What Happens When You Follow Jesus

A seminary professor to his Pastoral Ministry students once said, “Ministry is not something you do. It is something that you leave behind when you follow Jesus.” I did not really understand what he meant at the time. I was focused on earning a degree, getting called as pastor to a local church, and finding a full-time ministerial position. I had my head down, nose to the grindstone, pedal to the metal thinking I was doing God a favor by serving Him with all my might.
 
I wish I had understood what my professor had said so beautifully. If I had just focused on following Jesus, I would have saved myself a world of trouble, and I would have accomplished more for him. My calling to vocational ministry was real and obvious, and I thought everything I was doing was in response to His call. Looking back, though, I realize I was impatiently trying to make things happen for myself. 
 
It is only in the last three years that I have really settled down and realized what my professor was saying. A lot of young men are in seminary right now dreaming of being the pastor of a First Baptist Church in a county seat. To be honest, I dreamed of being here… and here I am. The challenge is more than I expected. I do not mean that in a bad way, there is just way more to serving God’s people in this context than I ever dreamed. Also, I did not arrive here the way I expected.
 
If I were given the opportunity to share with seminary students today, or anyone who dreams of doing big things for the Lord, I wiould tell them: You will never make it. You will never be smart enough. You will never be prepared enough. Be patient. Be faithful. Just follow Jesus.
 
When we examine Scripture and the people who did big things for the Lord, we find that no one ever realized their dreams by their own power and might. Peter, James, John, the apostle Paul, and others dreamed of doing big things for the Lord. All of them realized their dreams, but none of them arrived by their own exertion. Paul dreamed that he could get there by studying under the greatest Jewish teachers. Peter dreamed that he could get there by his sincere zeal. James and John thought they could get there on the merit of their mother’s request. All of these guys would have made great seminary students. 
 
These great men reached the pinnacle of their dreams by following Jesus. All of them gave up their own vision of what reaching the summit looked like and just focused on following Jesus: going where he said to go, doing what he said to do, trusting in His power and provision. One day they looked up and they were there. Thousands of disciples had been made. Churches had been planted. Demons had been cast out, sicknesses healed, and the dead raised. The journey had been longer than expected, the challenges greater than what they were prepared for, and the view from the mountain top was much different than they had envisioned. 
 
If we study figures in church history, we find more of the same. Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer all made enormous impacts on the kingdom of God and left behind great ministry legacies. They all did it, not by the exertion of their own human strength and will but by following Jesus. The realization of their dreams came in God’s time with great and unexpected challenges, and nothing turned out exactly as they envisioned. 
 
So, do you dream of doing something for the Lord? I hope so. Do not be afraid to dream big. You do need to be so careful though. Be careful not to force anything. If your dream for your life is also God’s dream for your life, then it will come to pass in His time. There will be challenges that you do not expect. Nothing will happen the way you thought. Thus when you arrive at the pinnacle of your dream, you will find that you arrived there by following Jesus. You will realize that all the good you have done was really not what “you have done” but what you left behind as you followed Jesus. The view from there will be much different than you can imagine now.