Week 13 – BE Flexible Followers!


Follow! follow! I will follow Jesus!
Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on!
Follow! follow! I will follow Jesus!
Everywhere He leads me I will follow on!

As I emerged from the waters of baptism many years ago, the band played this chorus – words that became a theme for my life. 30 years later, this same song resounded as Beth was baptized. Well friends, my resolve to follow Jesus has certainly been tested since then and never more so than over the past few years. But through it all, I am learning that in order to fulfill this heart-felt pledge, we need to BE Flexible Followers!

The pledge Beth made to God whilst at the mission event in New Zealand was not the first time she had committed herself to God and His mission on earth. Two years earlier, at a Youth Alive Rally in the city of Melbourne, in front of a crowd of 10,000 young people, Beth told God that she desired to have a powerful life story that would encourage countless people to come to know Jesus! Bethy to the Max – you did nothing by halves darling girl!!

When Beth came home from making that fresh commitment in New Zealand, she began to make plans, even at her young age, as to how she could go into the world and fulfill that commitment. She had tentative plans to serve on three different mission teams over the course of the coming year – none of which, due to her illness, she was physically able to participate in. Back in 2011 as I was writing this week’s devotional in Heartbreakingly Beautiful, the third trip she had hoped to be part of had just commenced. Many of her close school friends had headed off on their Year 10 Missions Trip to Darwin and then on to Thailand to work in an orphanage there. It was a hard week of grief as I recognized that if things had been different, Beth would be there with the team, cuddling babies and playing with those kids instead of lying in a grave.

In the natural order, things went totally haywire for Beth and her good plans. But in the midst of it all, she made a decision. She learned quickly that she needed to BE Flexible when it came to following Jesus. She reset her agenda every time to match His! She learned to ‘bend with the wind’ of change. Beth yielded her life ambitions as the hurricane hit.  Because of her supple heart, she did not snap or splinter, as brittle branches tend to do. God’s Spirit strengthened her inner being even as her body was knocked about with pain.  Beth continued to follow Jesus wholeheartedly even when she did not understand what all the changes meant.

There was simplicity about her discipleship that I seek to emulate. You see, for Beth it was quite basic… Jesus had called her to a mission and she had responded with a resounding “Yes!” He asked her to BE His witness and to BE ‘salt’ and ‘light’ wherever she was and whatever circumstances she found herself in. Beth took this call very seriously and was an obedient and joyful servant. She left the details to Him. She knew that to love Jesus is to obey Him – and love Him she certainly did!

While she suffered intensely, she also loved intensely. Beth’s flexible attitude enabled Jesus’ Light to shine through her life, into the very dark places she was led.  The women of Africa certainly need the Light of the World – but so do the kids and families in the children’s neurological and cancer wards – places filled with darkness and despair. Jesus called her there unexpectedly and she followed Him. No, it was not an easy path but He was her beloved.

David and I have both had to grieve the loss of the kind of mission we were expecting too. We had signed up to be ‘missionaries’ with the hope of serving Jesus in foreign lands. We thought we were heading in one direction, only to find that we have the same mission, but to a different ‘people group’ than expected. Wycliffe serve people so they can have the Word of God in their ‘heart language’ – the language they think and dream in. We have now learned a new language – the language of the broken hearted. It is to these people He has now called us to serve in various ways. May God grant us all the grace to BE Flexible Followers wherever He leads.

Songs to encourage you:

I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin

Where He Leads Me by Twila Paris

PS: After singing the chorus for years, I have just discovered the verses to the wonderful hymn Follow On by William O. Cushing…

Down in the valley with my Savior I will go. Where the flow’rs are blooming and the sweet waters flow. Everywhere He leads me I will follow, follow on.
Walking in His footsteps till the crown be won.

Follow! follow! I will follow Jesus!
Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on!
Follow! follow! I will follow Jesus!
Everywhere He leads me I will follow on!

Down in the valley with my Savior I will go. Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow. With His hand to lead me I will never, never fear.
Danger cannot fright me if my Lord is near.

Down in the valley, or upon the mountain steep. Close beside my Savior will my soul ever keep.
He will lead me safely in the path that He has trod.
Up to where they gather on the hills of God.