I remember those exhausting Sunday mornings rushing to get my children ready for church and into the car. On the way there, my busy world slowed its pace when I turned onto the serene farm road where the cows and sheep grazed. My kids begged me to roll down the finger-smudged window of my white minivan so they could disturb the peace and yell, “Hi, sheep!” It looked like an illustration in a children’s book, and I imagined Jesus standing tall, holding a staff as the herd followed him into the green pasture.
Sheep are known for getting lost and having no sense of direction. But the Good Shepherd always finds the wandering one and brings it back to the fold. I find comfort in this. When life finds me lost—spiritually or physically—my Savior comes to my rescue! He rescues me by calling me out of the sheep pen of fear so I can follow him into freedom.
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they don’t recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3–6 NIV, emphasis mine)
“Follow me,” Jesus says.
Can you hear the echo of those timeless words? They are words that will change us—if we let them.
Depending on what version of the Bible you read, this invitation to follow Jesus is mentioned over thirteen times. Most of them refer to Jesus encouraging his disciples to learn from him in order to experience the meaning of life.
The word disciple comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning “student” which is derived from the word discere which means “to learn.” In Luke 9:11 Jesus says, “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Following Jesus means I must make the choice to deny my self-centered ways and choose to obey his ways. I am a life-long student of Jesus learning how to become more like him every day. The daily surrender to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life, draws us closer to knowing Jesus in a personal way.
Fear of the unknown holds us back from following God’s plan for our lives.
I became a Christian when I was seven years old, but for many years I allowed the fear of the unknown to keep me from full surrender and obedience. When I finally realized I was stuck in fear even though I was a Christian, I knew I needed to do something about it. I decided to follow Jesus and face my fears. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.
Fear of the unknown keeps us trapped in our own habitual ways of self-protection. We want Jesus to tell us exactly where we are going, but instead Jesus often teaches us to trust in him one step at a time.
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:5-5).” Our salvation is possible only through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the only way to God. Following Jesus means trusting that he is the way, the truth, and the life.
Jesus wants us to follow him so we can come and see who he is for ourselves.
The first disciples to follow Jesus are known in the Bible for immediately leaving their boats when Jesus called them. But did you know that when they left to follow Jesus, they had already learned about him and even spent time with him?
Andrew learned about the coming Messiah through John the Baptist’s preaching. One day, while Andrew and John were talking, Jesus walked by John exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35 NIV) Andrew wanted to know more about Jesus, so he followed him, asking where he was staying.
“Come, and you will see,” Jesus answered. (John 1:39 ESV)
Andrew ended up spending the entire day with Jesus! I’m so curious to know what they talked about that day, but the Bible never gives us those details. I can only imagine how blessed Andrew must have felt to spend such quality time with the Savior of the world. After their time together, Andrew couldn’t wait to bring his brother, Simon Peter, to meet Jesus.
Their excitement spreads from one future disciple to the next. Jesus calls Philip. Then Philip tells Nathanael they have found Jesus of Nazareth!” (v. 44) Nathanael didn’t believe the Messiah would come from a small village like Nazareth.
“Come and see,” Philip says (v. 46).
So Nathanael did. He came up to see if this man was really Jesus, the Messiah. His short encounter with Jesus turned his doubt into faith.
Jesus knows you and sees you.
“Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” Jesus said (v. 47 NIV).
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (v. 48).
After hearing these words, Nathanael professed his belief that Jesus truly was the “Son of God and the King of Israel” (v. 49).
Why did Nathanael’s doubt turn into faith by the fact that Jesus saw him under the fig tree? The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what Nathanael was thinking or praying about underneath the tree. Commentaries suggest Jesus didn’t just see him physically, but something happened underneath that fig tree. Something spiritual. Personal. And I think Nathanael proclaimed Jesus as Lord because Jesus saw right into him. Who he was. His doubts, his fears. Whatever his thoughts were underneath that fig tree, Jesus pinpointed them in such a way that Nathanael felt known.
Don’t we all want to feel known and seen by God? Wouldn’t you want to follow a Savior who knows you, sees you, calls you by name, and leads you gently? A Savior who goes ahead into the unknown—and at the same time, never leaves your side?
