When you realize you’ve lost your way, whom do you trust to lead you in the right direction?
- In difficult times, who do you trust? How have they earned your trust?
- Our current behavior is a better predictor of our destination than our intentions. Describe how you’ve experienced this in your life or observed it in the lives of others.
- Everyone has doubts. Have you ever felt that your doubts disqualified you from a relationship with God? Explain.
- How would you define “purpose”?
- Could trusting God with your destination make a tangible difference in your life? Why or why not?
- What about following Jesus has proven hard for you or strikes you as too difficult to accept?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
Here’s something that we have all said in relationship to a geographical location, something every single one of us have said on multiple occasions. “I would have never gotten here without you!” We’ve all said this. Somebody said, “Just meet me at the top of my neighborhood.” And my neighborhood is so confusing. “Just meet me there and follow.” And so then you follow and twist and turn and left and right, left and right, and you get there and you get out of the car, and say, “Wow, thanks so much for meeting me, at the top of your neighborhood, because I would have never gotten here without you.”
At some point along the way, we have all said this to somebody. We’ve all followed someone we trusted when we did not know how to get to where we needed to go, or where we wanted to go. And they said at some point in the conversation, “Look. Look. Look. I’ll meet you, just follow me. Just follow me. Just follow me.” And if you were convinced they knew how to get to where you wanted to be or where you needed to be. And if you were convinced this was someone you could actually trust, you followed them. Now, we’re gonna come back to this idea in just a minute.
This entire series on The Beginners Guide to Predicting Your Future, is built around a single premise, a single principle, a single prediction, actually. And that’s simply this: That direction, not intention, determines our destination. That direction, not intention, determines our destination.
In week one, we talked about that direction determines destination, and we all know this when it comes to driving, we all know this when it comes to hiking, we all know this when it comes to biking. But when it comes to living, oftentimes, we miss the connection, that our direction financially determines where we end up financially. Or the direction you take in your marriage, in your relationships and dating, determines where you end up relationally. but it’s direction not intention. And this was the trick, and this was the thing we talked about last week.
That oftentimes, there is a disconnect between what we intend to do, who we intend to become, where we intend to be, and where we actually end up, because intention does not determine our destination. Direction determines destination.
Now, today, what we’re gonna focus on is this word. We’re gonna focus on direction. And specifically… And I know this is a big ask, and I know this is a bit bold, and I hope you’ll stay dialed in and tuned in, when I tell you what I want to do today, but specifically, I want to invite those of you who aren’t already, to become followers of Jesus Christ. I would like for you to surrender your entire life and everything about your entire life to Jesus, and to decide to follow Jesus. To surrender to His direction and trust Him with your destination. And by destination, I’m not talking about the afterlife. I’m talking about in this life, as we’re gonna see for just a few minutes, but my challenge today is to ask all of you who haven’t already to make the decision, because it’s your decision, to decide to follow Jesus with your entire life.
Now, I realize that’s a bold ask, because I don’t know you and I don’t know your circumstances, I don’t know your church background, your lack of church background, your dad was a pastor and you kinda flaked out, or your mom led the choir and flaked out, or you just don’t have any religious background at all, or you don’t have any faith at all, or God didn’t answer your prayer as a teenager and you haven’t been back since. I don’t know your story, but I do know this. That in the first century, Jesus invited people just like us to trust Him and to follow Him. And the reason I wanna make this bold invitation in the 21st century, is because I have heard so many people say in relationship to Jesus, “I would have never gotten here without you!” I was here, now I’m where I need to be. Things have changed, things have changed relationally, things have changed in my marriage, things have changed in my sense of purpose and destiny, in just about every area of my life. And they don’t use these words, but essentially, they’re saying, “You know what, apart from deciding to follow Jesus, I would not be where I am today, I would not have gotten here,” wherever here is, and here is always a better place, “apart from Jesus.”
That Jesus made our lives better and Jesus made us better at life. And that’s the promise, and that’s the promise that Jesus had made 2,000 years ago and continues to make today. So, I’m not shy about saying to you, I wanna ask you to consider surrendering your life to Jesus and following Jesus with every component of your life.
