By Mark Mayberry
The poet Yeats once wrote, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…” In his apocalyptic novel, Love In The Ruins, Walker Percy depicts America some years in the future, after it has fallen into decay. Weeds and vines cover the highways. Cars and trucks are deserted for lack of fuel. Buildings sit empty and vacant. Cities and suburbs crumble. People have separated into suspicious, frightened clans. They are warlike and savage. Fear and cynicism rule the day. If this apocalyptic vision ever becomes reality, what would be the cause? The answer is simple: The center did not hold.
I love my country, but fear for its future. Unless society is based upon truth and justice, it is doomed to decay and ultimate destruction. Without a knowledge of God, without respect for one’s neighbor, without concern for the helpless, our future is dark. No culture that has lost its moral footing can long prosper (Psa. 107:33-34; Prov. 14:34).
What is true for society is also true for the individual. Both require a firm foundation. Does your faith have a solid footing? Is your hope grounded upon a rock? Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?
Faulty Reasons For Discipleship
I have seen no evidence that fewer Christians die of cancer than non-believers. I have lost family to this dreaded disease. I have seen brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I loved and respected, suffer with this mysterious affliction. The fact that they belonged to Christ did not protect them from sickness and disease.
Needless to say, I firmly believe in God’s providence. I will not deny or dispute any evidence of restored health. I will rejoice at every recovery from what seems to be hopeless, threatened death. I will continue to pray for those who are sick (2 Tim. 4:19-21; James 5:13-16). I will set no limits on what God may do. Yet, I understand that the people of God are not immune to illness and disease. Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised healing.
I am not convinced that Christians live any longer than other persons. Obviously, following God’s word helps us avoid life-shortening acts of folly. A fruit of wisdom is long life (Prov. 3:13-16). However, the angel of death is no respector of persons. He comes for both the young and the aged. He takes, not only the feeble, but also those in the prime of life. No one is assured of tomorrow (James 4:13-15). Although I will be grateful for every day of grace, I will not follow Christ for the promise of long years.
I see no indication that Christians escape disaster more often than others. Misfortune befalls the faithful and the unfaithful. Calamity does not discriminate between the righteous and the wicked (Luke 13:1-5). Therefore I will not follow Christ for any promised protection from disaster, either man-made or natural. I will not scoff at stories of deliverance. I affirm the providence of God, and will continue to pray for His protection (Psa. 23:1-6). Yet, I recognize that tragedy can befall us all. Therefore, I will not follow Christ to guarantee my physical safety.
I have not observed that Christians are especially favored with material prosperity. Some brethren are quite wealthy, but most are of modest means. Many disciples struggle to make ends meet. Therefore, I will not follow Christ in hope of silver and gold. I fully recognize that God has promised to care for His own (Matt. 6:31-33). Like the Psalmist David, we can be assured that God will never forsake the righteous (Psa. 37:25). Yet, He never promised earthly mansions. In fact, our earthly existence may be difficult and demanding. Thus, I will not follow Christ for material blessings.
Valid Reasons For Discipleship
Why then follow Jesus? Why obey His word when faithfulness often complicates our lives? Why follow Him when discipleship demands diligent service, continual watchfulness and zealous devotion? Why submit to Christ when it means heartache, trials and persecution?
Revelation & Radiance
Why follow Christ? Because in Jesus we behold the face of God. He is God manifested in the flesh (John 1:1-5, 14). To see the Son is to see the Father (John 14:6-9). He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15-18). He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:1-4).
Reconciliation & Redemption
Why follow Christ? Because through His life, death and resurrection, I am reconciled (Col. 1:19-22) and redeemed (1 Pet. 1:17-19). Accordingly, I present my body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). As a living stone, I am made a part of His spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:4–5).
Reason & Reality
Why follow Christ? Because He is the one certain thing in this uncertain world. He is the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16). He provides reason for living (Phil. 1:21-26), and offers hope in the face of death (2 Cor. 5:1-9). Whether my life is damaged or whole, brief or full of years, it matters not. Jesus is all that matters. He is the center that holds.
Why follow Christ? Because His love compels and controls us (2 Cor. 5:10-15). Therefore, will you not be like Him, both in time and eternity (1 John 3:1-3)?
Source: Adapted and revised from a sermon that my uncle John Hutcheson, Jr. preached at the Granny White Church of Christ in Nashville, TN ca. 1980.