The Call to Follow Jesus: Extraordinary or Ordinary?

He was the son of a wealthy Italian merchant. To describe him as a spoiled unmanageable rich kid is an understatement. He lived the wasteful wanton lifestyle of a rock star in his day, and like a rock star, he had his own posse,  a large band of equally spoiled adolescents who traveled and partied hard with him night after night.

But to the greater dismay of his father and his companions, he had a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ, and his life was forever changed. He read in the Gospels that Jesus told His followers:

Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:24

Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.  Luke 9:3

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24

And so, taking these commandments of Christ as his “rule of life,” Francis abandoned his wealth, giving all but the clothes on his back away, and even that was taken from him by a thief, leaving him cold and naked and running into the forest for his life. Finally, he cut off the ties to his father, forsaking his inheritance, and set out to follow Jesus.

The radical call of Francis to take Christ’s command to give everything away and minister to the poor in order to serve Christ attracted many followers. They came from all over Europe joining him in what eventually became known as the Franciscan order. His radical commitment to Christ and doing the works of Christ marked his life from the day of his conversion until his death at 43 years of age. It is said that on his deathbed, he asked that all of his clothing be removed so that he could die naked in the same shameful way Jesus died.

There is something attractive about that, is there not, in a call to live heroically and to do something radical for God? I am of the opinion that it is actually easier to recruit people for something that is big, something that captures the imagination, than it is for something that is deemed ordinary in the Kingdom of God. And yet, I believe that while God may occasionally call on someone to do a great thing, it is not the first thing to which He calls anyone. In fact it is not to the extra-ordinarily great thing but to the ordinary business of living a holy life, a life devoted to God 24/7, that we as followers of Jesus have been called. Oswald Chambers put it this way,

“The sense of sacrifice appeals readily to a young Christian. Humanly speaking, the one thing that attracts to Jesus Christ is our sense of the heroic,…”                          […but then he says…]

“…the scrutiny of our Lord’s words suddenly brings this tide of enthusiasm to the test, ‘First be reconciled to thy brother’” [Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, “The ‘Go’ of Preparation,” September 24th].

How ordinary is that? In other words the primary call of God is not to do some great thing or to make some great sacrifice, but to live in right relationship with Him and with others. Then again, that sounds quite extraordinary does it not?

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Ed has had over 30 years of ministry experience, sixteen of them at Greenwoods Community Church in the southern Berkshires of Massachusetts. More recently he has fulfilled an extended transitional interim assignment for the Alliance Southeast of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Leesburg, Florida. In addition, Ed has had nearly 13 years of experience in the field of geriatric healthcare. Ed’s is happily married to Lynn, having recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Lynn is a true partner in ministry, having served Greenwoods Community Church as its Children's Ministry Coordinator for over ten years. She is a decorator, colorist, instructor in furniture painting, and an artist in her own right. For over 20 years she had her own business, Whimsical Brushes, teaching and traveling throughout the Northeast. Lynn is also active as a women’s outreach speaker for Stonecroft Ministries in Florida. God has given Ed a burden to be a mentor pastor, developing leaders for the church in the 21st Century. One way in which he is fulfilling that calling is through Rockbridge Seminary, where he serves as an adjunct professor of Spiritual Formation. Ed has earned degrees from Cairn University (B.S. 1971), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M. 1979), and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min. 2007). He has published several articles on the Spiritual Heritage of Litchfield County, Connecticut, and led several tours of sites associated with the Village Revivals that spawned the Second Great Awakening in New England. In his spare time, you are likely to find Ed at the piano or pecking out a blog on his blog page

One thought on “The Call to Follow Jesus: Extraordinary or Ordinary?”

  1. The heroic always appeals to the flesh. Sitting forty years on the back side of the desert where your only “call” is tending a bunch of your father-in-law’s dumb as a doornail sheep never is a great calling card for the faith. As Solomon said, “Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.”
    It is not the you in you, but the God in you that produces the extraordinary.
    Other than reading Ecclesiastes I have never read a better summary of this “fleshly heroic” verses “Godly extraordinary” conflict than by Major Ian Thomas in his book, The Mystery of Godliness. Thomas says, “The moment you realize that only God can make a man godly, you are left with no option but to find God, and to know God, and to let God be God in you and through you, whoever He may be and this will leave you no margin for picking and choosing – for there is only one God, and He is absolute, and He made you expressly for Himself!
    Beware lest even as a Christian, you fall into Satan’s trap! You may have found and come to know God in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving him sincerely as your Redeemer, yet if you do not enter the mystery of godliness and allow God to be in you the origin of His own image, you will seek to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations and conforming to behavior patterns imposed upon you by the particular Christian society that you have chosen…. You will in this way perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the flesh, and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring “Christianity” more than Christ!”

    Liked by 1 person

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