Like going to Lima, following Him is quite difficult when we discover what is required.

As we walk with Him, somewhere in our journey, things don’t go so well. We encounter great difficulties. We find it impossible to obey Jesus’ commands even to our own satisfaction, especially when it comes to loving God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. We know we are to love our enemies. This idea seems simple until some people verbally abuse us, insult us, or even condemn us. We are to forgive them. Christians, as it turns out, are sometimes the hardest to love. Our glorious early Christian wonder evaporates, and we realize that the simple idea of following Jesus is extraordinarily difficult to do. We may become disappointed and discouraged.

Then, we come across one of the most famous and wondrous passages in all of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13. We read it saying, “Amen. Amen.” Then we stop and we ask ourselves how we stack up to love’s very first characteristic: It is patient. Well, am I patient? I don’t know about you, fellow Christian, but my patience is sometimes horrifyingly brief. I think about God’s patience. How patient He is with me. How patient He is with everyone. How He is still being patient.

How I probably would have nuked the planet thousands of years ago.

So, I repent. Ask for forgiveness and continue on.

But, of course, that lovely thirteenth chapter doesn’t end there. Love doesn’t insist on its own way. Do I ever do that? “You cut me off in traffic! Who do you think you are?”

Next, I read that love is not irritable.

Hmm. Take a go at me when I’ve had a miserable night of sleeplessness.

Or when someone cuts me off in traffic.

How about “Love hopes all things? Yes, I hope that the earth swallows that driver up, but, um, I’m pretty sure that’s not what that sentence means in this chapter about love.

William Hendriksen wrote in his commentary on Philippians: “Fully developed love never travels alone. It is always accompanied by all the virtues.”

Yes. All of them. That’s the complete, beautiful picture.

So absent in me, so much of the time.I

However, there is good news here.

In our difficult journey with Jesus on earth, we are traveling to our ultimate destination, the heavenly kingdom. Many things go wrong. We continually fail to obey God’s commands. We are disappointed in ourselves. Somewhere in that journey, Jesus grabs us and takes us to our destination, and we end up walking the streets in a city whose builder was God (Hebrews 11:8-10). People cheer and celebrate. We might ask—although I doubt it— “Why are you cheering and celebrating? I failed all the way through my journey.”

The crowd will respond, “We’re not celebrating you. We’re celebrating the one who brought you here.”

“I tried to do the best I could.”

“Yes, but you really had nothing whatsoever to do with getting here.”

Christians will never perfect their walk with Jesus and obey His commands. But we will arrive and discover, despite our best efforts, despite our successes as well as our failures, there is really only one who brought us to our destination.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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