Growing up I had many friends in my youth group. There were easily 80 students that attended our Wednesday night Bible study each week and 30-40 people who would come to every event. These people claimed to follow Jesus and dedicated their lives to Him. Most of them were even baptized in front of hundreds of people on a Sunday morning. Yet, as we grew up, these people changed their mind and started living like our culture says we should live. They chose to walk away from Jesus and to pursue their own desires. It made me ask, did they ever really follow Jesus or was it all a show?
Jesus had this very same problem during his Earthly ministry. When He was feeding tens of thousands of people, His following were massive. Yet, when life got hard, they all deserted Him. Did they ever really trust Him in the first place? Or were they only following him simply because of what they could get from Him?
If we claim to follow Jesus we must ask ourselves the same thing. Are we following Him because of what He gives us or are we following Him because we truly believe He is God? Do we only want eternal life or do we truly want to know Him and place total trust in Him even when life is hard? This is the turning point that all of us will have to choose in our lives. We will come to the place where we have to decide whether Jesus was all that He claimed to be or if we know better how to live our lives than He does.
Yesterday we compared following God to a distance race. To run a distance race we have to train our bodies to withstand tough situations that most people cannot do. Most people could run a 50-yard dash. Some could even do it with real speed. This, however, is not the kind of race we are talking about. To follow Jesus, we have to be willing to go the distance. To follow Him with our entire life, in every area, no matter what comes our way. We don’t follow God just when it is easy.
 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others.  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.  The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word,  but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.  And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Mark 4:13 – 20 NLT)
In this parable, Jesus is teaching His followers about what it is like to follow God. Like seeds that grow into plants, we hear the message about Jesus and decide to follow Him. Then, as we grow, depending how deeply we are rooted in Him, we either produce a life that encourages others to follow God or we fall away when life gets tough. When a family member gets cancer we doubt God loves us. When we work hard and keep struggling we doubt that God really wants what is best for us. When we see other people having fun and being successful by cheating we want to disobey God because that is easier than being obedient.
Sometimes, life gets in the way. We have so much to do that God has to take a backseat to all the others things going on. After all, there is practice, chores, work, homework, time with our boyfriend/girlfriend, babysitting, and all kinds of other life responsibilities to take care of. God might be able to fit in there somewhere, maybe. God is important to us, but He just isn’t as important to us as all those other things. After all, I have to do all of these things now. I’ll make time for God later. Maybe when I’m older I’ll get serious about following Jesus. Right now, I just want to have fun and be a teenager.
Look in the mirror
Does this sound like you? Has life choked your love of God away or are you so deeply rooted in Him that nothing can shake you? I hope that you fall into the final category and that your life is producing so much fruit that everyone sees it and you encourage others to follow Jesus in everything you do. Perhaps, however, you’re in the other category. Maybe you have tried to follow God but everything seems to get in the way. There is just so much to do that you never seem to have enough time to get serious about God. You want to read your Bible and live how Jesus taught but it is just too hard when everyone else is having fun doing what they want.
As you spend time over the rest of this weekend with other people, I encourage you to take time to truly consider your walk with Christ. We live in a culture where following Jesus is hard and living for ourselves is easy. We get immediate reward by doing what makes us happy. Sadly, happiness doesn’t last. What does last is our dedication to Jesus. When life gets hard or busy it is tough to be obedient. Yet, the Bible teaches (and I can tell you this is true from my own life) that only God has the ability to provide true fulfillment. All these other things (friends, success, relationships, money, stuff, etc.) give you temporary happiness but it eventually fades away. When we are rooted in Jesus, we know what it is like to have lasting fulfillment in Him.
Write it down
What do you notice the most about yourself? Are you the seed that grew quick and wilts quickly? Or are you producing so much spiritual fruit that everyone notices?
What part of your life is keeping you from being deeply rooted in Jesus? What things can you start doing today to make that change so that you become more and more obedient to His ways?
Take time now and throughout the day to pray over what God is calling you to do. What do you need to change in your life? What must you do to follow him completely? Look at this passage below to see what Jesus said to give you some ideas.
 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10: 37-39 NLT)