“Follow your heart!” the world cries.
“Follow your dreams!” they insist.
In a culture that encourages self-discovery, self-expression, and defining our own meaning in life, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and illusion that we can best create our own world of our own making.
The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t work for all people. Sure, some can succeed in the world’s eyes by sheer determination and work ethic. But in reality, our hearts are deceptive and our dreams are not always within our reach.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”Jeremiah 17:9, NIV 84
Often what our hearts desire is not what is best for us. And many outcomes in life are simply beyond our control.
Women Who Follow Jesus
Jesus called twelve disciples to follow Him. They had jobs, families, maybe even dreams, but they laid it all down to follow Jesus.
“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”Matthew 4:19-20
We sometimes forget that many others followed Him as well, including women. I often wonder what that looked like. What did they give up to follow Him? Why were they willing to? How did they serve Him?
The Greek word for follow means “to follow; accompany; to follow or be a disciple of a leader’s teaching.”The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance, 1505
The call to follow demands a commitment.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”Matthew 16:24
When some told Jesus they would follow Him but made excuses about putting if off until later, Jesus had this response:
“‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”Luke 9:62
Jesus said we would have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. He told His followers to count the cost before they came (Luke 14:25-35). Many people said they wanted to follow Him because they saw the miracles and benefits. But Jesus warned them that the cost would be high.
The world’s call to forge our own path sounds great compared to the high cost of following Jesus. But when we seek our own way, we will still find obstacles and circumstances over which we have no control. Pain and suffering have no purpose or remedy within our self-made world.
The truth is that we will face suffering in this life either way–the difference is that when we follow Jesus, we have the Prince of Peace in our hearts–the One who has overcome the world and its suffering (John 16:33).
The call to follow demands obedience.
“‘When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.'”John 10:4
If we want to follow Jesus, we have to know His voice through His Word. To follow Jesus means we follow His teaching. We can’t be followers if we are ignorant of what we are following.
“‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.'”John 10:27
We must spend time with Jesus through the Word, not just reading but studying, meditating, and hiding His Word in our hearts. And we must remember that He told His followers that if they loved Him, they would obey Him (John 14:15).
Our culture dictates putting our own desires ahead of anything else so that we can follow our dreams and be the person we want to be. But Christ calls us to lay down our desires to follow Him into a “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20).
As followers of Christ, we seek Him daily through prayer, worship, submission, and obedience to His Word.
The call to follow demands service.
“‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.'”John 12:26
When I read about the women who followed Jesus, I often wonder what they did. How did they serve Him?
“In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”Mark 15:41
I think about Martha preparing meals and Mary who sat at His feet (Luke 10:38-42). I think they give us such an amazing example of the broad context of service.
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases…. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”Luke 8:1-3
Don’t you love these little snapshots into the lives of these women?
We don’t know exactly what they did, but we can piece together that they followed Jesus and His disciples, they were under His teaching, they ministered to His needs, and they supported His ministry financially.
They were an active part of the ministry as followers of Christ. They made a decision to leave behind their own plans and dreams to follow Him. They gave up their time, their own will and way, to follow the Master.
They ministered to others and met financial needs of the ministry because they believed in the One who saved them and delivered them from sin. Their focus changed from seeking their own desires to meeting the needs of the Savior.
After Jesus ascended to the Father, these women were there with the other disciples, waiting for the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised.
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”Acts 1:14
Their decision to follow Jesus didn’t diminish who they were. The call to follow Him was a call to self-sacrifice, but it was the answer to the problem we all have:
We can’t in our own sinful nature become who we think we want to be. Our hearts will lead us astray; our dreams will often be unattainable at worst and disappointing at best.
The call to follow brings life.
But the call to follow Jesus is the call to be the women God created us to be, to follow a higher calling of serving the Creator of the universe, to fulfill His plans for us, and to live the life that brings glory to Him.
It’s the call to serve something outside ourselves, something better than the best version of ourselves, Someone who holds the world in His hands and knows the plans He has for us.
And they are plans for our ultimate good–a good that doesn’t expire when we breathe our last, but an eternity that far outweighs any advantage we think we have in living for self.
Why would we give up the dreams of our own making to follow Christ? I can’t answer for anyone else. I don’t know what was in the hearts of the women who followed Him on this earth. All I know is what He did for me.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”1 John 4:9-10
God validated my worth when He sent His Son to die for me. His sacrifice made a way for me to know the Creator of the universe and live my life with a higher purpose. Because of Him, I will live forever, and how I live on this earth matters in a way that is beyond me.
Following Jesus isn’t easy. Sometimes the cost seems so high and the way too difficult. The cost was high and the way difficult for Him, too. But He endured it because of His love for you and me.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2
The joy before Him was our redemption–that’s why He endured such suffering. But on the other side of that cross was victory when He rose on the third day, defeating sin, hell, and the grave. In Him, we have that victory, too!
Because of His great love for you, Jesus has given His life that you might know Him. Spend time at His feet, abide in His Word, and fellowship with others who are following Him. The rewards far outweigh the cost.
Because nothing else we give our lives to can make an eternal difference in our world than being women who follow Jesus.