Do You Love Me?

In John 6, many followers had left Jesus. Not everyone thinks about how a leader feels when followers decide to pull away or pull others away from their leadership. Leaders are called to serve – they sacrifice, they invest, they care. How did Jesus feel when people chose to reject His leadership? Even His twelve were complaining about His teaching. We see in verse 67 Him turning to His closest twelve, asking, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” When they reaffirmed their commitment to Him, He revealed knowing one of the ones HE CHOSE would betray Him. He wasn’t blaming Himself for His choices – men that complained, doubted, criticized, abandoned and even betrayed Him. He put the responsibility on them (Read John 6:60-71). God gives people a free will, and choices they make are often a reflection of their faith, their failures and their flaws. Jesus knew this from the beginning when He made His choice to live and to die for us.

When you say “yes” to the call of God on your life, whatever the size of your church or ministry, you can expect some measure of rejection. Someone somewhere will despise your sacrifice to serve them. Someone will criticize your teaching, doubt your vision, and leave your side. Some will even try to harm you by taking away the influence of your ministry, to pull your followers away from you, to gossip about you in the company. Know that you are in good company – that people did this to Jesus, to His disciples, to the martyrs throughout history, and to the persecuted church today.

Consider Elijah, who considered Himself to feel isolated and alone, even after the great miracle of fire coming down from heaven and defeating Baal. Jezebel was even more aroused to kill him and the prophets. He feared her. He feared the people would follow her. But God spoke to Elijah, He put His fire into Elijah, He caused Elijah to rise up and fulfill his destiny. Today, Elijah is with the Lord, and those days are long past him. We have to have eternity in mind and choose to serve God today. Our light afflictions will soon pass away in the light of His glory. We have to lift our eyes off this temporary, imperfect, fallen world and look to Jesus. Jesus is grateful for you and appreciates your sacrifice. Jesus is supporting the vision God gave you. Jesus is the message you preach. Jesus said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU. I WILL NEVER FORSAKE YOU.” Hebrews 13:5

Leader, please don’t blame yourself for choosing to surround yourself with imperfect people who may complain, criticize, doubt, abandon or even betray you. Don’t beat yourself when even your team members turn your back on you and walk out the door. People make their own choices.

Leader, you aren’t perfect. Maybe you said or did something you shouldn’t have said or done. Maybe you didn’t say or do something you should have said or done. Maybe you were human and maybe you showed frustration or anger. Maybe you made a mistake and everyone saw your failure. Maybe you made a wrong choice and everyone saw your sin.
There was a group that followed Jesus because they loved Him. Peter loved Jesus. When Peter saw Jesus on the shore, He threw off His garment and dove in the water, swimming to get near Him again. Peter preached to crowds of thousands, leading them to Christ. Peter was the spearhead for Christianity in Jerusalem, defying the threats of the religious hierarchy of His own people, proclaiming a kingdom while living under Roman rule. He endured beatings and whippings, imprisonment and death. He kept preaching. He kept healing, asking for signs and wonders. He kept taking authority over the enemy until the day he underwent his own crucifixion. Peter was known among the pioneers who “turned the word upside down.” Yet Peter was also one of the closest to Jesus who denied Him three times. He was the one who attempted to kill a soldier in the garden. He was the one who even after experiencing the wonder of walking on water, to put his eyes on the storm and sink. He was the one who resisted Jesus’ purpose of coming and dying – Jesus saying, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Jesus didn’t give up on Peter. Before He left, Jesus commissioned Peter, but not only with marching orders. He gave Peter motivation when He asked Him, “Peter, do you LOVE ME? Then feed My sheep.”

Leader, don’t compromise your message.
Leader, don’t sell out your vision.
Leader, don’t fear your provision or your future.
Leader, don’t grow weary, don’t quit.

Leader, keep your eyes on Jesus. His is Your Master.Go where He sends you. Obey Him, whether your mission is to large masses or the one homeless person on the street. Your reward isn’t popularity; your reward is fulfilling the purpose of the One you love, the One who died in your place.

Know if they reject you, they are rejecting the Christ that sent you to them. Like the Lord said to encourage Elijah, you are not alone. That spirit of Jezebel is not greater than the God you serve.

The Lord has need of you. He values your sacrifice that know one else knows about. He feels your anguish, your frustration, your despair. He knows your imperfections and failures. Like Peter, He chose you anyway. You don’t have to carry the load and weight of other people’s responsibility.

Get up on the mountain (in the spirit), find yourself in the embrace of the Lord who holds you with nail scarred hands. Allow yourself to be loved by Him again, shedding any guilt or shame of your insufficiency. Experience His grace upon grace upon grace for yourself, for your ministry, for the people you serve. Respond to Him with an open heart of love, hiding nothing, holding nothing back. Be exposed, be vulnerable, and be strengthened by the love you share. Like Peter, see Him, shed your tunic and dive in after Jesus. Life is short. Choose again to die to self and live for Him.

Psalm 126:6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.

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