Season 3 - Week 5
“Where does tenacious commitment grow?”
I am pretty suspicious of tenacious commitment. When I think of those totally sold out for their cause, it’s the bloke with the megaphone shouting about the flames of hell or the Avon rep who loves her products just a little too much that come to mind. Or even better it’s an episode of my guilty pleasure, ‘Tattoo fixers’, as yet another misplaced commitment has led to a Jedward monstrosity. And yes… someone actually had the faces of the Irish duo inked onto their body.
It can seem that committed followers of any philosophy or political cause are frankly loopy or at times that their commitment leads them to be too hard on themselves and others. “I am committed to the cause, why aren't you?” As a true lukewarm and cynical Brit, I am not often fully committed to anything, but even I was caught up in the build up to the Brexit vote and deeply saddened by the decision. In the days that followed the vote, I discovered that I found it completely acceptable to be outspoken in my judgement of those who voted to leave. I was committed to staying in and it didn’t make me a very nice person. Surely this cannot be the ‘all in’ commitment that Jesus wants for his followers?
The story of the three men eager to follow Jesus in Luke, often titled ‘the cost of discipleship’ is an awkward one. It isn’t likely to be one we preach on regularly or share with a group of young people who are about to follow God. Jesus makes it clear that with him there can be no ‘but first’, he has got to be our first priority. It’s not that those things are in themselves bad, hugging your mum goodbye isn’t a sin, but they are revealing that Jesus is not our first love. We get a hint of the reluctance to leave our stability and inheritance. That in fact we just haven’t got it. Jesus goes one further with the graphic image, ‘let the dead bury their own dead’, speaking not of corpses burying one another you’ll be relieved to hear, but of spiritual deadness. Put our jobs, our success, our ministries, our cosy families first and it reveals in you a spiritual deadness, says Jesus.
Following Jesus requires the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate commitment and so it’s not going to be an overnight job, there is a journey ahead for each of us. But how do we step out of our spiritual deadness? How do we wake up? In my experience you cannot drum up this ultimate commitment. You can’t even decide ‘From today God is going to come first.’
It is the deep change that comes slowly but surely from the experience of love from a source that is beyond anything we have ever known and that pursues us tenaciously. It is only when we are able to come to terms with Jesus’s absolute tenacious commitment to us, despite being in extreme physical, mental and spiritual torment, that we are able to in turn respond. It is there you are woken and transformed. You can’t guilt trip your conscience or lecture your soul to complete commitment, deciding again that you will start every day with a quiet time or adding yet another accountability partner to your line up. These are short lived spiritual life makeovers and self improvement binges.
You cannot summon up tenacious commitment, but we can choose to prioritise being in the presence of our tenacious pursuer.
The God we meet in Psalm 139 who searches us out, “if I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.” The pages of the Bible are permeated with the seeking God, it is the overarching story of everything. As we seek to be more like Jesus, to walk and talk and love like him, we must spend time with him, study his behaviour closely and ask to be filled with his Spirit again. Even as we talk with those who think differently to us. As we are renewed by his love that knows no end and come to terms with his total commitment to us, from there, and only there, grows our own tenacious commitment.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
As we seek to be more like Jesus, to walk and talk and love like him, we must spend time with him, study his behaviour closely and ask to be filled with his Spirit again. Even as we talk with those who think differently to us. As we are renewed by his love that knows no end and come to terms with his total commitment to us, from there, and only there, grows our own tenacious commitment.
What could you do to pursue this deeper relationship with Jesus?
Just think about that for a moment. What if that mineral was you? In the article, Alex writes about our need for tenacious commitment.
Wikipedia offers some ways that minerals demonstrate their tenacity. Reflect on these - which do you most resemble? How do things (positive or negative) affect your character, behaviour and commitment?
You might like to modify verses 7-10 to include places you go regularly.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go to the office, you are there;
if I meet a young person in Starbucks after school, you are there.
If I spend my day off walking in my favourite park,
if I go to present at the church AGM,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.