One of the joys in my life has been my opportunities to travel. I enjoy visiting other peoples and places. I enjoy experiencing other cultures because I always learn so much about myself. My learning experiences that have come from travel have been a real asset in increasing my understanding of the Bible.

There are many types of travel: family visits, vacation trips, pleasure trips, business trips, research trips, mission trips. There are as many kinds of trips as there are reasons for taking trips. Most trips have two things in common: they have a purpose and they have a destination.

Some of the greatest spiritual accomplishments on earth involved taking a journey with God. Abraham served one of God's great purposes on earth. To do that, he took a journey with God. Genesis says that journey lasted a hundred years--it began when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4) and continued until his death at the age of 175 (Genesis 25:7). Moses also served one of God's great purposes on earth. To serve that purpose, Moses took a journey with God. His journey lasted for 40 years--it began when he returned to Egypt to become Israel's leader when he was 80 years old, and it continued until he died at the age of 120 (Genesis 34:7). With both Abraham and Moses, from the time they received their calls, they spent the rest of their lives on a journey with God.

Every person who enters Christ begins a journey with God. That journey begins the moment the person is baptized into Christ, and it continues until the person dies. This journey has no earthly destination. The Christian reaches that journey's destination after he or she dies.

This journey we make with God as Christians has little to do with where we live on this earth or where we physically travel. It has everything to do with who we are. It is a journey that involves the body, but it is primarily a journey of the mind and heart. No matter where the body is, no matter the age or condition of the body, the journey of the mind and heart always continues. Because it is a journey, our minds, our hearts, and our lives always are changing, always are growing, always are spiritually developing.

Let me illustrate this journey by using John who was one of Jesus' twelve disciples.

  1. Consider John:
    1. John prior to Jesus' call:
      1. John was a commercial fisherman who fished the Sea of Galilee and sold fish to the surrounding towns and villages (Matthew 4:18-20).
      2. Luke 5:7 indicates that James and John were in partnership with Peter and Andrew.
        1. Matthew states that James and John's father, Zebedee, worked with them (Matthew 4:21).
        2. Mark states that James and John also had hired servants that worked for them (Mark 1:19, 20).
        3. This is evidence that their fishing business was quite successful--not many Jewish families in those days could afford hired servants.
    2. John at the time of Jesus' call:
      1. Luke 5:1-11 gives us the most information about the occasion when Jesus called John to follow him.
        1. Jesus was teaching a large crowd of people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
        2. He saw two commercial fishing boats beached on the shore.
          1. The fishermen were already out of the boats and in the process of cleaning their nets.
          2. They were taking care of their equipment.
        3. Jesus climbed into Peter's boat and asked Peter to move it off shore a short distance.
          1. Peter did.
          2. That removed Jesus from the press of the crowd--he did not have security guards to provide crowd control.
          3. Jesus sat down in the boat and completed his lesson to the crowd.
        4. After Jesus finished his lesson, he asked Peter to move the boat out into deeper water and let his fishing net down to catch fish.
          1. Peter had three reasons to refuse Jesus' request.
            1. He had just finished cleaning his nets.
            2. He had fished all night without netting a single fish.
            3. In clear water and daylight, fish go deep to find shade to protect their eyes--they have no eyelids.
          2. But out of respect, Peter said, "Tell me when and I will drop the net."
        5. When Peter dropped the net, it was immediately filled with so many fish that the net began to break.
          1. He signaled for James and John to bring the other boat out and help him.
          2. There were so many fish that they filled both boats to the point of sinking.
        6. When they reached shore, Jesus invited the men to follow him.
          1. Jesus told them that from that moment they would begin a different kind of fishing--they would catch people, not fish.
          2. Immediately four fisherman walked away from everything to follow Jesus--four fishermen, including John, began following a carpenter.
      2. Of these four men, three of them occupied a special role in Jesus' ministry, but of the three, Peter and John seem to be the most prominent disciples.
        1. Peter, James, and John witnessed:
          1. Jesus raising Jarius' daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37).
          2. The transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1).
          3. Jesus' agony within the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:40).
        2. It was Peter and John who made the arrangements for the Passover meal which they would share with Jesus the last night of his life (Luke 22:8).

