Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Follow Faithful Leaders (Philippians 3:17)
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. (vs 17).
Notice what Paul writes in verse 17: “be followers together of me”, “ye have us for an example”, in other words, “Follow my example.” That is quite a thing to say. “If you want to learn how to pray, follow me.” “If you want to become a faithful evangelist, follow me.” “If you want to study the faith, follow me.” “If you want to see compassion in action, follow me.” “If you want to know God better, follow me.” Who among us would dare to utter such statements? Yet six different times in the New Testament Paul says, “Follow me.”
Was he a conceited braggart? Did he think he was a perfect Christian? Not at all. In verse 12 he clearly says that he has not yet arrived at spiritual completion. Well, then, how could Paul say, “Follow me?” What he meant was, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Think of the Christian life as a long parade from earth to heaven. At the head of the line is Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation. Step by step he is leading his followers to glory. It’s a long road with many twists and turns but he is fully committed to seeing that we make it in the end. Since the parade is long and filled with millions of people, we need people in front of us who can keep us on track. We need mentors, spiritual directors, models, heroes if you will, people who are farther along in the spiritual journey who can keep us pointed toward the Lord. Without such input, we’re likely to veer off the trail and end up in the wilderness.
Let me ask two questions:
1) Who are you following? Who is up ahead of you showing the way, pointing out the rough places in the road, and making sure you don’t make a wrong turn?
We all need people like that in our lives. None of us ever reaches a point where we can say, “I can do this on my own.” Even though I’ve been a Christian for nearly 30 years, I find that now as much as ever I need the encouragement of being around people who pray better than I do, who give witness of their faith more than I do, and who have a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. I need their example, their encouragement, and the challenge they provide to my life.
This touches a very practical point. Would you like to learn to pray? It’s not hard, just hang around people who pray. Would you like to grow in joy? Spend time with joyful people. Do you wish you had a heart for the salvation of the world? Spend time with lay missionaries and lay priest, watch your heart change little by little. Are you struggling with temptation? Find someone who has fought and won the same battle. Would you like to develop the gift of teaching? Great. Sit at the feet of gifted teachers and learn from them. Follow faithful leaders and soon enough, their godly example will make you a better Christian.
2) Who is following you?
Think again about the image of a great parade. Jesus stands at the front followed by a vast throng. You strain to catch a better glimpse of the Lord but it’s hard to see him through the crush of people. So you simply begin to follow the crowd in front of you. As long as they are following Jesus, you are following him through their good example. Now look behind you. Do you see all the faces peering in your direction? They are following you—and you didn’t realize it. As long as you follow those who follow Christ, you will be following him too—and so will those who follow you.
Right now … someone is following you.
Right now … someone looks to you to show them the way.
Right now … someone prays because they heard you pray.
Right now … someone is watching you fight your personal battles.
Right now … someone wants to be like you.
Right now … someone is cheering you on.
Right now … someone sees Christ in your life.
Right now … someone admires your strength.
Right now … someone is borrowing your faith because they have none.
Right now … someone believes you are the best Christian they know.
Right now … someone is hanging tough because you are standing tall.
Right now … someone is smiling when they think of you.
Right now … someone thanks God for your friendship.
Right now … someone cares that you make the right choices.
Right now … someone is following you.
Keep on the path. Keep your eyes on the prize. Find some good examples and follow them. And don’t forget that someone is following you as you follow others who are following Jesus Christ. Don’t let that someone down.