For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as life shall last. This pledge is recited by many as their marriage vow on their wedding. For some, it lasts for just a few hours, while for some it actually binds them till life lasts, and for the others, anytime in-between. But the vow clearly promises the listening party, in my words, that I’ll be there, no matter the situation.
Will you be there? Is a question of trust. It is the silent question that one wishes to find the answer to from any friend one takes so dear to his or her heart. If you’re my friend, I want to know if you’d be there for me, even though I may not ask you. How much more someone you are about to take down the aisle? In that special case, either party really wants to know if the other will be there—at least, that’s the case in an ideal situation. If that isn’t the case, such words as betrayal, disappointment, heartbreak, denial, cheat and the likes will not show up at a critical point of any such relationship.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a promotional scene for a soap opera a couple of times. It was a scene acted by a man and his wife, what I could deduce from it was that the wife, a gainfully employed medical doctor, as a result of her neglect, did not pay her children’s school fees and they missed school for a few days while the husband was away on a business trip. That had been his responsibility all along. On returning from his trip, he didn’t hesitate to express his displeasure about the situation. The wife, having realized her mistake, said I’m sorry, to which the husband responded, we’re not talking about being sorry here, we’re talking about you being there for me. In essence he’s saying, I forgave you already even before you apologized, but my concern is whether you’d be there for me, next time and always.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph. 5:25). I’m not about to counsel married couples, a group to which I don’t belong. I’m on to something else. In the above Bible passage, the Apostle Paul likens the relationship between Christ and believers to the relationship between a husband and a wife. In that case, Christ asks anyone who seeks to be a part of this relationship that solemn question, Will you be there?
I’ll be there. That’s incontestable, but my concern is: Will you be there? Because, I created you with the power to choose otherwise. Jesus expressed this concern when He said “when the Son of Man comes, would He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8), meaning: Will anyone be there for me when I return? A question which is sequel to a series of statements in which Christ confirms that He’ll be there. But He’s counting on someone to keep the faith and be there when He returns.
Once upon a time, in the events leading to the cross, Jesus “came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?’” (Matt. 26:40). He needed them to join Him in asking for divine strength, in order to do for them what their eternal salvation hinged on, but they fell asleep, they weren’t there for Him. Like many of us, Jesus was heartbroken. Talk about betrayal, He was betrayed by one of His own. Denied by one of His own too.
Will you be there?—no matter what; is a question of 100% commitment. Even Jesus knew it was an uneasy task to be there for Him, thus he asked those who wished to follow Him to sit down and count the cost. If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:28, 26). Jesus says, if you cannot esteem your relationship with Me above any other thing, your relationships, your dreams and ambitions, your career and academics, worldly honor and riches, yes, above even your own life, I’m sure you won’t be there for me. The Apostle Paul understands it this way, He says “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” (Philippians 3:8). This tells me that following Jesus requires a little more than it requires to follow a user on twitter.com. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself…and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23).
How can any reasonable person make such a request of another? Jesus asks for more than a master-slave relationship with His followers, he calls for a love relationship. And true love “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5). Jesus had the truest love, and yes, the greatest love for humanity, that’s what he calls it. He says “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus laid down His life for us—His friends. He willfully laid it down, even though he had all the power not to. “For this reason the father loves Me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10;17, 18). He did it in order to secure the lives of His friends. Thus, in asking His friends to esteem Him more than their own lives, it is because that is the only way to guarantee the total security of their lives. Says the Psalmist “Your love is better than life.” (Psalm 63:3 NIV). For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35). In the book “Steps to Christ”, Ellen White writes “The inquiry of many a proud heart is, “Why need I go in penitence and humiliation before I can have the assurance of my acceptance with God?” I point you to Christ. He was sinless, and, more than this, He was the Prince of heaven; but in man’s behalf He became sin for the race. “He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12. But what do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet men think it hard to give up all! I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it. God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view.”1
It all makes sense to me now why men will make statements such as these:
And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish I perish – Esther (Esther 4:16)
Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…but even if he does not…we are not going to serve your gods – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 3:17, 18)
God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son. – Abraham. (Gen. 22:8)
We must obey God rather than men. – The Apostles (Acts 5:29)
Though he slay me, I will hope in Him – Job (Job 13:15)
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself – Apostle Paul (Acts 20:24)
These men could make such statements, in the face of uncertainty, because of their absolute faith and trust in God, they were “persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38, 39). They were convinced that Jesus is always there, therefore they made up their minds to say “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37). Such was the spirit in the millions of people who were martyred for their faith in Jesus during the dark ages. They knew that the only way to be happy in Jesus is to “trust and obey”. They say to Jesus, whom they are convinced about His love for them, that by your grace, we’ll be there, even though you never promised us that it’ll be easy.
Even when things seem easy, will you be there? Moses warns his people saying “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God” (Deut. 8:11-14). In following Jesus, even comfort can lead one astray from the path of duty. And against this does Moses warn the people of Israel. When things are going on well, will you forget the Lord or be there?
Jesus is always there; and like he prayed for Peter, He prays for those who desire to be there, that their faith should not fail, because Satan has sought to sift them as wheat. (Luke 22:31, 32). He knows that without Him, they can do nothing. Jesus said, I am the vine, I’ll always be there, if you desire to be there too, remain in me as a branch. (John 15:4, 5). Only in the True Vine can one find the strength to be resilient in standing firm and being there for the beloved Jesus. Abiding in Him is totally surrendering to do His will even in the face of adversity, just as He surrendered to the Father’s will. Jesus did nothing of Himself, he totally surrendered to the Father’s will. Men and women are invited to do the same in the call to follow Him. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:5,8). Those who are referred to as last day saints in the book of Revelation are those who “keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). They don’t just have faith in Jesus, they have the faith of Jesus. The kind of faith which Jesus had in surrendering totally to the Father. In reading the account of His crucifixion, one finds the kind of faith which Jesus had and its elements.
Jesus had peace in the face of adversity, for with boldness, He gracefully responded to His accusers. Jesus showed love and forgiveness and was still seeking to save the lost even in His suffering, by pleading on behalf of those who beat Him and saving the condemned criminal into His kingdom. Jesus retained His sense of worth; He declared unto Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And His sense of mission too, He said “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth”. He recognized God as the only one who had the power to permit His suffering and death, he said to them “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above” Jesus did not doubt God’s love, He committed His spirit into God’s hands. All these because He totally surrendered to the Father. And He pleads with anyone who wishes to follow Him: Learn of me. Have my kind of Faith. Abide in Me. Because I want you to be there.
Will you be there? seems to be an important question to Jesus. Because the beloved at His judgment, those who will be on the right side are those who were there for Him. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink: I was a stranger, and you invited me in: Naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to Me. (Matt. 25:34-36). These words of Jesus presents before us the idea that God’s kingdom was prepared for those who have purposed in their heart to be there for Jesus, for better or for worse. Those who partner with Him on His mission of seeking and saving that which was lost (Luke 19:10) no matter where they may be. Those who say to Jesus: I’ll be there.
Will you be there? I’m asking because I’ll be waiting says Jesus. Do not let your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places: if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3).
In my heart I really desire to be there. I desire to have the faith of Jesus. To surrender all to God and have absolute faith and trust in Him. And then I realize that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But Jesus reminds me of Philippians chapter four verse thirteen which tells me that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Now, for me, this text has a whole new meaning. Do you desire to be there for Jesus through thick and thin? Jesus says to you “all things are possible to Him who believes” (Mark 9:23, 24) to which you should humbly respond “I do believe; help my unbelief”.
- Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pg 46