Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first sixteen verses of the eleventh chapter. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man I Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).
When you come to the eleventh chapter of the fist epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find an incredibly powerful statement made by the apostle Paul. What’s more is that it’s not as much a statement as it is an invitation—and not just an invitation but one which I can’t help but wonder if many among us in the church can say today. If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the eleventh chapter you will find the apostle Paul inviting the Corinthian saints to be followers of him even as He was also a follower of Christ. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for there is incredible truth that is found at the very heart and center of this passage of Scripture. Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul not only acknowledged that he was a followers of and followed Jesus Christ but also invited the Corinthian saints to be followers of him as he followed and walked with Christ. As if this weren’t enough this wouldn’t be the first time the apostle Paul invited the Corinthian saints to follow and be followers of him. In the sixteenth verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Paul would provide the first invitation unto them to follow him. In the sixteenth verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Paul writes and beseeches them to be followers of him. In this particular verse he doesn’t include the mention of his walking with and following Christ, however, we do find him inviting the Corinthian saints to be followers of him. Oh there is something incredibly unique and powerful about this invitation given by the apostle Paul for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul walking with and following the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In all reality the more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding the apostle Paul walking with and following Christ. The apostle Paul perhaps would and could not have made such a statement and comment if he did not walk with and follow the person of Jesus the Christ. For the apostle Paul to make such a statement is something we must needs recognize and understand for it not only serves as an invitation given unto the Corinthian saints but it also serves as a testament to his walking with and following the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul was making a truly wonderful and powerful statement unto the Corinthian saints that he was indeed one who walked with and followed the person of the Lord Jesus Christ even as the invitation was given unto him. OH it is true the apostle Paul never heard the words from Jesus—at least not from what we find in any place within Scripture—to follow Him, however, we know from reading the New Testament book of Acts that the apostle Paul committed and resolved himself to walking with and following the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. How absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with our own life and whether or not it can be said that we are those who not only walk with but also those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ. There were those in the gospels who emphatically declared they would follow Jesus wherever He went and the question must needs be asked whether or not we as the disciples of Christ and we as the followers of Jesus Christ are such who not only walk with but also follow Him.
I have to admit there is something incredibly unique and powerful about the words which are found within this passage of Scripture for within it we are indeed brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the walk the apostle Paul had with the person of Jesus the Christ. In the fourth chapter of this first epistle the apostle Paul invited the Corinthian saints to be followers of him while in the eleventh chapter of this same epistle the apostle Paul invited them to not only be followers of him but also declared that he himself followed Jesus the Christ and Lord. What an incredibly powerful witness and testimony this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful reality of the apostle Paul who did indeed and did in fact make the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow the person of Jesus the Christ. The apostle Paul made a wonderful and powerful decision when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus to walk with and follow him. What’s more is when the apostle Paul made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ that decision would be permanent and he would never look back. Once the apostle Paul made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ there was absolutely nothing that would or could change his mind about it. The apostle Paul never had any relapses or times of questioning when he wondered if he had made the right decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the much affliction, the many persecutions, the much sufferings, and the many trials and tribulations he faced they would not be enough to cause the apostle Paul to walk away from his faith in Jesus of Nazareth nor convinced him to cease walking with and following him.
Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture is whether or not we havre the same purpose and the same resolve within our hearts and souls to be such who are willing to walk with and follow Jesus no matter the cost to us. Are we ready, willing and able to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ regardless of what it requires and what it demands of us? If we are being honest with ourselves—especially when reading the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus as well as the book of Acts and the epistles—we must acknowledge that walking with and following Jesus does not guarantee that we can and will have a life of ease, comfort, rest and peace. There are those who would like to think and believe that when they make the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus they are such who will experience quietness, rest, peace and even a life that is entirely and altogether blessed with material and physical prosperity. There are very few who have made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus who did so fully expecting the possibility of suffering with Him and suffering for Him. There are very few among us within our churches who are those who made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ expecting a life of ease, comfort, peace, rest, blessing, prosperity and the like. I would dare say there are and there have been very few who have made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and have done so fully expecting to suffer with Him.