  2. I want us to take a close look at John's personal nature during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry.
    1. We often take note of Peter's aggressiveness and confidence, but we rarely talk about John's fierce ambition and abrasiveness.
      1. James and John had their mother ask Jesus to give them the two key positions in his new government--in our terminology, they wanted the two most important cabinet posts (Mark 10:35-45 and Matthew 20:20-29).
      2. The other ten disciples, which included Peter, knew what they asked for and were very angry at them.
    2. Both James and John had abrasive tempers that were not opposed to violent solutions.
      1. Luke 9:51-56 records a trip that Jesus took with the twelve through Samaria.
        1. They asked to spend the night in an unnamed Samaritan village; the people refused their request.
        2. The rejection infuriated James and John.
        3. They asked Jesus, "Lord, shall we command that there be fire from heaven to burn this village and all its people to the ground?"
      2. Further evidence of their stormy dispositions is seen in the name that Jesus gave these two brothers.
        1. Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, or petros, which means small rock (Matthew 16:18).
        2. He also renamed James and John--he named them "the sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17).
      3. Once John told Jesus that he had seen a person casting out demons in Jesus' name.
        1. Mark records, "We tried to hinder him because he was not following us" (Mark 9:38). Notice he said, "Not following us," rather than "Not following you."
        2. Luke records the same thing but uses this phrase: "He does not follow along with us."
        3. Can you hear John? "Stop that! You have no right to do that [though he obviously had the power to do it]! You are not a part of us. You are not in the official, select group that Jesus himself called. Only we have the right to do what you are doing."
      4. During the time of Jesus' life on earth, John never understood what Jesus was doing or why he was doing it.
        1. When John and James suggested that fire be brought from heaven to consume the Samaritan village, Jesus rebuked them: "I don't know what kind of spirit produced you; I did not come to destroy men's lives but the save them" (Luke 9:55, 56).
        2. When he tried to hinder the man who was casting out demons in Jesus' name, Jesus instructed them: "Do not hinder him. No one can perform a miracle in my name and afterward speak evil of me. He who is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39, 40).

  3. After Christianity began, in the early days when Christians as the church came into existence, John was one of the two leading Christian figures in the early chapters of the book of Acts.
    1. In Acts 3, he and Peter were together when the lame man was healed.
    2. In Acts 4, he and Peter were arrested and appeared before the high court.
    3. In Acts 8, he and Peter traveled to Samaria to bring the power of the Holy Spirit to the new converts there.

  4. When you read the epistle of 1 John, it is easy to see the changes that were produced in John's heart and mind as he continued his journey with God.
    1. The son of thunder who wanted to call fire down upon a Samaritan village and destroy them later through his journey with God became the apostle of love.
    2. Look at the incredible emphasis on love that John placed in this epistle.
      1. 2:5--Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has been perfected.
      2. 2:9--If you claim to be in the light and hate your brother you are in the darkness.
      3. 2:10--If you love your brother you live in the light and no one trips over you.
      4. 3:11--The earliest Christian message you heard was this: we should love one another.
      5. 3:14--We know that we have crossed over from death to life because we love the brethren.
      6. 3:16--We should lay our lives down for the brethren.
      7. 3:18--Love in deed and truth, not with word and tongue.
      8. 3:23--We love each other just like He commanded.
      9. 4:7--Let us love each other, for love is from God.
      10. 4:8--If you don't love, you don't know God.
      11. 4:11--If God loved us enough to give us Jesus, we ought to love each other.
      12. 4:12--If we love each other God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.
      13. 4:16--God is love; the person who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him or her.
      14. 4:19--We love because He first loved us.
      15. 4:20--To declare, "I love God," and to hate your brother is to lie.
      16. 4:21--Command: The person who loves God should love his brother, too.
    3. Can you see and hear the difference in John?
      1. When you take the journey with God, it changes the kind of person you are.
      2. The journey changes the way you think; it changes the way you feel; it changes the way you look at everything.

We become Christians to begin that journey. We continue to be Christians because we refuse to abandon God or the journey. We understand that this journey with God has no earthly destination. We are not traveling with God only until we find a place to homestead on earth. The destination is God's house. When we become Christians, only God's house is home.

I appreciate the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13, 14:  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

We can always quit the journey. We can always homestead on earth. But the person who walks with God continues the journey and continues to be changed because of the journey.

Are you still walking with God?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 June 1997

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell