What Is That to You?

Jesus showed Peter that he was going to die for Him. Peter then noticed John and asked Jesus about him. Peter was implying, “What is your plan for John? Will he die for you too?” Jesus responded by saying, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

That is a word I need to remember and keep remembering.

I have a problem with comparing my calling and ministry with other pastors. It’s the old story of the grass appearing greener on the other side of the fence. I’ve asked the Lord before, “What about ______? Why is their ministry/church different than the one you’ve entrusted to me?”

The Lord’s word to Peter is a word to me: “What is that to you? You follow me!”

The Same But Different

Following Jesus is the same for everyone in some ways. We all walk by faith. We’re all called to die to ourselves. But each of our paths are also uniquely crafted by the Lord for us. He crafts the obstacles for me. They’re perfectly shaped to hit me at the right time and in the right place in order to knock off my rough edges. If another were walking my path, it wouldn’t hit them in the right way. You might say my path is customized for me.

Knowing that gives me freedom to walk my path toward Jesus and not worry about someone else’s path. The Lord is customizing my brother’s path too. That path is not mine to walk. My path is here in Michigan, with my wife, my children, this church, this community, this denomination.

Jesus is not telling me to be apathetic to the path of my brother and ignore him when he needs help. He’s telling me to focus on what He’s called me to do and not be distracted by what He’s called others to do.

“Lord, what about my brother? Have you called him to go through the same struggle you’ve called me?” Well, that’s not a question Jesus cares to answer. He’s called me to follow Him. And it will help me to focus on that.

Sometimes Jesus Allows Pain

If you had been here, my brother would not have died!

Mary and Martha knew of Jesus’ power. They had heard what He did to feed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves. They were probably were aware of His healing a man who was born blind. That’s why they said what they did when Lazarus died after Jesus intentionally delayed coming to see Lazarus when he was ill.

Intentionally delayed? Yes, that’s right, and that’s key. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed away from him for two days longer (see John 11:1-6). Jesus intentionally allowed His friend Lazarus to die.


Did Jesus do it because He didn’t care about Lazarus or his sisters? No, for when Jesus saw Lazarus’ tomb, He wept. Not just got misty-eyed, but wept. After seeing Him cry, the Jews (not big fans of Jesus, if you remember) said, “See how he loved him!”

The reason Jesus allowed Lazarus to die wasn’t that Jesus lacked power and it wasn’t that He lacked love. Why, then, did He allow it? It was because those watching lacked faith.

That’s what Jesus said to His disciples: ” . . . for your sake I am glad that I was not there [that is, to heal Lazarus] so that you may believe . . .”

Of course Jesus’ disciples already believed in Jesus at that point (otherwise they wouldn’t have been following Him). But Jesus knew their faith needed to grow. 

Three Things To Learn

The story of Lazarus shows us three things to learn about how Jesus uses pain in our lives as His followers:

  1. Jesus doesn’t cause our pain, but He does allow it.
  2. Jesus feels our pain. He wept when Lazarus died, just like Mary and Martha. He feels the hurt of all of His sheep.
  3. Jesus uses our pain to grow our faith. Mary, Martha, and His disciples needed their faith to grow. And Jesus’ work through the death and resurrection of Lazarus was the tool to grow their faith. Before Jesus raised Lazarus, they knew He could stop death, but they didn’t know He could reverse it.

Jesus can prevent every painful event from happening to us. But He doesn’t. It’s not because He doesn’t love us, it’s because He loves us. He’s preparing us for something even better than painlessness. He’s preparing us for glory.


Not Friends With Jesus’ Followers? Not Friends With Jesus

I’m tired of people saying they love Jesus but either have a loose affiliation with or flat out reject any fellowship with followers of Jesus. That’s not true, and I can prove it to you by Jesus’ own words.

In John 15:12 Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He is talking to His followers at this time–not just anyone, which is very important. Then Jesus said in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Let’s get this straight by turning these verses into an if/then exercise:

  1. If Jesus commands His followers in verse 12 to love each other . . .
  2. And if Jesus said in verse 14 that His friends do what He commands . . .
  3. Then we can conclude that if someone doesn’t love Jesus’ followers, they aren’t friends with Jesus.

I am tempted to jump to the obvious implication that if you don’t regularly attend church, then you should wonder whether or not you are truly friends with Jesus. But that is too easy of an implication because it still possible (likely?) that there are some who regularly attend church but that don’t love followers of Jesus.

You can force yourself to sit in a pew one hour a week and still not love Jesus’ followers. So while I do think local church attendance is part of how a follower loves other Jesus followers, I need to press this implication further.

If someone is characterized by any of the following:

  • Spends little to no time with followers of Jesus throughout their normal week
  • Holds on to resentment toward followers of Jesus
  • Is unwilling to serve or sacrifice for followers of Jesus
  • Is apathetic about the hurts or needs of followers of Jesus

Then that person should ask themselves if they’re truly a friend of Jesus. How could someone claim to be a friend of the King of kings and refuse to do what He says? They might identify as “Christian” in a kind of cultural way, but that term is increasingly different than a true follower of Jesus.

Thank God for Philip

Philip had been following Jesus for nearly three years by the time Jesus asked him what might have been the most gut-wrenching question he had ever heard. Jesus had found him on His way to Galilee and simply said, “Follow me.” Philip found Nathanael and took him to Jesus (John 1:43-46). He spent time with Jesus every day: following Him around, eating with Him, talking with Him, learning from Him.