It is with all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the ninth, twenty-second and twenty-sixth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. Within these passages of Scripture we find the account of the apostle Paul traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus and encountering the person of the Lord Jesus Christ on the way. From the moment the apostle Paul encountered the person of the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus he would never be the same as he would be radically altered, changed and transformed. The apostle Paul would be thrown and fall from his horse and would see a light that was brighter than the noonday sun. Not only did the apostle Paul encounter a light, a glory and presence that was brighter than the noonday sun but the apostle Paul would also hear the voice of the risen and exalted Jesus Christ speak unto Him. There on the road to Damascus the apostle Paul would experience the person of Jesus Christ who would appear to him as he traveled along the way to carry out a plan to bind and bring back to commit to prison any whom he found were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we find, however, is the apostle Paul would indeed experience the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ there on the road to Damascus and as a direct result of this encounter he would rise from that place blind and unable to see needing to be led by the hand into the city where he would stay and abide in the house of one named Judas. For three days the apostle Paul would neither eat nor drink and would give himself to prayer and fasting in the sight and presence of the living God. Oh this is something we must needs consider as we seek to understand the invitation given unto the Corinthian saints to be followers of him even as he himself followed Christ. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the ninth chapter:
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to t he earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou. Me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall bear told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink” (Acts 9:1-9).
“And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority form the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the sayngogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:10-22).
Consider now the words which are found in the twenty-second chapter concerning the words which the apostle Paul spoke in Jerusalem unto the Jews from Judaea, Galilee, Jerusalem and from throughout Europe and Asia. What’s more is I would dare say we must needs begin with the final verses which are found in the twenty-first chapter of this same New Testament book to get the background for the words which the apostle Paul would indeed speak unto the Jews which were present there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Here now are the words which are found in the final verses of the twenty-first chapter of the book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the twenty-second chapter of this same New Testament book:
“And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and b reckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying” (Acts 21:37-40).
“Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicias, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doeth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom I also received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I feel unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am =Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damscus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:1-21).
Consider now the words which are found in the twenty-sixth chapter of this New Testament book as the apostle Paul would stand before Agrippa the king, Festus and others who had gathered together to hear and listen to him speak. Having been brought forth from the midst of the city of Jerusalem for the violence and conspiracy of the Jews to kill him the apostle Paul would be brought unto the city of Caesarea where he would indeed be kept that he might give testimony and witness before and unto Agrippa the king, Festus and others who would hear of his story and would listen to the words which he himself would speak unto t hem. Here now are the following words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture beginning with the first and opening verse of the chapter:
“And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth. And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him” (Acts 25:23-27).
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself” (Acts 26:1-).
“I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and being exceedingly made against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, LordA? Nd he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles”(Acts 26:2-23).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the tremendous significance of what is found within these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ appearing unto the apostle Paul while he was traveling on the road from Jerusalem unto Damascus. The apostle Paul would indeed journey with other men having obtained authority from the chief priests to bring back bound all those whom he found calling upon the name of the Lord and committing them into prison in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Along the way, however, the Lord Jesus Christ would appear unto him and would stop him dead in his tracks while also causing him to fall from the horse upon which he was riding. There on the road to Damascus the Lord Jesus would not only call Saul by name but would also ask him why he was persecuting Him. When Saul asked who he was the Lord Jesus Christ would respond by declaring unto him that He was Jesus whom he was persecuting. The Lord Jesus would then give commandment unto Saul to enter into Damascus where it would be told him what he ought to do. Unable to see the apostle Paul would be led by the hands of the men who were with him until they came unto the house of Judas where Saul would abide. Having neither eaten nor drunk during those three days the apostle Paul would pray and fast and seek the face of the Lord. During that time he would see a vision of a man by the name of Ananias coming and laying his hand on him that he might receive his sight—and not only receive his sight but also receive the Spirit. Upon the entry of Ananias this disciple of the Lord would lay his hand on Saul and immediately scales fell from his eyes and he not only received sight but also received the Spirit and was baptized that same hour.