Now, to help you make that decision, and hopefully motivate and inspire you to at least consider it, because maybe it’s a long shot as you sit here today, maybe not, is I wanna tell you a story from the life of Jesus’ most famous followers, his first century followers. This is found in the Gospel of John. John, by the way, is an eyewitness to all this stuff. John outlived Peter and Paul and all the other famous guys, and John wrote the Gospel of John, a few letters. John, this is super important. If you’re not a Christian, necessarily, you should know this. John is the person that introduced to the world, the idea that God is love. If you believe God is love, and you’re not really a religious person, you just think there’s a God, and God is love, you should know that is a distinctly and uniquely Christian idea.
And John did not say God is love, because life was lovely. John said God is love, because he had stared love in the face. He had watched love die, and he had eaten breakfast with love after he was resurrected from the dead. And John concluded that Jesus was God in a bod. And if Jesus was God in a body, and Jesus was love, then God must be love. John brings us this story and said, basically, here’s what happened. Here’s some context. Jesus had just done a 5K. He had fed 5,000 people all by Himself, that was his 5K. And then He cooled down by walking across a portion of the Sea of Galilee. He’s tired, but he’s cooling down. His disciples, we’re gonna call them the apostles, because of the way the stories go, the 12 apostles, they are amazed. And the people are impressed. And the people that he fed, they wanna make Jesus the king, because that’s what kings did in the first century, and in ancient times, kings always provided food for people, Whoever provided the most bread, they got the most followers.
So they find out where Jesus went, and so, they can’t do the shortcut, so they make their way around that little peninsula, around the edge of the Sea of Galilee. And they find Jesus, and when they find Jesus, they want something. They’re like us. They want something and they want something now, but they realize you just can’t walk up to Jesus and say, “Hey, do me a favor. Give me something.” Now, we do when we pray. We say, “Dear Heavenly Father,” get the small talk out of the way.” Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Now… ” [laughter] But when you’re in the presence of Jesus, you don’t do that.
Here’s how the story unfolds. When they found him (Jesus) on the other side of the lake, ’cause he had walked and they had to walk around, they asked him. And again, they want something, but first a little small talk. Apparently, there’s a representative of these people. The representative walks up, there’s this crowd of people. Everywhere Jesus went, there’s a crowd. And he walks up and he says, “Rabbi.” Now, this is because they just think he’s a rabbi. He’s not, He’s a powerful rabbi, but He’s rabbi. “Rabbi, hey! When did you get here?” [laughter] Small talk. And they don’t care about it. This is like… But you just can’t come right out and say, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” So, Jesus knows the heart of every one, and so He smiles and maybe He sighs. And He’s just, “Look. Let’s just cut through all the small talk. You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I perform but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. I know why you’re here. Let’s just get to it. You wanna be fed again. You want some more bread. You weren’t impressed or moved by the signs.” Now, this is very important for when you read the New Testament.
Jesus did not perform random miracles just to show off. He didn’t perform random miracles like, “Okay, today, everybody whose name starts with R, we’re gonna heal you today. Tomorrow, we’ll have all the T… ” No. His miracles were signs. Now, what does a sign do? A sign points to something. Every single one of Jesus’ miracles were a sign that pointed to something, something big, something new. The kingdom of God was coming and had come to earth. This was bigger than the temple, He said. This is bigger than the Sabbath. This is bigger than the law. This is bigger than anything that has ever happened before. And so He’s pointing people toward this big great thing. This wasn’t about food. This wasn’t about immediate, this was about ultimate.
Then they asked him, “Hey, listen. You know, we saw that thing you did, and you prayed and the little boy handed you the food. We couldn’t really see through the crowd what that was about. But then your disciples, they were out handing out food and it multiplied,” And, “Hey, would you teach us to do that?” Then they ask him, “What must we do, to do the works that God requires? Because that was amazing. Can you teach us to do some of those tricks?” And Jesus answered, “The work of… ” This is so powerful. In fact, this may be why you’re watching or listening, or why you’re here. Jesus answered, “The work of God is this:” Ready. “The work of God is to believe in the one he has sent.” It’s that simple. It’s that profound. That the work of God is gonna… Tease this out just a minute. The work of God, the thing that God wants you to do, the starting point, the beginning point, step one, baby steps, you know what’s the first thing, is to simply believe, and He’s talking about Himself, believe in the one that he, God, has sent.