He had heard Jesus talk about His Father countless times. Jesus did His Father’s will. He came from His Father and was sent by His Father. He was given authority by His Father. Jesus said “If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). He even claimed to be God on several occasions, using the famous phrase, “I AM,” when talking to the Jews (John 9:58). Philip heard these things.

But when Jesus said something similar in John 14:7 (“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also”), Philip replied by asking Jesus to show them the Father. That’s when the gut shot came:

“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” (John 14:9a).

A Lot Like Me

I feel like that at times. I’ve been following Jesus since I was seven years old. That makes 23 years. And sometimes I feel like I barely know Him. I ask Him questions I should know the answer to. I express frustration about things I should be having faith through.

But here’s the thing: Jesus still didn’t reject Philip. 

The question probably stung–as discipline does–but it didn’t destroy him. None of the wounds Christ gives His true disciples destroy. They only push us closer to the Lord. It’s a loving correction that we need.

A Lot Like All of Us

Philip is like all of the disciples. In that moment at the beginning of the upper room discourse, many of the disciples were confused and asking Jesus questions. He was about to die, rise again, and then leave them for a time. They thought His kingdom would be consummated directly after the resurrection. Jesus was telling them that He was doing something they didn’t expect, and it scared them. That’s why Jesus said on multiple times in chapter 14 of John, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Philip wasn’t the only one having trouble processing what was happening.

But that didn’t mean Philip wasn’t following Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean having a perfect understanding of how God is working in all of life’s events. It means seeking to follow Jesus in the midst of those events. Sometimes we’ll ask Him questions we should already know the answer to. And there may be a small, healing wound as a result. The important thing is not whether or not we have questions. The important thing is this: who do we bring our questions to? 

True disciples bring their questions to Jesus. That’s why I thank God for Philip.


Why Social Media Isn’t For Me

I was on Twitter before Twitter was cool (is it cool now?). My old employer encouraged being part of cutting edge communication, so that meant we should all join in. I was such an early bird that my handle (@JacobRiggs) didn’t have any numbers after it.

Facebook used to be a site just for college students (remember that?). I was on it then.

Instagram has never been my thing. Me and tons of pictures at my fingertips with no accountability is not a good idea. I’m too much of a sinner for that.

When It Started

I started disliking Facebook first. It was the red numbers. I’m pretty sure those still exist. You know the notifications at the top right hand part of the site that tell you you’re important? Yeah, my addiction to those was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the Book Face (thank you Jim Halpert).

Maybe Facebook didn’t intend for this to be the case. Actually I doubt that. I think they craft the notification tool in order to keep people coming back to the site again and again. For me, that notification tool was a satanic tool. Over time I realized more and more that I was addicted to the praise of people. I needed it to give me self-worth. This materialized in countless ways that the Holy Spirit is still uncovering, but Facebook was one of those avenues.

So I just deleted it. It was hard to do (BTW, if you can’t stop, you should. Paul said, “I will not be enslaved to anything”). Once I went back, but that didn’t last long.

Twitter Too

I shouldn’t be too hard on Facebook just because it’s mostly older people now. After all, Twitter did the same thing to me. It felt great seeing something I wrote retweeted and liked by, oh, say, 12 people.

But Twitter also had another negative impact on me (although it wasn’t like this when I first started using it 10 years ago). I found myself getting upset about things that people in my real world were not upset about and didn’t even know about. There is an online world that can impact the real world, but it tries to suck you into it entirely. Many twitter users are robots. I was literally feeling anxious about something that isn’t even real. So I realized I had to say goodbye to Twitter as well.

Now, the Why

It was hard to say goodbye. It felt like a part of me was dying. The old connections I had on Facebook gave me validation, and I loved that. The retweets and likes on Twitter gave me hope that I could maybe be a real author one day, and I needed that.

But deep down that validation and “hope” was hurting me. And the way it was hurting me is probably cliche’ now, but it was true: anxiety. The red numbers on Facebook always made me want more and more red numbers. The retweets and likes on Twitter made me want more and more of the same. Sometimes I sought them so much that I would write things in a twisted way in order to get more recognition. The Bible calls that lying.

Only when God started showing me that He validates me did I find freedom to say goodbye. God cares for me. Period. Not based upon anything I offer Him or anything I’ve done, but just because He does. God sent His Son for me. 

Here’s Your Out, Or Maybe Not

Should everyone get off of social media? Maybe. Should many? Yes. There are other reasons people should leave immediately other than just how it encourages anxiety. It also enables and encourages many sins that send people to hell: gossip, lust, bigotry, hatred, slander, laziness, pride. The list could go on and on.

You might not resonate with anything I’ve written here and find yourself not addicted to them. After all, social media can be used in good ways. Our church has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. You might be able to use your accounts to catch up with family or laugh over a funny video with friends and talk (in person) about it later.

I steal a look at Facebook on my wife’s account sometimes to check our church’s page or organizations I’m interested in. But I’m still not able to engage in it with my own accounts in a consistent, healthy way. So I’m staying away. I’d rather lose 12 likes than have my whole body thrown into hell. It really is about that for me in part. And the other part is that removing this has been one of several factors in giving my heart peace and my mind soundness.

Enjoy laughing at the cat videos, ignoring foolish political rants, and arguing with strangers about what color that article of clothing is. For now, I’m happy to do without that, and increasingly OK without those red numbers too. For that, I’m very grateful to the Lord.