Follow Hard

One day when I was a kid, my brothers and I were playing, my dad was sleeping, and my mom was getting ready for church. She came and asked me if I was going to go with her. I didn’t answer right away, because I knew she wanted me to go, but I really wanted to stay home and play. Finally I said, “Dad isn’t going. The boys aren’t going.”
She said, “I know. And I’m not going to force you to go. It’s your decision, but I don’t want you to base your choice on what other people are doing. You can’t base your relationship with God on what other people do.”

She told me that she had struggled with it, because she really wanted Dad to be at church with her and it was really hard to go by herself, but she went because she read in Psalm 63:8, where David said, “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (KJV) and so she told God she would “follow hard” after him. Her choice changed her life. Such a small thing, to choose to go to church, but Jesus gives us first small choices to grow us in character, to see what’s really in our hearts.

Peter, one of the disciples, wanted to do something big. He wanted to walk on water! He and the others were in the boat and Jesus was standing out on the water. Peter asked Jesus to call him out to him, walking on the water. It takes faith to ask for a such a thing. We know what happened, that Peter barely got going, took his eyes off Jesus, and began to sink. But he still did walk on water, better than anyone I have ever known except Jesus.

Why did Peter want to walk on water? I think because it was so cool! It was really about Peter, more than it was about Jesus. Peter would look so good in the eyes of Jesus and his friends. Peter would have done a very great thing.

We all have a bit of that in us, don’t we? We want to do great things for the Lord, but there is a part in us that wants it for ourselves. We want to look good. We want people to look up to us. We want their respect. People would respect me if I walked on water.

I do think it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t correct Peter about his motives or anything; he just said, “C’mon!” Jesus is so gracious and patient with us. He works to grow us in spite of ourselves.

Later, after Peter had denied even knowing Jesus during Jesus’ trial, and after Jesus had died on the cross, Peter went fishing. Fishing was his thing. He could get out on the water, and maybe forget about how he had denied Jesus when it really counted. I think he was utterly disappointed in himself, so brokenhearted about how he failed Jesus.
And then he and the others with him see Jesus on the shore. When Peter realizes it really is Jesus on the shore because of the miraculous catch of fish, he throws off his tunic, dives off the boat and swims to Jesus. He doesn’t care about the fish. He doesn’t care how he looks, he’s not trying to impress anyone, he just wants to get to Jesus. He doesn’t bother walking on water. He just swims. He does what he can to get to Jesus. Jesus is more important to Peter that anything else.

When Jesus talks with him after the disciples are on the shore, Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep. Jesus gives Peter his mission, a very big, important mission, that looks nothing like walking on water. It’s not glamorous. There is nothing glamorous about feeding sheep. The job is to take care of the believers. Peter is given the task of overseeing the church. Jesus also tells Peter that he is going to follow him in death, a death on a cross. Peter says, “What about him?”, gesturing to John, and Jesus tells Peter not to worry about John or anyone else. He tells Peter, “You follow me.”

We all have to make that choice. We cannot base our relationship with Jesus on somebody’s else’s choices. It’s ours alone to make. We choose, each day, to follow Jesus in simple obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” And trust in Jesus is proved by our actions of obedience. As Jesus works in us and grows us in our small obedient steps, he increases the tasks, until they are great things that we do for him, but rarely are they great in the eyes of the world. They are mostly hidden, seen only by Jesus, or they are very ordinary-seeming, nothing anyone but God pays much attention to.

That day, the day my mom told me to choose, I chose to go to church with her. But later in my life, like Peter, I denied Jesus by my actions. I did what I wanted instead of what God wanted. I am so glad and grateful that he is forgiving and that he offered Peter and me and everyone, another chance. I decided to not bother trying to walk on water, but instead to just dive in, and follow hard after him.

Meet Tammy Bailey

Tammy Bailey serves at Hillcrest Church with her husband, Rick. Although her kids are grown, she is still learning and growing in her relationship with Jesus. She is an awed child of God.

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