In other words, Jesus says, “Okay. Look, I know you were impressed by the sign, by the miracle, and I’m glad you’re here, but here’s the point of the sign. Here’s the point of the miracle. Here’s what all that points to. Here’s what all of this points to. Trust me. Follow me. Trust me. Follow me. Trust me, follow me.” “I,” Jesus will say, “I know how to get you there. And I know where there is. And I know who you need to be, what you need to be, and where you need to be. Would you trust me and would you follow me?” Now, this was not working, and this was not what they came for, so they changed tactics. They said, “Oh,” so another guy pushes through the crowd, apparently, and he says, “Okay, hey, you mentioned signs that, that was a sign. Jesus, what sign will you then give us that we may see it, the sign, and then believe you ’cause you said we’re supposed to… Somehow, the work of God is to believe, and we wanna believe. Don’t you wanna believe? Don’t you wanna believe? Give me a B! We all wanna [laughter] believe, but in order for us to believe, I think we need another sign. Don’t we all need another sign? What sign will you do?”
Pause. And then, the same guy, apparently, is like, “Hey, I just thought of one. I mean, this just popped in my head. I didn’t know, think about this before. This just popped in my head. Jesus, you know the story of our ancestors, Moses and “let my people go” and then they get to the Promised Land, doesn’t work out. Then they wander around the wilderness all those years. And during those wandering years, you remember how God fed them? You remember that story, Jesus? Our ancestors, if you’ll remember, at the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: He, God, gave them bread from heaven to eat. You remember how God provided bread from heaven and they all ate? Remember that one? That was a good one. [laughter] Do that one again. And everybody’s like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s already a precedence for that. We’ve seen you multiply it. Make…
Jesus said to them, He’s so patient, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father.” It’s like, come on. That was a sign pointing to something else as well. And God, not Moses, provided for bread for those people. And my Father in Heaven wants to provide for you as well. He continues, “For the bread of God,” the bread that comes from God, that’s what that means. “The bread that comes from God, is the bread that comes down from heaven. You’re right about the whole manna thing, and gives life to the world.” And now Jesus is trying to get them to see. “Look, when I talk about bread, I’m not talking about physical bread. That comes and goes. And plus, you’ve had that before. I’m talking about something bigger. I’ve come to offer you life. I’ve come to offer you something that will sustain you beyond filling your stomach with something. The bread was just a sign, it was pointing to something bigger and greater, and newer.”
Well, finally they just can’t follow, they just can’t do it. So somebody else pushes their way through the crowd, and they say, “Sir,” he went from Rabbi to Sir. It’s like, “Our patience is running out. Sir, always give us this bread. We want,” come on, let’s just get right to, “we want an endless supply. Spoil us, make it rain bread. Make our lives better so that we don’t have to bake it, we don’t have to grow it, we don’t have to harvest it, that we would have bread the rest of our life. Just give it to us.” Jesus, again, He’s so patient. He says, “Look, look, look. I understand, but here’s what I want you to understand, I am the Bread of Life. You’ve eaten bread that will sustain you in life, but I, Me, My body, you are looking at the bread of life. The signs all point to who I am, and I have come for you because I know how to get you to where you need to be.
Now, Jesus stays on this track and the sermon goes on and on and on, you can read it for yourself in John 6, and it gets a little odd, He says, “I’m the bread of life. You need to eat My body.” They’re like, “No, we’re not gonna do that, we’re not gonna eat Your body.” And again Jesus is like, “No, no, not literally. And you need to drink My blood.” “We are really not gonna drink it.” “Not literally.” And they just can’t follow. Besides, they didn’t come for a sermon anyway. And so the whole thing, just the whole day, just goes out. It’s not His best sermon. Okay. I don’t wanna criticize Jesus’ sermons being a preacher, but it just…
Nobody understood it until later. And do you know why we understand it later? Because it was a sign pointing to later. But in the moment it’s so confusing, I think it’s so confusing, at some point, Peter and John, probably wanted to come up and put their arm around Jesus, and say to the crowd, “Hey, we’re gonna take a quick break, [laughter] we’re gonna be right back in a minute. Matthew’s gonna come share a few tax gatherer jokes. Come tell us some tax collector jokes, and we’re gonna be right back,” and pulled Jesus off of the side and say, “Jesus. I mean, come on, you were losing the crowd. We don’t even know what You’re talking about. So go back out there and do something on prayer, or tell the story about the guy that got beat up, they love that one, except if You would leave the Samaritan part out, make a Jewish person the hero, that would go over a lot better. [laughter] Or the one about the sons or the coins, any… The mountains, the blessed… Anything would be better than this. We are losing the crowd.” But they didn’t do that.
