Ploughing the Jesus way: Pressing on in faith

Some while ago I was asked to give my Testimony- an account of how I came to faith. I thought about this kind invitation for a while and then politely declined. I have many happy memories and much gratitude to those who initially guided me onto the way of faith but clearly, I`m a very different person from when I was 17(!). It also seems to me that these things do tend to pall after a while and besides, I decided, being `professionally religious` means that I have the privilege of giving my testimony pretty well every week. The emphasis being less on what God has done- but on what he continues to do….
It also occurred to me that the first text of scripture which really lodged in my mind when I was but a callow youth- were those words of Christ in today`s Gospel: He said ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9.62)
Part of me thinks these are words worthy of the best stand-up comedian. Just think for a moment of the agricultural shambles that is likely to result from trying to steer a couple of oxen whilst looking over your shoulder and you`ll see what I mean. I wonder also whether Christ was talking of himself- as he set his face with some determination to go to Jerusalem but at the time I also took this as a warning to my adolescent self- “David, are you going to accept the way of faith with the diligence and commitment it deserves?”
And this, I think is the significant change which so may have to make. It marks the key moment in the testimony of so many. It`s the realisation that faith is not an accident. It`s what someone called `A long obedience in the same direction`; a daily decision to say `Yes` to God and being intentional about the way of Christ.
In other words, in response to God`s overtures, however, we may have perceived them, the way of faith is what Ruth Burrows calls: `a sustained decision to take God as the God of my life`.
Elsewhere in that reading, Jesus seems harsh to those would-be followers who promise to come with him saying: “But first let me bury my father… or say goodbye to those at home…” and so on. And of course these things were important but the point is that these are people who are attempting to fit Christ into their pre-arranged schedule- and this won`t do.
To enter `the Kingdom`, as Christ calls it, involves a radical shift in ones centre of gravity; a reordering of priorities, a building of one`s life on very different but nonetheless firm foundations. No wonder Christ elsewhere calls it a `narrow way`, a great treasure and all the rest. We marvel at the commitment needed. But the Holy Spirit continues to draw us closer, giving us insight into the shakiness and folly of our own house-building and the courage to entrust ourselves ever more into his embrace.
More importantly our God honours our little steps towards him. I always marvel at the way we so easily look askance at those we easily label as `a bit too religious`. Yes, the dangers of religious mania are all too prevalent but don`t we feel a slight degree of envy at someone who has been willing to take Christ at his word? Don`t we wonder at someone who has decided that their `yes` will contain no half-measures?
It`s easy to assume that the elements of a Testimony are `what God has done- and our response` and that`s fair enough. However, much more important I believe are the questions: `What IS God doing- and how am I responding`. Or as Paul put it: `I press on to make all this my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own`. (Philippians 3.12)


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