Follow the Leader

Isaiah 30:21 – “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

One of the dumbest games we ever played as kids (and there were many) was “Follow the Leader.” If you recall this game, you know how little explanation it needs. One person is chosen by the available participants to be the “leader.” Once selected, everyone joins hands with the leader, who is at the head of the chain. He or she then proceeds to walk nilly-willy, hither and yon in whatever direction they want, with no particular purpose or direction in mind and everyone else, by virtue of holding hands, follows along like a giant, mindless snake.

If I sound somewhat critical about this activity, it would be because it is a game truly without purpose or direction. Most human beings--kids included--thrive on intentionality. Give any person a mission and watch them flourish. But activity with no intended outcome can be a truly hateful experience.

Another frustrating aspect to this game is that it promises something that it doesn’t truly deliver on. The implication is that if you follow the leader of your human chain, you will be led through some great adventure or taken off to some worthwhile destination. Of course, none of that ever happens.

That makes me think about the challenges we face as Christians when trying to follow Jesus. In one sense, the phrase "following Jesus" is a euphemism for obeying His commandments that we find throughout Scripture.

But what about when you start to wonder if there’s more to your Christian walk than living morally upright? When you start to wonder if God has called you to more than surviving from one job to the next? What does following Jesus mean when it relates to the purpose and direction of your life?

It’s not like Jesus is audibly whispering in your ear telling you to take the new job or sign up for college classes (For those who have actually experienced this in the past, I would ask you to recognize how rare such a thing is). What should we make of the verse from Isaiah (see above) where God promises His voice for our ears to hear as we turn left or right?

Often, you have heard it said that the reason people don’t hear God is because they are not listening. As flippant as such a statement is, there is a truth in it we should consider if we are to understand the practice of hearing God. We have so many voices in our lives that vie for our attention. The Information Age, empowered by the Internet and a whole array of technologically attractive products in our lives, it’s a wonder we can hear each other let alone the voice of God.

And while you might be saying to yourself, “Isn’t God all-powerful? Does He have trouble making Himself heard through the din?” it is worth noting that God intentionally comes at us with a still, small voice so that we would seek to silence the noise in our lives. As sheep, if we are to be attuned to the voice of our shepherd, it requires listening intently.

Ask yourself; how much of your day do you actively strive to hear God? By that, I mean do you stop what you’re doing and just dwell on Him, what He might sound like if you heard Him audibly, anticipate that sound, and seek to respond when you do? Prayer time for many Christians is a 5-minute recitation of prayer requests followed by “Amen” (“In Jesus name” if you’re an Evangelical). Listening is a slower, less crude approach to communicating with God.

Following Jesus in this life is a commitment to practice behaviours you are not accustomed to. Hearing the divine is one of those skills. You must work at getting better at it through constant effort. Silence the other voices in your life that seek to distract you from what you truly want: to hear the voice of Jesus.

Pastor Scott