Why do people become Christians? Why do they follow this man, Jesus of Nazareth? There are more than a few reasons I think. Some follow him simply because that is the tradition in which they were raised, and they haven’t given much thought to it otherwise.
Others do so because of a genuine spiritual awakening, because of a “sinner’s prayer” prayed at a revival meeting, or the sincerity of heart when they entered the waters of baptism. They decided to follow or were inexplicable drawn to Christ, so they chased after him best they could.
Some follow Jesus because they view him as a kind of insurance policy for the afterlife, hoping he can slide them through the pearly gates. Others make profession of Christian faith only because nothing else in their life seems to be working, or only because they have reached the end of their rope.
So there are many reasons people take to the way of Jesus, some more noble than others, and some more lasting than others. In my years of preaching, pastoring, and writing, I have been witness to many conversions, baptisms, and rededications. Some “stuck,” so to speak, and others passed more quickly than the baptismal waters drying on their heads.
What made the difference in those who stayed with Christ and those who did not? It’s hard to say. But one thing is certain, those who follow Jesus for a lifetime are those who have seen and experienced him for themselves.
They do not live off the back of their minister’s faith or through the experiences of others. They don’t rely upon what their friends, mentors, or books say. Rather, they have come face to face, somehow, with the risen Lord.
A young man went to see his grandfather one day, an old man who had been a follower of Jesus his entire life. When the young man arrived at his grandfather’s house, he was sitting on the front porch in his rocking chair, a worn out Bible in his lap, a pipe clinched between his teeth, and an old dog lying lazy at his side in the sun.
They embraced and caught up on the most recent family gossip, and after a while the grandson asked his grandfather, “Pop, why is it that some people who follow Jesus do so with enthusiasm for a while, but then, they give up? And then there are people like you, who stay at it their entire life, why?”
The old man smiled, took his pipe from his mouth and said, “Let me tell you a story. One morning I was sitting here in the sun with my Bible and my dog. All of a sudden, a big old white rabbit jumped out of the woods and ran across the yard.
“Well, my dog jumped up, barking and yapping, and took off after that rabbit. He chased that rabbit over the hills and down through the pasture all morning, howling the whole way. Soon a few other dogs joined him until there was a whole pack of dogs running that poor rabbit.
“But gradually, one by one, the other dogs dropped out and went home, discouraged and worn out. Only my dog stayed with the chase till the end of the day. My boy, that is the answer to your question.”
The young man sat silent on the porch for a few minutes thinking about his grandfather’s story. Finally, he spoke: “Pop, I don’t get it. What’s the connection between a rabbit chase and following Jesus?”
The old man answered, “Son, that is the wrong question. The right question is this: ‘Why didn’t the other dogs continue the chase the rabbit?’ And the answer to that question is: ‘The other dogs had not seen the rabbit. They only heard the barking.
“But once you see the rabbit, you will never give up the chase. I have seen the rabbit for myself and that is what keeps me at it.” As you are on your way, I hope you see and experience Jesus for yourself.