Although there is absolutely no mention the Lord Jesus specifically using the words “Follow me” when speaking unto Saul on the road to Damascus nor even in Damascus while he was praying and when Ananias came unto him and laid his hand on him we must nonetheless conclude that Saul was given a wonderful and powerful invitation to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul experienced the risen and exalted Jesus on the road to Damascus and from that moment the life of the apostle Paul would never be the same. From that moment the apostle Paul’s life would be dramatically, radically and entirely changed and transformed in the sight and presence of the living God as the apostle Paul would indeed be called to follow and serve the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He would indeed appear unto Saul while he journeyed from Jerusalem unto Damascus. There is something truly astonishing and powerful about the words presented in these three chapters found in the New Testament book of Acts for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul seeing and experiencing the person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and from that moment making the conscious and deliberate decision to walk with and follow Him. What we must needs recognize and understand is that from the time the apostle Paul received sight, received the Holy Spirit and was baptized in the midst of the city of Damascus until the time he would come to the end of his life and the race which was set before him he would not turn back nor would he turn to the right or to the left. For the apostle Paul there was absolutely no room for turning back and turning his back on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If there is one thing that so inspires and amazes me about the life of the apostle Paul it’s that from the time he received sight, and from the time he received the Spirit and from the time he was baptized—not only would he preach Jesus as the Christ and Lord who was raised from death to life but he would also continue to faithfully walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul would indeed not turn back nor would he walk away from the Lord but would continue to walk with and follow Him whithersoever he was led. The apostle Paul would indeed continue walking with and following the person of the Lord Jesus Christ for the rest of his days and he would not dream of nor would he even think of abandoning his walk and relationship with the living and eternal God. Oh how absolutely wonderful and incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul and his decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If you begin reading with and from the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and come to the final epistle written by the apostle Paul unto his spiritual son in the faith Timothy you will find that he was one who deliberately and intentionally walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that not only did he deliberately and intentionally walk with and follow Jesus but for him this was a race that he ran and would run in such a way that he would receive and obtain the prize which was set before him. This language of running the race is found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints as well as the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Philippian saints and in the second epistle written unto Timothy. Oh consider if you will the following words which a re found in each of these epistles and how for the apostle Paul he would indeed run the race that was before him and would indeed fight the good fight of faith. I would also invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews as well:
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainty: so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it unto subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doublets, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, where to we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule” (Philippians 3:7-16).
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:17-21).
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. NO man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life: that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandmen that laboured must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised form the dead according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:1-13).
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof thy ministers. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:1-8).
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily best us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him e endured the cross despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
There is a great need to recognize and understand the words which are found within these passages of Scripture for within them we are brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul making the conscious and deliberate decision to not only walk with but also follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is when you read these words which are found in the epistle written unto the Philippian saints, the words which are found in the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well as the second epistle written unto Timothy you will find the apostle Paul emphatically declared that he was indeed one who not only ran the race which was set before him but he also fought the good fight of faith. For the apostle Paul walking with and following the Lord Jesus was indeed a race which he ran—and not only a race which he ran but a race which he needed much endurance that he might run it well. The apostle Paul recognized that he was indeed running a marathon and not a sprint and that he desperately needed endurance that he might indeed run the race well. What’s more is that not only was it required the apostle Paul running the race well but it was also required the apostle Paul finish the race. Oh this is incredibly necessary for us to recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the journey which the apostle Paul had with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The more I think about and consider this particular truth the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostle Paul walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul invited the Corinthian saints as well as the PHilippian saints to be followers—indeed imitators—of him as he himself also walked with and followed the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we must needs recognize and understand is that for the apostle Paul this journey with Christ was more than simply walking with and following Him for it was also a race he was to run and a fight which he was to engage in. The apostle Paul emphatically declared unto Timothy that he had not only fought the good fight of faith but he had also finished the race and the course which was set before him. Oh what makes this truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it is can it be said of you that you have run and are running this race which is set before you in such a way that you might receive the prize which is set before you. Are you running the race which is set before you that you might receive the prize and the crown which is set before you? With this being said I must needs declare that there is a great need for endurance and stamina as you attempt to run the race which is set before you for this race is not for the faint of heart. Not only this but there is absolutely no room nor is there any place for men and women to start running this race and then quit part way through it. If you have made the decision to run this race which is set before you then tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—why would you seek to abandon the race and stop running?
