By David Faust
Judge Deborah gave General Barak a tall order. It would take considerable amounts of faith and courage for him to lead 10,000 soldiers and face a formidable enemy at Mount Tabor. But Deborah declared, “Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” (Judges 4:14). In today’s troubled times, Deborah’s question can help us climb our mountains and face our battles, too.
“Hasn’t the Lord gone ahead of you?” Yes, he has. He is ahead of us in time, for he knows the future. He is ahead of us in wisdom, for his ways are higher than our ways. He goes ahead of us with power beyond our imagination and grace far beyond what we deserve.
God even stays ahead of our scientific advancements. He isn’t irrelevant and out-of-date. He doesn’t lag behind the curve of knowledge and progress. Our troubles don’t shock him, nor do our discoveries surprise him. The Lord didn’t smack his forehead in amazement and exclaim, “Well, who would have imagined that!” when we discovered the complexities of DNA. We’re never ahead of him. He’s always ahead of us.
Two Transformational Words
Because he’s out in front, Jesus calls disciples with two transformational words: “Follow me.”
Follow. Don’t stand still. Don’t stay where you are. Move forward, but don’t rush ahead. Follow (in Greek, akoloutheo) isn’t a passive word. It can mean “accompany,” “assist,” or “understand,” as in, “I follow (grasp) what you’re saying.” Jesus doesn’t call us to tag along aimlessly, but to participate actively in his work.
Follow me. Not “fulfill these religious duties.” Not “adopt this ideology,” “join this club,” or “follow these traditions.” We follow Christ. He leads us up the mountain. We follow behind, but we stay close enough to hear the voice of our guide.
Leading from Behind
Before we lead others, we must be followers ourselves who say yes to Christ and no to self. When we trust the Lord’s wisdom more than our own instincts, we live by faith and example, not by fear and intimidation.
Faith follows the Lord into vagueness. When the future looks foggy, murky, and bewildering, the lamp of his Word lights the way. By faith we tell the Lord, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
Faith follows the Lord into valleys. Yes, sometimes God calls us to the top of the hill, but on this side of Heaven mountaintop experiences are the exception, not the norm. Ministry usually happens in valleys. Right up front, Christ tells us to expect hardship and suffering. His invitation isn’t merely “follow me,” but “take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, New Living Translation, emphasis mine). Pain comes as no surprise to someone carrying a cross.
Faith follows the Lord into victories. In Christ the shadow of death leads to the sunshine of eternal life. Surrender brings success. The cross leads to Easter.
It’s fine to be an up-front leader if that’s where God places you, but even up-front leaders must keep the Lord in front of them. The best leaders aren’t necessarily charismatic figures good at drawing a crowd, but those who consistently walk behind Jesus with their eyes fixed on him. These leaders can say with humility and integrity, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Personal Challenge: Specifically, how will faith shape what you do this week? What actions will you take for no other reason except that you are a follower of Jesus? Share your response with a close friend.