Spend time with a follower of the Christ and you'll unmistakeably notice something. Spend time with someone who pretends to follow Christ and you'll never see it. Real Christ followers follow Christ. Like trackers who know the signs to look for when tracking someone, Christ-followers find in the Word of Life the tell-tale indicators to the path that Christ has already trod. These followers follow even when it's tiring, even when it's difficult, even when it's discouraging. After a while you notice that this kind of Christ-following produces the unmistakeable Christ-likeness that only comes from walking in the blood-stained footsteps of the Master.
Although a righteous person may fall seven times, he gets up again,
but the wicked will be brought down by calamity.
Proverbs 24:16 The NET Bible
For the last few years, Kim and I have done a major hike over four to six days. Each of these have hikes have been thoroughly taxing for me. We've had to hike over mountains, through swamps, across rivers and creeks, and around fallen trees and over boulders. Our last attempted over-night hike was abandoned when the snow blizzard meant we were traipsing through a foot of snow into an area of visibility of no more than 50 metres. Hiking can be tough going. There are times when the best I could do is to just keep going.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
I'm perhaps ashamed to say that on each of our longer hikes I have wanted to quit about halfway through. But halfway is no place to stop! You're halfway back or halfway to go - either way you've got the same distance to go. And that's what I've noticed about real followers of Christ: they just keep going. This is called faithfulness. The kind of faithfulness that followers of Christ develop along the path of Life is a fruitful one. That is, the path is made all the better because they are travelling on it. Faithful followers of Christ don't just journey on the path, they help others journeying on the path as well. They don't travel empty. On the hikes that Kim and I have done, we have to start our adventure with fully-loaded back-packs. (A fully loaded means at least 25 kilograms.) On the journey to follow Christ there are times when you have to share your resources with other travellers like I did on our last Freycinet walk when I gave a butane cylinder to a fellow traveller.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
By checking the map of Scripture we can look ahead to what lies before us on our journey to follow Christ. We see Christ loving and serving people. We see people letting Him down and eventually betraying Him. We see Him in the upper room of the night He was betrayed and He is washing the dung-stained feet of His proud disciples (who happened to be arguing over which of them was the greatest!). We see Him laying His life down after enduring phenomenal hardship. The closer we get to Christ the steeper the journey seems to become. But the ascent to follow Christ closely is only as acute as our resistence to follow Him. When Peter was reluctant to follow, the path of life was steep and cause him to become distant.
¶ Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance.
I look at many in our church and say to myself - These are faithful followers. They keep turning up. They keep serving. They keep learning. They keep helping. They stay humble. They often struggle to say 'No' and wonder if they should say it more often than they do, but they follow a Christ who says, "Yes. Come, follow Me."
If you are one of these faithful ones who keep following, you will have already encountered the disappointment that another follower, John Bunyan in his classic book, Pilgrim's Progress, describes. It wasn't the obstacle, the devilish attacks, the horrid conditions, that Pilgrim found most disappointing. It was when he was momentarily strengthened by a fellow traveller who joined him on the Path of Life but soon dropped back, took a break, retreated, or went on side-tracks. Following Christ on this Path is like being a burning coal. The flame of the coal always burns brighter when it is accompanied with other coals!
You will find the road map to the Path of Life in the Word of Life, the Bible.
The Pathmaker and Giver of Life calls His children to be followers not consumers. The New Testament uses the word: disciple to describe a follower of Christ. This word means learner. This is how how you can detect a true follower of Christ. Not only are their feet spattered with Someone else's blood, they are learning to keep going, to keep serving, to keep helping - to keep following their beloved Lord and Saviour.