BY ANDREW KUO
B ehind me my friend is praying in tongues, in front of me the worship leader is prophesying coming revival, and surrounding us thousands of Christians are bent over crying and singing to YAHWEH. I stared into the sky as I rested on the grassy lawn in front of Capitol Mall in Sacramento. My mind wandered, my stomach churned—but my heart and soul remained unmoved.
It was just twenty hours ago that I had packed up and run down to BART, heading up to Sacramento for The Call. I’ll admit I held reservations about the event because of how charismatic IHOP(International House of Prayer) is known to be, but I was excited and anxious to see what God was going to show me there. But as I sought desperately to hear God’s voice and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, I only felt numb inside. Suddenly, one prevailing notion breached the surface of my thoughts—this is all crazy. This is all freakin’ crazy.
In the midst of thousands falling on their knees, my perception of what following Jesus meant imploded as I listened to Lou Engle call for a new generation of Christians that were not simply playing religious games. He called for a true pursuit of holiness that involved fasting, prayer, and ultimately—sacrifice.
At that point, I realized that Christianity has got to be the most ridiculous and insane religion that anyone could ever believe in. If a person was looking for a religion with a God who would help him achieve their goals in life, he would be better off as an atheist than becoming a Christian.
Before Sacramento, I was comfortable with life in general. Sure, I struggled with pride and some insecurities from time to time, but nothing big. Yet as I thought of what true sacrifice meant, the duress of spiraling emotions tugged at my heart. The thought of truly giving up all of my own pursuits festered in my mind and the happiness I had from my faith faded away. Perhaps I was not pursuing a secular American dream, but I still wanted the Christian equivalent of a wife and two kids, a dog, and a home on the range with a white picket fence.
Many of us Christians lead lives that have an uncanny similarity to those who do not know the Gospel. Speaking for myself, I do the same thing when I look forward to the blessings of life more so than to knowing God himself. The fact of the matter is I thought I knew God and I didn’t want to sacrifice anymore.
But little did I know that my God is an infinite mystery. That I barely knew Him—and every step I took to improve our relationship would be worth more than anything else I could ever have.
What if, I thought, there is more to following Jesus than just being involved in a campus fellowship, studying to secure a good job after graduation, and trying my best to pursue a God-glorifying relationship with someone? Logically, it didn’t make sense for me to be Christian at all if all I was doing was pursuing my dreams, albeit different dreams, in the same way that many nonbelievers do. Jesus has called me to lose my life—to give up my pursuits for the kingdom of God.
What if I don’t have a secure job after I graduate?
What if I never get married?
What if I regret the comforts I forsook, the pleasures I never had?
What if at the end of my life I won’t be happy?
What if what God wants is not what I want?
As my entire being wrestled with these burning questions, Jesus’ words gripped my soul at that very instant.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt. 16:25 NASB)
To truly follow Jesus, I should pick up my cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). However, to pick up that heavy cross, I must first release my grip on all of the idols that my sinful nature is forcibly clinging onto. I was created with dreams and desires, talents and blessings, but sometimes even those things can become idols.
As I started questioning what idols I was still holding onto, certain verses pierced the depths of my heart. Luke 9: 58, 61–62 NASB reads,
And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Reading this over and over again, my heart twists and turns and wrenches itself into tears that bead down my cheeks because I know that Jesus is not being figurative. He demands my undivided attention.
He’s being serious.
And reading about the rich young man in Mark 10:21-22, I identify completely with his emotional response as he leaves Jesus with his head held low, realizing that he could not sell all of his possessions and give to the poor. I see the blessings that God has given me and stubbornly clench my fingers around them, wailing and crying at the thought of God taking them away from me.
I’m not going to lie: I don’t have it all figured out, and a lot of those what-ifs will stay what-ifs as God continues to reveal His purpose for me.
I just have faith that Jesus is the one and only person worth following, that God is the only one worth knowing, and that the Holy Spirit is the only being that I desire to be with every day of my life.
Following Jesus does indeed call for a great sacrifice, but He also says that those who follow Him will not feel overwhelmed by His commandments “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30 NASB).
And I will testify, that despite how difficult it has been recently for me to consecrate my life to God, I have been feeling freer and more full of hope for the future than I have ever been. I’m just beginning to see that God truly is all that is worth knowing.
For when the disciples were asked if they wanted to desert Jesus, they replied “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68 nasb). At that very instant, the disciples knew that they had nothing else to gain or lose from this world.
We can sweat, strive, and toil away, living only for ourselves by chasing what we think will satisfy us, but truly following Jesus grants us depths of peace and freedom—even from death. Jesus is calling for your life; how will you answer?