There are two verses in this chapter that highlight the patience of the saints, the keeping of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (v12,13). The word translated “patience” is an extremely interesting one. The Gk hupomone has a meaning of ‘an abiding under’, which reminds us of the exhortation to show a patient continuance in welldoing bearing patiently under many afflictions and trials. Here it is coupled with “the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” and therein lies an important factor in the “patience of the saints”. It is shown when seeking the will of God and following His commandments. Through adversity or failing health, the saints look for the will of God in their lives. They have a conscience toward God; they prayerfully seek to know and obey the will of God; they fervently thank God for His goodness and desire, more than anything else, the Lord Jesus Christ and his return. We could ask ourselves the question, are we Christ’s brothers and sisters who have a patient longing to be with him and each day live in expectation of his return?

It is said that the saints “die in the Lord” and “they rest from their labours” (v13). But how do their works, “follow them”? It is seen when we personally resolve to follow their example; to mark the loss when they pass away with a resolve to pick up the mantle of their service.We have stood mourning at the graveside of many of God’s saints but as they now rest, we honour them and acknowledge how indebted we are for knowing them and loving them. We tell our children that we will pick up something about their character that was very special to us and we will make it our own. Those saints now sleep in Christ, but their works will follow on, continued in us, the following generation.

“Follow the Lord!”

During the ministry of the Lord many, many people were touched by him: by his healing hand or by the impact of his gracious, powerful words. Hundreds were healed and lives were forever changed. Men and women of all ages, brothers, sisters, and families became disciples and the record says that they “followed the Lord”. They wanted to be close to the most important person in their life. In John 1 we know what solid preparation was given by John the Baptist to his disciples. Men from Galilee were moulded and shaped—ready to be introduced to the Son of God, to “behold the Lamb of God.”

Let’s reflect upon that life-changing instruction in their lives. Tuition in the Truth is like that of John the Baptist: our teachers and our families have pointed out Christ in our lessons and carefully moulded and developed our conscience. They have introduced Christ into our life by saying words like those of John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 ESV). From that instruction we believe that the “Lamb of God” is central to the plan and purpose of God. He is the Son of God that alone can take away the sins of the world and our sins. We have seen it, believed it, and wanted to follow Christ. We spent time thinking about Christ, “abiding” with him in deep reflection; and like Andrew we have come to know without a shadow of a doubt that we have found the Messiah. Of course, let it be said Christ has, in reality, found us!

In practice we don’t “forsake our nets and follow Jesus” like Zebedee’s sons but Christ has become the one all-important, all-consuming focal point of our lives. He has made such a strong impression that we want to stick like glue to him. We want to follow him in every passing phase of life; to grow to a Christ-likeness; to develop a closer bond—a loving, yet reverential bond. We want to “abide” with Christ, to watch him; listen to him; marvel at him, and love him. Like the multi-coloured hues of refracted light all compressed into one pure bright light, there is Christ, the Light of the World and we bow the knee before his glorious majesty.

Paul simply says, “You are dead” and “your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-4). Paul says twice in this passage that Christ is “your life”. Is he “our life”? Will he recognise us as his followers or do we follow other masters, other vocations in life? Are our loyalties divided? At times do we forget to whom we belong? To what extent does Christ our Lord and Master govern our lives, our private personal lives, our family lives, our business or college lives? Our calling is to be followers of Christ and that means more than believing academically. It means living every day as if Christ was at our side, in our hearts and in our actions.

Following Christ must be on a daily basis, not just on Sundays. Life is not broken into parts and we give but one-seventh for God. The Truth is our life—not part of our life. This means following Christ 24×7, denying self and taking up the cross daily. Christ encouraged Peter, “When you are converted, strengthen your brethren”. Peter, who hadn’t doubted his following of the Lord, had been out in front protesting loyalty but now he was to “strengthen [his] brethren” (Luke 22:32). That word has the sense of “fixing in place”, “firming up” the faith and confidence of his brethren. And surely that’s our commission—in humility, not with a show of good works, not consciously trying to impress others—but quietly going about the ecclesia propping up, bracing, fixing, and firming up the household of God. That’s “strengthening” the brethren! It’s seen in every ecclesia where brothers and sisters look beyond themselves to “fix in place” and prop up the faith of all, particularly the lonely, the weary, the aged and the troubled in mind. With many widows and those without partners in the Truth we have so many opportunities to “strengthen the faith” of those who mourn, sorrow and are lonely. In so doing, we are true “sons of consolation”. It is to follow Paul’s example, confirming and exhorting the disciples to continue in the faith (Acts 14:22).

“I will be with you”

Let us consider some followers of God. Noah walked with God even when the sons of God lost sight of their calling as the “seed of the woman” and walked and consorted with the daughters of men. Abraham walked by faith. God said, “Come into a land which I will show you” and he went, sojourning in the land of promise— not like a restless nomad, but ever drawing closer to his God in deep reverential trust. Jacob was guided from Bethel to Bethel, trying to understand the will of God in his life. God was with Joseph in Egypt. In the fullness of time, God led Moses and his people out of Egypt.

