As I mentioned before I got home yesterday from a week long leadership camp which was super encouraging. Spending a week with 40 teenagers who are so keen to devote their lives to serving Jesus is a wonderful privilege. I got to lead a few of them in a discussion group with another leader and I loved hearing their questions and listening to them talk about their walks with Jesus. Now that we’re home from camp they’re all over Facebook sharing photos, quotes and encouragements with each other. The camp has changed their lives.
Being on camp reminded me a lot of the leadership camps I did when I was their age. I remember the same feelings they’re having, of looking at the people I was there with and thinking they were some of my best friends in the world. I remember listening to the talks and thinking about how much I wanted to change my life when I got home. I remember getting home from camp and planning never to be distant from Jesus again. I’m pretty sure most of the people I was on camp with felt the same way.
Thinking back on those camps now, of all the people I went with, I wonder how many of them as still sticking close to Jesus. I know some definitely are. I know some definitely aren’t. When I think about that I wonder why I am still sticking close to Jesus. What makes me a sticker as opposed to anyone else I went on camp with? Of all those people who aren’t still holding on to their faith, why am I still sticking with it?
Sometimes I think the answer is a lack of any other good options. I shared with my discussion group yesterday John 6:60-71. When Jesus asks Peter why he and the other disciples don’t desert Jesus like everyone else has, Peter replies “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” That’s how I often feel. Not some overbearing confidence in Christianity to convincingly beat all others, but an overwhelming sense that Jesus is all I have. Sometimes following Jesus feels a lot less like living in a comfortable palace in the centre of an impenetrable city, easily repelling all enemies to faith, but a life-raft in a dark and tumultuous sea. It’s not comfortable, it’s not where I want to be, but everywhere else is death, where else will I go?
Of course life is not always like that. Sometimes life with Jesus feels like an overwhelming feast, where your host gives you more amazing, delicious food than you could every hope to consume. Sometimes it feels like a wonderful, life-giving oasis in the middle of a hot, lifeless desert. Sometimes it just feels like home.
So when I wonder why I stick with Jesus, at times the answer is he’s everything I could ever want, at other times the answer is just that he’s all I’ve got. But then Jesus’ response to Peter tells me the answer too. He responds to him “Have I not chosen you?” I’m sticking with Jesus because he’s sticking with me. Jesus chose me.
These days I don’t really get the excitement of coming home from camp and feeling closer to Jesus than I ever have. I rarely have mountain top experiences anymore. But I’m closer to Jesus now than I ever was back then. I don’t trust Jesus because I feel motivated to by my last experience on camp, or by the last great book I read, or because of the last awesome Christian song I heard (though they all help). I trust Jesus because he’s never let me down. Every promise he’s made to me in his word has come true or is in the process of being fulfilled. Every disappointment and trial I’ve faced, he’s proved to be greater than. And every time I trusted him because of a camp, book, speaker or song, he came through the too. I stick with Jesus because he sicks with me. I’ve got no-where else to go.
I’ve probably got a lot more sticking with Jesus to do, bigger trials and disappointments to face, and greater delights enjoy. I’m trusting Jesus to stick with me through it all. He’s all I’ve got.
So for my friends who I got to go on camp with this week, I hope they stick with him too. I hope they see that he’s all they’ve got and he’s everything they could want. I hope as their fondness camp fades and they forget the names of all those best friends they made this week, I hope their love of Jesus grows brighter and stronger. I pray they stick with him, because he’ll stick with them.