Being 8,123.8 miles from home (approximately because I had to use LaFayette as opposed to Villanow and Arusha as opposed to Kisongo) has had me thinking a lot about what the Bible says about discipleship and the Kingdom.
In Matthew 4:18 we have where Jesus told Simon and Peter to “follow me”: Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Do you notice something?
Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
In Luke’s account in chapter 5 vs 11 this happens: And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
They left everything and followed Him.
We have dear friends here in Tanzania, Tiffany and Daniel Gaines, who did just that three years ago. They sold everything and followed him. They left their friends. They left their family. And as a result, they have missed out on a lot by the world’s standards.
When they moved to Tanzania their children were 1,2, and 11. Tiffany had no one to share in the “baby experience” with. She had a 1 and 2 year old in a 3rd world country where on Sundays church service are a minimum of four hours. Every week church services were a struggle. Their family missed out on her little boys learning to walk and talk and all the fun things families share in. It was hard for her not to long for the cute American outfits and simple, easy, fun American baby raising.
Their preteen daughter has missed out on having friends her age. That is really difficult. Maturity levels for the Tanzanians are very different than Americans. And culturally it has been difficult for her to relate to others her age and for them to understand her. She has longed for Lads to Leaders, CYC, and youth devos.
On a superficial level (Yep, all of us have that level.) they miss fast food, having a dryer and a dishwasher, restaurants, shopping, and clean water.
When I asked Tiffany about their challenges she said this, “Sometimes I selfishly miss the fact that before coming I could live my easy life and pretend that 3rd world countries and their evangelism was something we prayed for on Sundays but didn’t think much about. I miss “not knowing” the people here and the troubles and poverty they endure.”
This year they return home to America. At forty, the Gaines will be starting all over. What a daunting and terrifying challenge. They literally have nothing. They sold it all when they came here three years ago.
And yet, if they had to do it all over again here is what Tiffany said, “If I could do it over…. I would. Because we are TOLD to Go. All of us. And we should. All of us. Leaving everything behind and taking small children and a teen to Africa was by far the hardest thing I ever did. But, if you don’t give up something, it’s not a sacrifice. Jesus gave all. I can do this.”
He never said following Him would be easy. But it will be worth it.
There is a story in 2 Samuel chapter 24 about David. David sinned against God and recognized this. When he goes to the altar to make things right with God he asks to buy the threshing floor to offer as a sacrifice. The man instead offers to give to the king (David) whatever he would like to sacrifice but here is David’s reply,
“No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”
When Justin and I lived in America we tried to put the Kingdom first. It was hard for many reasons. But, when he was a coach it was nearly impossible. Why? Because we live in a culture where ball comes first. Practice comes first. Games come first. I’m here to tell you that if you never missed a Church service due to ball practice, good for you. You can pat yourself on the back. But, if you do not study your Bible AS MUCH AS you practice ball… the Kingdom is not coming first. If you do not tell others about salvation and Jesus Christ AS MUCH AS you give a play by play of your weekly games… the Kingdom is not coming first.
Go ahead, roll your eyes. But I have been there. I have walked it, talked it, and argued it (you know me).
Following Jesus means denying all else.
Luke chapter 9 starting in verse 57 says this, “As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And 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.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Many people have said to Justin and I, “how can you leave when your grandmother may die while you are gone”? How? Because Jesus answered this for us.
“Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
This week my Nana died. But, the Kingdom comes first.
Jesus may seem harsh, but what we should see is his love. He puts the Kingdom first. He knows that the only way for us to be together for eternity is by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Justin’s grandmother is very sick. We love her dearly.
But, it is not a sacrifice if it costs you nothing.
My sisters and I are very close. I would like to be home helping Samantha plan her wedding. Last week, I found out Ty isn’t coming here for the summer, but she is staying home to help Mom and Dad on the farm and help Samantha with her wedding. Did I like this news? Of course not.
But, it is not a sacrifice if it costs you nothing.
Last month Jane Goodall was less than 30 mins from us giving a speech. Many of you may care less. My inner geek was having heart palpitations. But it was the same day as one of our children’s seminars. And the Gospel comes first.
The Kingdom comes first.
It is not a sacrifice if it costs you nothing.
Now, before all of you start treating me like a saint on facebook. That is not my intention. I don’t tell you these things so you can pat my back. I tell you this so that we can relate to one another. I understand. I understand that it is hard. I understand that you have to give something up that you really want. Christianity was never meant to be easy.
Most people think our lives here are all sunshine and rainbows. They honestly think we hold babies all day and our lives are a constant VBS. We love it here. But, it is filled with challenges. Every day presents some kind of crazy ordeal. Justin works 50-60 hour weeks on the farm and it is back breaking work. Everything is done by hand here. Our vehicles get stuck somewhere on a weekly basis. We are in the rainy season so we are constantly muddy and wet as we go from Bible study to Bible study.
If you knew you had to walk through the mud and rain to church… would you still go?
Last week I said, “I REALLY wish we didn’t have to get soaked and nasty just to go to church!”
Very Christian-like. *Shame*
I want you to see that we struggle too and we understand. We aren’t super Christians. But, we also see the end goal. We understand that the Kingdom comes first. Do you understand that?
Here is my question to you today: What is following Him costing you?
This is what it looks like when the Kingdom comes first:
When the Kingdom comes first…. Family comes second.
When the Kingdom comes first…. Ball practice comes second.
When the Kingdom comes first…. Comfort and security come second.
When the Kingdom comes first…. Work comes second.
When the Kingdom comes first…. Retirement comes second.
When the Kingdom comes first…. Happiness comes second.
When the Kingdom comes first…. Education comes second. (Yep, I just said that.)
When the Kingdom comes first….I am second.
Anna, Tiffany Gaines, and our wonderful friend and sister in Christ Jane Massawe.