Obstacles to Following Jesus

This Sunday, during our worship gathering at Riverside, we will talk about seven obstacles to following Jesus. I want to share two of the biggies with you here in this article.

First, we get distracted.

A couple Thursdays ago, in Colonie, New York, a father drove to his job, parked his car, and went in to work. But he forgot something important. His one-year old child was strapped into a car seat in the back and was supposed to be dropped off at the daycare. Temperatures did not rise above fifteen degrees.

At four, the father got a call from his wife asking him about their child after she discovered that the boy wasn't at the daycare where she was supposed to pick him up. In a panic, the father ran out to the car.

And found their baby - bundled up and doing fine.

Police Lieutenant Winn said, "Other than having a soiled diaper and the normal stresses of being in a car, the child in all aspects appeared okay."

The news story said that the guy had been under a lot of stress at work and had just recently had a death in his family. Something obviously distracted him. Not all distractions end so well.

We get distracted from following Jesus an awful lot. It can be a semi-good thing like a thought about God or a true teaching of Scripture. It could also be something destructive. Whatever it is, getting hung up on something other than following Jesus can have dire consequences. One moment of sin, whether sexual sin, letting the wrong thing slip from your mouth, or some other sort of sin, can destroy years of building and investing into who you feel called to be.

It always amazes me how long it takes to build a sand castle, yet how quickly it can be destroyed. The same is true with our life. Sin is the ultimate destroyer of our lives. It can destroy families and friendships. It can cripple dreams. Things you have spent years creating, sin can destroy in a moment. That's the danger of sin. And even if it doesn't have dire, visible earthly consequences, it typically disables us spiritually. Once we sin, we can't take it back. And that moment of error can create a major obstacle to following Jesus.

So let us not get distracted. Let us stay focused on following Jesus.

The second obstacle that I want to talk about here today is how we like to pick and choose what we want when it comes to following Jesus.

Tony Campolo shared the story about how he was having dinner in a restaurant in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was seated comfortably at a table next to the front window, ready to begin enjoying his meal, when he realized that he was being watched. With their noses pressed flat against the glass, three raggedy, dirty Haitian boys stared at the food on his plate. Their hair was rust-colored because of a lack of protein, and they had the distended stomachs that give evidence of extreme malnutrition. Their eyes, riveted on his food, were disturbing.

The waiter, recognizing how upset the situation was making Tony, moved quickly to pull down the window shade. "Don't let them bother you! Enjoy your meal!" he said. The blind was down, and, for all intents and purposes, the starving children were gone.

Following Jesus means that we don't pull the blind down on helping the poor around us. Others get excited about helping the poor while ignoring God's call to right living. We have this tendency to pick and choose which part of following Jesus we want. Helping the poor. Right living. Not doing this. Not doing that. Making sure that we do that one thing. We pull the blind down on the parts of following Jesus that we aren't comfortable with while making the part we enjoy an essential that we use to evaluate the spiritual lives of others.

Following Jesus is a journey. I'm not perfect now and will never be on this side of the grave. I will discover something this year, maybe even today, that I need to be doing. I will also discover something I need to stop. But we can never use the idea that we aren't perfect as an excuse to not strive to be better followers of Jesus. When we see an area that we need to change, we change. We're followers, meaning that we are on a journey. We haven't yet arrived at our destination.

We can tell that we are following Jesus when we are following him in areas we aren't completely comfortable in. I know that because I follow Jesus there are a few stances that I take that I would rather not take. I do things at times that I would rather not do because I want to be a faithful follower. And I have stopped doing things I enjoy for the same reason. Instead of making God into our image, we need to allow Him to shape us in His image.

We can't pick and choose what we want to do when we are called to follow Jesus. Either we are following Him or we are following ourselves.

These are two common obstacles that we face in following Jesus. May we not let them get in the way of the life God wants us to live.