Updated: Mar 31
By The Reverend Chuck Branch
Ready to pounce at any sudden movement, she is always under my feet, as if in a stare down with my toes! Whether I walk to the garage, the backyard, or the den, she follows me everywhere. If I go behind closed doors, she patiently waits outside the door, although she may sometimes whine to see me. Ellie Mae is our energetic Goldendoodle, and she loves being with our family. She’s the first pet that we’ve ever had that truly enjoys riding in the car, and she perks up when she hears the phrase, let’s take a ride. No matter where we go, she always wants to follow!
From my earliest days, I was taught to follow the rules and my teachers’ directions. I remember following the line leader at school, and I tried, often unsuccessfully, to stay within the lines when I colored. Following directions supposedly led to rewards. In those early years, I was more likely to follow my parents’ movements and heed their words of direction. As I matured from toddlerhood to a tween-ager and then from teenager to young adult, I relished more and more independence, and I was more apt to question and push the boundaries.
Following takes on a drastically different meaning as we morph into critically thinking adults, often questioning why persons or ideas should be followed. Following is a choice. We follow some ideas or people for the wrong reasons or because of false promises. To follow something or someone rather than depending upon our selves can elicit feelings of weakness or vulnerability.
Some minimize the Bible as a book for weak people who can’t make it by their whits. In today’s tech-savvy culture, we’ve become far more comfortable asking SIRI or ALEXA for directions than talking to God. Then, some individuals argue that they follow no one. They feel as if they are self-made and independent, and they need nothing from anyone. The truth is that we all follow some creed, cause, or purpose. Following Jesus can be difficult because He calls us to live by a standard that many in today’s world find out-of-sync with their beliefs.
Imagine how eighty-year-old Moses must have felt when God called him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses had enjoyed a life of privilege and ease in Egypt until he fled for his life as an outcast. When we find Moses in Exodus 3, he had been herding sheep for decades. Then the trajectory of Moses’ life dramatically changed after he encountered God at the burning bush. Exodus 3:4 shows when God called Moses by name from the burning bush, and Moses responded, “Here I am.” Moses questioned how he could go before Pharaoh to ask for the release of the Israelites, but God reassured him that He would be with him (Exodus 3:12). Wherever God calls us, we can rest assured that He will be there with us. When we respond to God’s call and follow Him, He can take us from the lowliest of places to the highest heights or conversely to accomplish His purposes.
Following Christ requires trusting His plan as he often allows roadblocks, detours, and seemingly pointless dead-ends. Last summer, Misty and I chaperoned a high school mission trip. After turning off the last main road of our journey, we encountered hill after rolling hill. Many farmhouses, cow pastures, silos, and fields of corn and tobacco dotted our journey, and there was little-to-no commercialization along the rollercoaster roads.
Highway numbers 834, 670, and 122 are not likely familiar roads to most of you, but they were vital in helping us reach our destination. God may use unlikely paths to help us reach destinations in life. Regardless of the paths we travel in life, God has a great plan and purpose for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). From their travels, Moses and the Israelites found that there were roads of which they were unaware.
As they journeyed out of Egypt, Moses and the children of Israel reached an impasse at the Red Sea. If I had found myself in this situation, I would have assumed that I had missed a road sign or that the navigation system was terribly out of sync! God, in His omniscience, chose the long route according to Exodus 13:17, and this was precisely the place where He wanted the Israelites. Exodus 13:21 reveals that Moses and the Israelites had obediently followed the Lord as He led with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, yet they found themselves in a pickle. Obedience to God does not eliminate obstacles. To the contrary, in John 16:33, Jesus assured us that we would face problems, but we can have peace knowing that He overcame the world!
My childhood home is located in a cul de sac, so vehicles must enter and exit in the same manner since the street, of course, does not continue through the neighbors’ yards. Although the street dead-ends, this has never been a problem since the street entrance has never been obstructed. The Israelite’s dead-end predicament became much more complicated when Pharaoh and his army arrived, leaving them with no obvious place to turn. While we see dead-ends and obstacles, God sees faith-building possibilities if we will follow Him.
In their time of desperation, the Israelites cried out to God, and they blamed Moses for bringing them out of Egypt. While Moses outwardly seemed sure of God’s deliverance as he encouraged the people to stand still, God questioned why Moses was crying out to Him, and He gave directions to move forward (Exodus 14:15). This is another situation where God’s directions seem incomprehensible! There appeared to be no physical route forward, yet God gave directions to advance.
Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways. From Hebrews 11:29, we learn that God didn’t just provide a slipshod path through the Red Sea; Moses and the Israelites walked through the Red Sea on dry ground! Moses and the Israelites likely never predicted how God would deliver them from their predicament. God can do whatever He wishes regardless of our dilemmas. God can do far more in and through our lives than we can ever imagine, according to Ephesians 3:20. No matter how many roadblocks, detours, and dead-ends we encounter, following in the steps of Christ is of paramount importance (1 Peter 2:21). “As for God, his way is perfect...” (Psalm 18:30a).
Following Jesus can be uncomfortable, but God has not called believers to vegetate and enjoy the view. There are people to be served and a saving message of Jesus’ love to be shared. Recently, as we prepared for bedtime, Ellie Mae would not budge from her cozy, napping position on the den floor. Nothing my wife said motivated her to move, but when I came into the room, she slowly got up. Ellie has been through this routine before, and she knows that I will get my way, even if I have to pick her up. Even with the promise of a dog treat, she was sluggish to pull herself up. You and I can also become content with the status quo and refuse to allow anything to jolt us from our comfort zones. In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Hopefully, we will never get too comfortable in our position to step out in faith to follow the Lord’s leading.
With the passing of years and the accumulation of more education, I continue to grow in my realization of how little I know. As I have endured my share of roadblocks, detours, and dead-ends while following Christ, I readily acknowledge the pain and disheartenment when God closes doors, and things do not go according to my plans. Yes, there are tears, questions, and confusion during these times, but God remains in control. When Joshua became the leader of the Israelites, God promised to be with him just as He had been with Moses (Joshua 1:5). Joshua had witnessed how God had been with Moses and the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt, so this must have been a great comfort to be reminded of God’s presence. When I lack direction, I am thankful that I can trust and follow the Lord’s directions (Proverbs 3:5–6).
As a musician sits behind a keyboard, he or she cannot inadvertently choose just any of the eighty-eight notes and expect beautiful music. My role as a husband, father, pastor, and teacher is to study my music (2 Timothy 2:15) and work hard to play the right notes (Nehemiah 6:9). I am a vessel, and I need God’s wisdom and strength as I wait upon the Lord’s leading and follow Him (Isaiah 40:31). Wherever He leads, I will follow.