The LEAD conferences held yearly at DUMC are familiar among Malaysian Christian circles. LEAD is based on the premise that Christ-reflecting leadership flows from Christian discipleship. Christians lead in the way of Christ, only as they follow Christ in their way of life.
This year’s LEAD conference explored this journey from Following Jesus, to Loving God and Our Brethren, to Being Holy, and finally to Influencing Others and Leading the World. Officiating the opening of the event, Pr Daniel Ho, the senior pastor at DUMC outlined the three goals of LEAD 2015: to produces disciples who 1.) lead like Jesus, with integrity, clarity, and courage; 2.) live like Jesus, in simplicity, humility, and holiness, and 3.) to love like Jesus, unconditionally and sacrificially.
How does one become such a disciple? The very basic foundation for such a disciple is learning to listen to God, for only by truly knowing Him, can we be like Christ. In Mark 1:17, Jesus gave His first disciples the imperative ‘Come, follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men”. This imperative still applies to us today. What does it take to follow Jesus and how do we do so? In the first plenary session, Pr Tan-Chi taught about this area of discipleship.
‘There is this timeless question,‘ he said, opening the session, ‘How many of you think leaders are born? Now, how many think leaders are made? The truth is leaders are both born and made.’ There are certain principles in following Jesus and they can all be found in Luke 5:1-11, where Jesus called His first disciples.
The first of these is that Jesus always takes the initiative. As the chapter opens, Jesus was surrounded by many people who had come to hear Him teach. Seeing two empty boats at the water’s edge, Jesus stepped into one of them and directed Simon Peter, its owner to push it out to the water, where he could continue to teach. Not long after, He directed Simon to bring the boat out where it is deeper and to let down his nets. Now, Simon the fishermen had just spent the whole night working without catching anything. Yet, he obeyed and listened to Jesus.
‘We cannot follow Jesus if we don’t listen to Him,’ Pr Tan-Chi said. ‘I wonder how many of us today would survive without our cellphones. We have a society that is constantly distracted. As a rule, we need to pay attention to the Lord. I cannot stress enough the importance of this’
‘God does not give us further instructions until we obey His first instruction. You see Jesus first directed Simon to go out into the waters. After Simon had obeyed, Jesus gave him further instructions, go deeper and let down the nets. Imagine if we were Simon, a fisherman for much of our life, and we had worked the whole night without catching a single thing. Some people would have probably told Jesus, “Look, you’re a carpenter. If you taught us about carpentry we would know to listen to you because of your knowledge and expertise. But we are fishermen and you’re not and you don’t understand.”
‘There’ll be times when we don’t feel like following God’s instructions, but very often the follow-on comes from our obedience to those instructions. If we follow our feelings, we will go nowhere. But in verse 5, Simon simply said “If you say so, I will do as you say” and he obeyed. And then something remarkable happened.’
The Bible tells us in verse 5:6-7 that the nets became so full that they started to tear. A shout from Simon brought help and soon both boats became so full that they were on the verge of sinking.
‘We‘ll never know what Jesus can do if we’re not following Him. How does a Christian life become boring? It becomes boring when it starts to stagnate. There is no further revelation without obedience. Imagine what Simon and the others would have missed.’ Our own knowledge can set self-limits on ourselves, Pr Tan-chi shared. We can allow ourselves to be controlled by past experiences and hurts and by our own understanding.
Realizing what had just happened, Simon fell on his knees before Jesus. ‘One of the greatest blessings that we can have is the ability to see ourselves as Jesus sees us,’ communicated Pr Tan-Chi. ‘As we become more intimate with God, we are less quick to judge others. We recognize our brokenness without God. Follow Jesus and He’ll transform us. We’ll encounter the supernatural workings of God which will in turn enable us to help others.’
He imparted that more Bible study will not bring more insight if there is no obedience. Obeying the first instructions that God gives us will bring further instructions that will help us to grow in our knowledge. Our faith grows step by step and it becomes easier for us to follow Him. In the same way, the key in helping others to grow is by focusing on helping them take baby steps in obeying and following Jesus.
Knowing Jesus is heart knowledge. It is experiential and there is no short-cut. It results in radical transformation. ‘Notice that the disciples left everything behind in following Jesus – including the fishes!’ Pr Tan-Chi remarked (Luke 5:11).
Following Jesus Does Not Mean We’ll Not Encounter Problems
Sharing from another passage in Matthew 14:22-36, Pr Tan-Chi communicated about the realities of discipleship. ‘Following Jesus does not mean we’ll not encounter problems,’ he said. ‘In fact, it may mean that we may be about to face more storms.’
In the passage, Jesus had gone alone into the hills to pray while the disciples were struggling in a boat in the middle of the lake, fighting the heavy waves of a storm. Notice that Jesus waited until the 3rd watch (somewhere around 3 o’clock in the morning in today’s understanding) before He walked across the lake to the disciples.
Pr Tan-Chi got across that we need to understand the storms that we go through. Many people end up questioning God, but the fact is while God is sometimes early, He is never late. He is always on time and while sometimes we may feel God has forsaken us, He never abandons us.
‘Following Jesus sometimes stretches our faith but I want you to take note of Peter’s response,’ he said. Peter asked the Lord to command him to walk on water. ‘Peter recognized the importance of not acting without Jesus’ command. Do not walk on water without God’s command.’
Following Jesus, we need to fix our eyes on Him and so long as Peter was focused on the Lord, he walked on water. ‘Don’t focus on the people around us,’ Pr Tan-Chi advised. ‘If we lose our focus on Jesus, we’ll stumble. No one is perfect and sooner or later, everyone around us will disappoint us at some point of our lives.’
As soon as Peter began to sink, Christ immediately reached out to rescue him (Matthew 14:31). There are issues of faith involved here; Jesus has a deep concern on the growth of our faith. ‘Many years from this incident, Peter would be able to tell his children, “I once walked with Jesus on water.” And you know what the other disciples would be able to tell their children? “I once saw Peter walk with Jesus on water”‘ he passed across. Following Jesus may mean getting out of the boat where things are scary and threatening and where our faith is stretched.
When Jesus and Peter had climbed into the boat, the winds ceased. For the first time, the disciples finally worshipped Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 14:33). Following Christ results in a life of worship.
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– Jason Law