THE INCREASE: Who Are You Following – Steven Souza

Baltimore, Maryland - 6/30/2017 -Camden Yards: Rays Steven Souza during a game vs the Orioles. (Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison/CC License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

We’re all walking in a certain direction in life. The question is, what are you walking toward? Or maybe more importantly, who are you following? Are you following the world or are you following Jesus?

What we fill our minds with is extremely important in determining the direction we walk in life. If I’m watching things on the internet or television that I shouldn’t be—divulging in activities that satisfy my flesh—I’m will start to conform to the pattern of the world. The more I engage in wrongful activities, the more I will try to justify those behaviors and follow others who do the same. But when I surround myself with people who point me toward Christ and seek out God’s will by the instruction of His Word, I can feed my soul with good things—things of God. This is the process of sanctification that Christ calls us to when we choose to walk with Him.

Sanctification is the movement of growing closer to God. When we choose to participate in things of the Lord, living in the freedom and joy that He offers, the Spirit of God becomes more evident in our lives. But choosing to live lives set apart for God is not always easy. It’s often easier to fall prey to the temptations of the world around us.

If you get one paper cut, it might not hurt too much and you can probably choose to turn a blind eye to it, but when that one paper cut leads to a thousand paper cuts, it will really hurt and might even lead to death. In the same way, we need to be careful not to let small sins creep into our lives and turn into life-draining habits.

What choices are you consistently saying yes to?

When you do choose to set yourself apart as a follower of Christ, you make yourself a target. You will be laughed at. You will be criticized. You will be made fun of. But Scripture says that we are to take joy in this! These are the times we should be filled with the most hope and peace in Christ because He actually promised that those who walk with Him in obedience will be persecuted!

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” —Matthew 5:11-12

If Jesus Himself warned us of persecution, why should be taken aback when we face it?

We need to be on the alert so we can endure. That’s the hardest part about this: to endure. We have a choice to say yes to the things of the world and no to Jesus, or no to the temporary things and yes to things eternal.

People will notice when you say no. They will also wonder why you say no. A lot of people know where I stand with my faith; it’s the consistency of my behavior and choices that brings attention to it. In no way am I perfect, but people also notice when I mess up and then own up to it. When I take responsibility for something I’ve done wrong, ask forgiveness from others, and then move in the right direction, people notice. This is the kind of authentic, real, and attainable faith that we need to show others. None of us are perfect, but if we walk in the Spirit and aim to bring glory to God in our moments of strength and weakness, we can be a light for the Gospel.

When I say no to indulging the things of the flesh, I’m not miserable or frustrated. No, I find a greater joy and peace in knowing that instead of missing out, I’m gaining life! When you set your mind on eternal things, you won’t begrudgingly submit to what the Word says, instead you will joyfully obey God’s command, knowing that His plans are so much greater than the world’s.

Whenever I see my brother or sister resisting temptations from the world to choose Christ instead, I’m encouraged to do the same. I hope to be a light, not only to non-believers, but also to my brothers and sisters in Christ by choosing to live my life focused on the eternal promises of God.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” —Hebrews 11:24-26

Steven Souza

Steven Souza is a regular contributor of The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.

The INCREASE is now part of The Sports Spectrum Network. For more stories like this, visit TheIncrease.com