With this being said I feel the need to declare unto you who might be reading these words that I get the struggle that surrounds the race. I get that there are times when you feel tired, when you feel fatigued, when you feel weary and where you feel as though you can’t go on. I am absolutely convinced that just as men and women train for an entire year to be able to run a marathon so also must we as the saints of God train our bodies that we might run this race which is set before us. Consider that moment and that time when you first made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and how long you have been walking with and following Him. Are you at a point and place within your life right now where you have begun to become tired, fatigued, weary and heavy laden? Are there things which are holding you back and dragging you down? Notice the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews admonished their audience to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily best them that they might run with patience the race that was set before them. Oh would it shock and surprise you if I told you that there are two main things that can and will most certainly cause fatigue within your life as you attempt to run this race which is set before you? The first is every weight while the second is that sin which does so easily beset you for both can and will cause you to be weighed down and experience fatigue, tiredness, weariness and even the overwhelming urge to quit and cease running. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews recognized and understood that although we were and have been called to run the race which is set before us it is possible for us to lose the patience within us because of the weight which is upon our shoulders and because of the sin which does so easily beset us.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that while it might indeed be tempting to quit while we are running the race there is absolutely no room to quit. I recognize that it is possible to experience the waning of our patience and to experience tiredness and fatigue while running the race before us. I fully understand that there are indeed times within our lives when we experience a great sense of fatigue, tiredness and weariness while we are running this race. There are times when we feel as though we are running this race with a tremendous weight and burden upon our shoulders and back. There are indeed times when we will be tempted to abandon the race because of how incredibly difficult it has and might become. There are men and women among us throughout the years who have indeed quit and cease running the race which was before them simply because of fatigue and because they were tired and weary. Oh if there is one thing the enemy and adversary can and will do to bring you to the point and place where you quit and give up it’s to wear you down through continual burdens, through continual stresses and through continual trials, afflictions, troubles, suffering, persecutions and the like. What’s more is there is something we must needs recognize and understand that’s how the warfare the enemy and adversary wages against us is one of guerrilla warfare and a war of attrition. If the enemy can continue bombarding you with trials, with troubles, with tribulations, with suffering, with afflictions, with suffering and persecution he might be able to wear you down and bring you to the place where you can and will abandon the race altogether and cease running it. The enemy and adversary can and will seek to throw everything he can at and against you that he might bring you to the place where he can cause you to give up and quit—something you were never intended on doing.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives which were written by the apostle Matthew, the beloved physician and John Mark. Within these gospels we are indeed brought face to face with the incredible truth that we have indeed been called to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more we have indeed been called to deny ourselves and take up our cross that we might indeed walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to this we must needs recognize and understand that we have been brought face to face with the truth that there is absolutely no need to give up nor quit once we have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that there have been and there will continue to be temptations whereby we might be tempted to give up and quit the race which is before us we must needs acknowledge and understand that we have not been called to be those who quit and give up after and once we have made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemy and adversary can and will seek to throw absolutely everything he can against us that he might trip us up and/or that he might cause us to abandon the race that is set before us and yet the truth of the matter is that we must not be those who lose heart, those who faint and/or those who give up. There is absolutely no room in the Christian life for men and women who can and will give up because of the afflictions, the troubles, the trials, the sufferings, the persecutions and that which we face within this life. What’s more is that Jesus recognized and understood this when he spoke of how no man puts his hand to the plow and then looks back for no man who looks back is not worthy of Him nor the kingdom which is before them. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the gospel narratives and accounts of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and. Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciples that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me b enforce men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).
“Think now that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (matthew 16:21-28).
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things hav eI kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus aid unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (matthew 19:16-22).
“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62).