And John tells us, ’cause he was there, on hearing this. Many of his disciples, not the 12, the disciples in the Book of John, are always the big crowd of people that follow Jesus. On this day, on hearing this, many of his disciples said, “This is too hard, this is so harsh,” is what that word means. “Who can accept it?”, or literally, “Who can listen to this? Who can even stay and hear this?” And aware that his disciples, His followers, the crowd, were grumbling about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?” Does this kind of trip you up? Is what I’m saying, is it causing you to have second thoughts about me?” And the text says, John tells us, “From this time on, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” And they won’t follow Him for the same reason that some of you left Him, He will not give them what they want, when they want it, because He had come for something much bigger than that.
So when you were a senior in high school, you prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and your cousin passed away anyway, your father passed away anyway, and you thought, “I’m done.” You went to church and they made all these promises, and the Pastor flaked out and did something just weird, and you’re like, “I’m just done with this. This isn’t working out the way I envisioned it would work out.” I understand that. Do you know who else understands that? Your Heavenly Father understands that. Jesus faced a crowd just like us, “We want it our way now.” And Jesus would say to them, and He would say to us, “I understand that, but I have come to give you something so much bigger. I’ve come to give you life that is truly life.” They wanted something temporary and perishable, something that wouldn’t last, something that would satisfy their stomachs for a few hours. Jesus is offering something so much better. Something that was less filling, but ultimately more fulfilling.
So back to the story. So the Twelve, they’re listening to Jesus, watching the crowd, listening to the Jesus, watching the crowd, listening to the Jesus, watching the crowd, kinda looking at each other like, “This is not going well,” and they’re worried. Because as I told you before, if they lose the crowd, they lose their protection. The reason it was so hard to arrest Jesus, He was always surrounded by people. It’s why they arrested Jesus at night, it’s why Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus at night.
The disciples, the Twelve, they knew, “If we lose the crowd, we lose our protection from the temple henchmen.
So Jesus pauses His sermon. He was watching the crowd sort of begin to disband, looks at the Twelve and He knows they would like to disband as well. They’d like to stand, stretch, step back, “That’s good, Jesus. Let’s write that down, John. That’s good. Matthew, you getting this? Yeah, that’s good.”, and disappeared into the crowd. And Jesus turns to the Twelve, and they know He knows the heart of men and women. And He says, “You,” talking about the Twelve, “You don’t want to leave too, do you?” And they were so busted. [laughter] But you don’t lie to the Son of Man, you don’t lie to someone who gave sight to the blind. “You don’t wanna leave too, do you? I know this is hard, but really? You guys just want to just ’cause this is hard and this is confusing? You just wanna give up everything you’ve heard and seen and just leave? You don’t wanna leave too, do you?”
And in this moment, this is the reason I hope that you’re here or watching or listening, in this moment, Peter sees what everybody else missed, and Peter sees what perhaps you’ve missed, and Peter sees what I hope you see today. Simon Peter, looking around, feeling that same fear, and he is no courageous person, we know, he’s just average. Simon Peter sighs, and he says, “Lord, yes, we would like to go. But I’ve done the math and I’ve rehearsed our recent past. To whom would we go? To whom would we go? We don’t know how to get there, and it doesn’t seem like You’re leading us there, whatever there is, but I know we don’t know how to get there, and we’ve never met anybody else that knows how to get us there. And so, to walk away from You doesn’t necessarily take us to a better destination, right? Yeah, it’s about to get difficult, but moving in a different direction does not guarantee a better destination.”
“So yeah, we’re scared. Yeah, suddenly we were rock stars before yesterday afternoon. Yesterday afternoon was amazing. They wanted to make you king, and if you’re king, do you realize what that means for us? Today is a different day. But seriously, to whom would we go? You’re the only one that knows how to get us there, and the reason I say that is because You have something no one else has. You have the words of eternal life. You have us a given bigger picture of the world. You’ve given us a different picture of God. You have reframed our little itty bitty nothing lives within the context of eternity. And something is risen up in us and I don’t think we can go back to normal. And we’ve seen enough to know, we have come to believe and we’ve come to know that you that are the Holy One of God. Jesus, before You, there was just fishing, wifing, and children, and illness, and then die. And you have invited us in to something with purpose and meaning. To whom shall we go? To whom shall we go?”