Israel in the wilderness wanderings literally followed God. Every family in the camp of Israel woke up day by day to see a towering pillar of cloud hovering over the Tabernacle right in the centre of the camp (Exod 13:21-22). Children went to sleep at night peeking out of the tent doors seeing the glow of a great pillar of fire. They went to sleep knowing that God was with them. He led them through the wilderness. They followed the cloud by day and rested under that fiery beacon by night—which said, in effect, “I will be with you”! Hence there is the repeated assurance from the aged leader that Yahweh would be with Joshua ( Josh 1:5- 9). Even though Israel would prove to be faithless, God promised Joshua, “I will go with you”, “don’t fear”, “I will go before you”. Moses in effect said, “Joshua, go in and follow Yahweh’s guiding hand”. Such words of encouragement are warmly given at our baptisms. Essentially, to the newly baptised we say, “God be with you”, “follow Yahweh’s guiding hand” — the same assurance, the same comfort and the same encouragement given in the latter day wilderness of life.

Seeking shelter

“Take heed, my beloved brethren”, says the writer to the Hebrews. History could well repeat itself. The issue for all generations is one of belief or unbelief; of departing from the living God; of wandering away, taking our eyes off the goal, looking about and wandering off the path, enticed and ensnared by all that is temporal, immoral, and dangerous (see Heb 3; 4:11). Here is an earnest call, in effect pleading for us to, “hold fast to your profession”, “lay hold upon the hope that is set before you”, and “follow the leadership of the captain of your salvation”. He is guiding many sons and daughters to glory. On our part, we need to keep focused, being prepared to lose everything if it means winning Christ (Phil 3:7). The apostle Paul is our role model and our pattern (v11-14). What a sense of purpose he had, a marvellous single-minded, uncluttered pursuit to ever be with Christ! So we, with Paul, walk the same path (v15-17). As Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”.

To follow is more than following at a distance. It is no fleeting short-term trust. Ruth the Moabitess was praised by Boaz: “Yahweh repay your work, and a full reward be given you by Yahweh God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:12). A stranger in a strange land, Ruth took refuge under the providential care of the God of Israel. And that dedication became a family trait of character. Her great-grandson David shared that same trust and confidence (see Psa 61:1-4; 63:7,8). This was a fixed resolve to follow “hard after Yahweh”. It is figuratively fleeing for shelter under the shadow of a great high rock.

Now in these days of conflict and Middle East turmoil, we need to follow hard after our God in a determination to seek His protection and care for us and for our children, gathering our families about us, drawing close to one another and reassuring each other that our God will not fail us nor forsake us as we endure these perilous last days. What lies ahead? A time of trouble such as we’ve not seen for a long, long time. These are fierce, perplexing days when the support structure of our Western lifestyle is precariously tottering on the brink. Far from worrying about investments, we need to invest our lives in God’s safe keeping and put our households on high alert for the coming of the Lord.

Let us look to the end of our journey with the Lord, as the Lamb of God, leading and guiding us into the kingdom. Revelation 14 portrays the Lamb upon Mount Zion surrounded by a happy, rejoicing band of the redeemed. These are those of Revelation 5:9-10, surrounding the Lamb who had been slain and exalting in the joy and wonder of his victory. They sing with immortal fervour the songs of deliverance, feeling the wonder of forgiveness, the thrill of salvation. They are lifted up, forever above all human weakness and feel the power of God’s spirit energising them for evermore. They are at one with the Father, the Son, and with each other. These are the ransomed of Yahweh, who shall return to the city of their desire and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Isa 35:10). Let us paint ourselves into that picture! How we will reach deep down into our hearts and express our wonder and praise that our Lord first loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood! What a gracious privilege it will be

to be co-rulers with him and with the called and chosen out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation! We will be clad in white raiment, washed in the blood of the Lamb, hungering no more, thirsting no more, feeling no more distress, for the Lamb in the midst of the sheepfold will shepherd us. There we shall find rest—at last—in the green pastures and beside the still waters where we shall find rest for our souls.

“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (v4); look where our sojourning ends; forever with our Lord and, as his bride, forever at his side! We, the living, will be washed and clean and have one desire, to follow the Lamb, wherever he leads us. Let us then keep close to the Lord, never taking our eyes off him, hearkening to his voice and taking heed to his commandments. Let us maintain our purity and remain as devout virgins betrothed to Christ, not being corrupted by the defilements of the apostate Church or of a morally corrupt world. With those who overcome, we have in prospect a “crown of life” and joy of redemption that far surpasses anything that this world can offer. Let no man, woman (or anything!) take that crown away from us. Remember, it’s not so important that we are in the Truth but that the Truth is in us. If the Truth is to be anything, it must be everything. It is a truism that in all ages, men will assess Christ, not so much by his precepts, as by the lives of men and women they know who profess to be his disciples.

It is our fervent prayer that the partaking of the emblems, the symbols of the Lord’s sacrifice, and a reflection upon the passing of those who “die in the Lord” may encourage us to go on following our Lord until he come. May this remembrance keep us from falling and help present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). Brothers and sisters, we share a very precious hope and fellowship in Christ. We want to be in that joyous company who sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” for then shall all of creation sing, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever” (Rev 5:12-13).