“And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet fit for the dung hill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the words which Jesus said unto His disciples, unto the multitudes and unto those who desired to follow Him. Jesus emphatically declared unto those who wanted to follow Him that if they truly desired to follow Him they needed to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Moreover Jesus also declared unto those who would follow Him that anyone who loved mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or house, or anything else in this natural life more than Him was not worthy of Him. What makes this all the more astonishing when you take the time to think of it is when you read the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke for Jesus would take this a step further and declare that no man who puts his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. Jesus would also declare that anyone who confessed Him before men in this life would themselves be confessed before His Father and all His holy angels in heaven while conversely those who denied Him before men in this life would be denied in heaven. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of what is considered “fit” for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus clearly declared that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of heaven. This language is incredibly distinct and powerful when you take the time to think about it for it brings us face to face with the fact that we as the saints of God and we who profess to be disciples of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord must recognize that we have been called to run the race which has been set before us as well as fighting the good fight which we find ourselves in. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of whether or not we are those who are truly denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following after Christ.
In order to add even more weight and credence to this I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words found in the Old Testament book of Second Kings. It is in the Old Testament book of Second Kings we find the narrative of Elijah preparing to depart from this world and being taken from it by the living and eternal God. In the opening chapters of the Old Testament book of Second Kings we find Elijah knowing that his time was approaching for him to depart from this world and to be taken by God unto heaven and in those final hours—perhaps even during those final days—Elijah needed to visit certain places. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the Old Testament book you will find Elijah needing to go to Beth-el, to Jericho and unto Jordan. In each of these instances he would instruct Elisha who had walked with and followed him to remain and abide in the place where they previously had been. What we find in this passage of Scripture is Elisha being unwilling to leave and depart from Elijah’s side and to go with him wherever he went. Elisha knew and understood that which he was called to and knew that he needed to remain and abide with Elijah. Elisha was unwilling to depart from Elijah and leave his side and wherever Elijah went he would go—regardless of where that was. What we find in the book of Second Kings is Elisha making a conscious and deliberate decision to remain and abide with Elisha for even he knew that the time was coming for his master to be taken from him.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to this narrative for although we are not preparing for our master to depart from us in this natural life we are preparing for our Lord and Master to return. With this being said we must needs understand that when He does return and come again it is to be understood that we who profess to be His disciples must be found faithful. What’s more is that we must not only be found faithful but we must also be found watching and praying. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of what we have been called to in this life. There is a great need for us to make a conscious and deliberate decision to remain faithful in our pursuit of walking with and following Christ and must needs be those who aren’t about to be deterred, dissuaded, nor distracted from walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. We as those who call upon the name of the Lord and we who are those who walk with and follow Jesus of Nazareth must be those who know and recognize the voice of the Shepherd and will ignore all other voices of thieves, of murderers, of hirelings and those who would seek to destroy and distract us as the sheep who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a great need for us as the people of God to be those who recognize and pay close attention to the incredible reality that Jesus is indeed returning and coming again. No man know the day nor the hour when He will return and come again and yet with the mere knowledge and understanding that He is indeed returning we must recognize and understand that we cannot allow ourselves to get tied and weighed down with the sin which so easily besets us and the weight which we were never meant to carry. Jesus himself declared that no man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven and it is based on this reality we must needs understand the narrative of Elijah and Elisha—both when Elisha first began walking with and following Elijah and when Elijah was taking from him and escorted in a chariot of fire into heaven.
It is with this in mind I leave you with the words and account of Elijah and Elisha—both when Elijah first cast his mantle upon him indicating the call to walk with and follow him and when Elijah was taken up from this earth and ushered into heaven by a golden chariot. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us as the disciples of Jesus to not only recognize the mantle that has been cast upon us by and through the person of the Holy Spirit but we must also recognize that which we have been called to—namely ensure that we are faithfully walking with and following the person of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord when He returns and comes again. There is a great need for us as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to be those who are found watching, faithful and ready when He does indeed and does in fact return and come again. I leave you with the following passages of Scripture that you might indeed be found watching and waiting for that day when the Lord Jesus does indeed come back and return again for His saints and those who call upon His name:
“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him” (1 Kings 19:19-21).
“And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el. And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take way thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, KNowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Tho hast asked a hard thing: neverhtless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send. And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. And when they came again to him, (For he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?” (2 Kings 2:1-18).