My friends, that is the question I want you to ask, because if you refuse to follow Jesus, you’re following something, or you’re following someone. And they may not have any better idea than you do of how to get to where you need to be. Now, when I read this passage or teach this passage, my mind, 100% of the time goes back to a moment in my life where I almost hit the unfollow button when it came to Jesus. And I know this is gonna sound strange. I went to Georgia State University, majored in Journalism. Christianity had always served me well, and so when I graduated from college, I decided to go into ministry, I never really felt called to ministry, I just decided to volunteer, and that’s what I told my dad. I said, “Do you have to be called or can you just volunteer?” He said, “I think you can volunteer.” I said, “I’d like to volunteer.”
It’s a big dramatic moment You know. Wooo. I go to Dallas, I sign up, I get my classes, I write my check, then I go back to my efficiency apartment, the class starts the next day. If you ever lived in an efficiency apartment, you can sit in one spot and do everything all at the same time.
And I’m overwhelmed with doubt, and I am overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety of, “Oh no, what am I about to do?” Okay. Christianity has been good for me. It kept me out of trouble, all my friends were at church, I love church. Okay, that’s one thing, to grow up in Sunday school. My dad taught me to memorize David’s speech to Goliath whenever I’d face temptation, so I memorized that speech. The great thing about it, by the time you finished quoting the speech, you forgot what you’re even being tempted about, it’s awesome. So Christianity had been great for me, it had served me, and now I’m considering giving my whole life to this thing, like as a job and a career? And admit that I would have to find a woman who wanted to marry a preacher. Suddenly my options went oooh, ya know, right?
My kids would be preacher’s kids, there was no way around it, and I was a preacher’s kid, and I knew what that meant. So I know this wasn’t gonna be an easy road.
Look up here, when you decide to follow Jesus, there is no guarantee other than Jesus will lead you and that He knows better where you need to be than you know. It’s not the promise of a happy ending, it’s the promise of a promising and purposeful life and ending. And as I sat there with all these doubts and all this, “Oh my goodness, I’m about to commit my career to a God I’ve never seen, and a book no one even believes is true. Andy really, your one shot at life? But I just remember sort of coming to my senses and going, “Okay, well if not Him, who? You’re gonna follow something, you’re gonna follow someone.” Besides, I’d seen too much. I knew too much. I had seen God’s faithfulness in my life, I’d seen God’s faithfulness in other people’s lives, and you know what else I’d seen? Something all of you have seen, I’d seen life without God. I’d seen life without the context of eternity. And I’d seen rich people and not so rich people live lives without God. And I had enough sense of where that ended up on the inside of a person and the outside, to know that’s not it.
And so I decided, to pick up my fear and my doubt and follow. To whom shall I go? To whom shall I go? Isn’t it comforting to know that the men who knew Jesus personally wrestled like we do? Isn’t it comforting to know that John didn’t leave this out. “This really makes us look bad guys, I’m not gonna include this in the account.” Do you know why it’s in there? Because it happened, and everybody has concerns, and everybody has doubts. But blessed are those and blessed are you when we come to the conclusion, “If not Jesus, who? If not Jesus, what? To whom shall I go?”
I’m so glad I picked up my fear and my doubt and followed. And you will be glad too. He will make your life better, and He will make you better at life, and He offers eternal life. Now, do you know what eternal life is? Eternal life isn’t after you die you go somewhere. Eternal life is living this life in light of eternity. Suddenly the book ends are kicked off, suddenly, the end is not the end, suddenly, the end is within the context of eternity. Suddenly, money is different, relationships are different, sacrifice is different. What looks like a sacrifice without eternity within the context of eternity, doesn’t look like a sacrifice anymore, it looks like an investment. Everything looks different, everything is different, when you’re invited into a life that’s lived within the context of eternity. And Jesus offers eternal life, a quality of life. Life that is life, right now for those who will receive it.
Following Jesus is not easy. But so what? Life isn’t always easy. Following Jesus is better, because he knows where he’s going, and he knows how to get you there, and he has words of eternal life and nobody else is offering you that. You say, “Well, why should I believe?” An offer of eternal life is real simple, because don’t miss this, because Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Peter, James, and Paul, all told us in the first century that Jesus rose from the dead to punctuate His claim, and to validate His offer to you. So, if you haven’t already, would you please choose to follow Jesus today? Would you be willing to surrender to His direction, and would you be willing to trust Him with your destination? In marriage, with your money, with your time, with your relationships, with your academics, with every single part of your life, would you be willing to surrender to say unconditionally, “Yes, because I believe and I trust You.” Would you be willing to today, today, because it’s your decision to trust Jesus with your entire life. You will be glad that you did.