What are the reasons people follow Jesus? Some follow him for money and fame. Some follow him because they are unhappy with their current life and are told that Jesus will make them happy. Some follow him because the family told them to do it. I followed Jesus because when I was very young God asked me to call on the name of Jesus. He pursued me and I agreed having no idea what the result would be or why I should. God asked me to submit to Jesus. How does one say “no” to God when he is there every single day? What I doubt anyone would ever claim as a reason to follow Jesus is because they want to make their life harder. Yet that is exactly what happens in many ways because God’s agenda and my agenda are not aligned. In Christian parlance there is a phrase “counting the cost” that we see hit Moses when he reluctantly confronted the King of Egypt.
Moses knew that he did not have any authority or leverage to free the Israelites from Egypt. He did not have authority over the Israelites and he did not have authority over the King of Egypt. When God calls him to go and make the outrageous demand to let the Israelites go free he goes reluctantly. The result is a failure that blows up in the face of Moses.
2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2 ESV
So Pharaoh then makes life for the Israelites miserable and as his slaves he has control of the situation. The Israelites complain to Moses that this is his fault and then Moses in turn complains to God.
20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” 22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” Exodus 5:20-23 ESV
Moses encountered God at the burning bush and agreed to follow God into this mess. Nothing about this situation is comfortable for Moses. Nothing about this situation has made Moses happy. Moses had to leave his family behind. Moses left his flocks behind. This endeavor is not making him wealthy. Moses is not even sure if he will make it out of this challenge to the King of Egypt alive. What is God doing? Because at this point in the life of Moses God has not come through. The life of the Israelite slave just went from bad to even worse. As a leader of people, I can’t imagine the grief Moses must be experiencing at this moment because if this fails people will die. So, he lashes out at God “you have not delivered your people at all”.
Has God failed? Why would God not make everything roses and rainbows right at this moment? Has God failed in your life? Why is there still pain? Why do your enemies still hold power? Why do the “good” suffer and the evil triumph?
28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? … 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:28;33 ESV
Following God comes at a cost. It comes at the cost of my ambition, my plans, and my desires. Following God requires everything else to be pushed aside. God is not something that one adds to life to make one happy. God is not a magic mantra that adds blessings to all my desires and all my plans.
The disciples followed Jesus in part because they expected the Messiah to be a triumphant king kicking Rome out of the Hebrew state. When they realized this was not going to happen there was despair like we see here in Moses.
16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:16 ESV
Jerusalem would be a death trap for Jesus. The disciples knew that the Pharisees wanted them dead. Thomas has despaired of all his dreams and hope for blessings from God in this life. God has failed. Jesus has failed.
I am just like Thomas and Moses. How many times have I been angry with God. Why did you bring me down this road only to see my job lost? Why did you bring me down this road only to see friends or family turn on me?
Did Jesus not promise that we would see the glory of God? Does Moses not get a chance to see the glory of God in the most spectacular parting of the Red Sea? Does Thomas, doubting Thomas, not get a chance to touch the nail scared hands of the resurrected Jesus? Do we even now not leave room to believe God and to see his glory when we come to the end of ourselves and our own ability to control a situation?
God brings us to a point where we need him and him alone. God has never failed and God has never abandoned me. Moses could not solve the problem with the King of Egypt. The disciples had to set aside their own ambitions and be made ready for the resurrection and life that God had prepared for them.
When God calls will you follow him into the difficulty? Will you follow him into a life that is unpopular with the world? God will ask hard things of us so that He can be glorified and we can be amazed by him. My life has countless moments of amazement at Christ working out his glory to my encouragement. So be encouraged because when God’s glory is revealed all of the hardship faced in this life will be nothing compared to the joy of the presence of Jesus the King of Kings.