I had my entire life planned out by my freshmen year of high school (2008 for some perspective). Then the summer before my sophomore year our youth group traveled to Chicago, IL for a World Changers mission project. I felt a calling to chase after a career in ministry, youth ministry to be exact). And boy (or girl) did life get real. Everything I had planned out and dreamed for evaporated. “Man, sounds like this whole Jesus-following thing really messed everything up for you, my man.” And yeah, it did. But oh how faithful Jesus has been.
TBH: I didn’t come up with this idea on my own. A very close friend of mine suggested I tell the story of where I am at in my career and how I got to where I am. It was much better than what I had previously planned. But to get into that there is some more I’ll have to go through. So take a look at this verse:
“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.”
We’ll come back to it. I went from a guy who dreamed of becoming an architect to a man who completely gave up dreams in chase of a life filled with Jesus. *Please understand I am not trying to preach my righteousness, but teach the importance of following Jesus and His will.* My will had to become His will. I had to decrease and He had to increase. My decision to follow Christ led into walking toward a career in ministry and pursuing a teaching degree (which I swore I would never do). Instead of attending the University of Tennessee, I went to a community college, spent a semester and a Christian university to be a teacher and get ministry experience, back to community college to be a teacher, and finishing my education at East Tennessee State University with a general studies degree. It’s crazy, I know. You should have been me. “Why didn’t you become a teacher?” Well first of all, education is crazy now-a-days. Also, Jesus led me in a different direction. My only option: follow. Two semesters away from being a licensed teacher. “WHAT? Why?” If I haven’t told you before, I work with children now, as a full-time career. I started part-time but the place had such an impact on me, I wanted to be a bigger part of it all. So, instead of staying in my teaching role, I changed my major to take the full-time job. Crazy, I told you. But I did it in faith.
Take a look again at Matthew 10:38. A cross was the ultimate means of death in the New Testament. It is often compared to current lethal injection, or the modern day electric chair. So, Jesus is telling you to pick up your electric chair and follow Him. Jesus told us to follow Him die to ourselves (wills, desires, dreams, wants, etc.). If we refuse? “You are not worthy of being mine.” STRONG. WORDS. If we cannot deny ourselves and follow Jesus, we aren’t worthy of being called His children. If we truly desire to follow Jesus and enjoy his blessings and promises, we must deny ourselves and fully devote our lives and passions to Jesus’s desire for our lives. If we want what Jesus wants, how fulfilling our lives will be (not necessarily happy, or sad, exciting or boring).
When we take up our cross and follow, we are testifying our desire to embrace God’s will, no matter the cross. Riches or poverty. Ease or difficulty. Life or death. Given, I still don’t know what my future holds. Or why some things happen. But Jesus gots my back. Ministry is still at the forefront of why I do everything that I do. I don’t currently hold a full-time ministry position, but I am able to full-time minister (see what I did there?).
Life is crazy. You can try to plan out your life. And I won’t tell you it won’t work out the way you want. But I won’t promise that everything we want is everything God wants for our lives. Life doesn’t always go our way. But God orchestrates everything in our lives to best bring Him glory, and increase His kingdom. I’ve lost relationships, friendships, career opportunities, my mind. But I live with the knowledge that Jesus is faithful.
Eat Chik-fil-A. Buy a hat. Follow Jesus.