Genesis 16:13 says, “You are the God who sees me” (NIV). And John 10:27 says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
A.W. Tozer says:
When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God, we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth. When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.
If Nathanael hadn’t come to see who Jesus was, he would have missed out on his calling to become a disciple.
Jesus wants you to know how much he cares about you.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV, emphasis mine)
Even though the disciples had witnessed the healing power of Jesus performing miracles, they were still unsure about who he was. When a fierce storm hit the Sea of Galilee the disciples woke Jesus up because they thought they were going to drown.
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
“He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, “Quiet! Be Still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus asked them why they were so afraid. I think the word so here is important. A life-threatening storm is sure to produce some natural fear. But the disciples allowed fear to overtake them instead of trusting in the heart of God to help them. They saw Jesus perform miracles for others but weren’t sure he cared enough to help them. How often do we think God will help others but assume our needs aren’t as important to him? Jesus wants us to have faith in his love and care for us. But in order to experience his love, we have to come and see him for ourselves. He will never force us to follow him.
Just like Nathaniel, when we choose to follow Jesus we may be surprised to see he already knows every single fear we struggle with. He’s just waiting for us to make the choice to follow him so he can help us.
Psalm 34 says,
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
No shadow of shame will darken their faces.” (Psalm 34:4–6)
Following Jesus doesn’t mean you won’t fall down. It means you trust the Shepherd to pick you up, hold you close to his heart, and set you back on the path.
Freedom doesn’t mean you’ll never fear again. It means fear doesn’t hold you captive inside the sheep pen.
Part of seeing Jesus means telling God our deepest needs, hurts, doubts, and questions. When we do that, our walls come crumbling down. Then God begins to rebuild a strong tower of faith inside of us—a tower that withstands every dart of fear we can imagine.
He’s extending his hand to us, hoping we’ll place ours in his and trust him to help us become who he created us to be: men and women who walk in the fear of the Lord and live in the freedom of his strength.
It’s as if he’s saying, “Follow me. Come and see.”
“[Insert your name], this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
God knows I’m scared. He knows the way is risky and the road is narrow. I’m afraid of failure and rejection. Afraid of death, hardship, and sorrow. I see all the cliffs I might fall from and every wild animal waiting to pounce on me. Jesus puts his hand on my shoulder and looks right into my soul. He already knows everything I fear. I know I’ll be okay. He walks ahead and leaves a path for me to follow. When anxiety casts me down, like a sheep on its back and unable to stand, he picks me up and carries me close to his heart until I can walk again.
Lord, it’s comforting to know you see everything about me. You know all the fears I stuff way down deep. Even though you know everything about me, you want me to know who you are. I’m learning that starts when I pour out my heart to you and tell you everything that holds me back from fully trusting and following you. You want me to come up and see you for myself. And when I do, I am blown away by your response of love toward me. There is no fear in your love. You do not push me aside. You bid me to test the waters of my faith. First a tap, then a dip, then a wade, until the next thing I know, I’m floating in the deep waters of faith.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with is hand.” —Psalm 37:2324
When you Choose to Follow Jesus you’ll discover:
- He sees you.
- He knows what you are afraid of.
- He cares about you.
- He helps you.
- He gently leads you.
- He teaches you.
- He sanctifies you.
- He helps you take the next step.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:23-24).”
“The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).”
Becoming a Christian means believing in Jesus and choosing to follow him throughout your life. If you would like to follow Jesus and profess your belief in Him, you can pray a simple prayer like the one below.
Prayer to Become a Christian
I have been following my own way for a long time. I confess that I am a sinner and fall short of your glory. I declare you are Lord Jesus and I believe in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. I know nothing I do will save me. I receive the free gift of salvation Jesus paid for by his death on the cross. I choose to follow you Jesus. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit in my life the moment I am saved. Thank you for your holy Word, the Bible that helps me understand who you are and teaches me to follow you. Lord cleanse me from my sins, and help me grow closer to you every day of my life.
In Jesus Name,
If you just received Jesus as your Lord and Savior then you also received the gift of the Holy Spirit (God’s very presence with you every day). I’ve written a free e-book titled, Empowered to help Christians understand how the Holy Spirit helps us face fear, live in freedom, and grow in holiness.