A few years ago I spoke at a conference with the theme “Though None Go with Me.” Once I heard the title, my mind started racing with all that it encompasses. I focused on what it would be like if in my journey and my decision to follow Christ, none went with me. If it was just me and my Savior. Then the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” from which the phrase originated, started playing through my head. I remembered singing it in the little Baptist church when I was growing up in Durango, Colorado.
“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” originated in India. The lyrics are based on the last words of a man, who along with his family, was converted to Christianity in the 1800s. Called to renounce his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” In response to threats to his family, he continued, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, “The cross before me, the world behind me.” This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.
Powerful words back then and for us two hundred years later. Let’s delve into how they apply to us and can impact our lives.
∙ I have decided to follow Jesus. We first must make the decision to follow Jesus for salvation. He sacrificed himself for our sins that we might be set free and receive eternal life. He woos us and calls to us, but ultimately it is our decision to accept the gift of salvation or reject it. There is active participation in the choice. We must also decide to follow him in how we live.
∙ No turning back. Have you ever started something and realized you were in over your head and wanted to turn around and forget it? I certainly have. Let me encourage you in the fact that we are not alone in where we walk. Great men and women of God struggled just the way we do, and God never left them and always empowered and equipped them. Are you feeling weary, discouraged, overwhelmed? God’s got you. He is ready to uplift, provide, protect, and sustain.
∙ The world behind me. What is the world? Your circumstances, family, friends, beliefs, past, and the world’s culture. Following Jesus is a call to forget your past, overlook your circumstances, disregard people who pull you down, go against the standards of the world, and press forward to run the race. What’s behind you that needs to be released?
∙ The cross before me. In dog obedience training, trainers put a dog at one end of a room and its master at the other end with a plate of food in the middle. If the dog eyes the food, he’s a goner; he’ll go straight for it. So they teach the dog to focus his eyes on his master. Likewise, you need to keep your eyes on your master or you’ll get distracted. Get your mind off your surroundings and your problems and focus on God’s goodness to you in your past, his closeness to you in your present, and his power to help you in your future.
∙ Though none go with me still I will follow. How difficult do you think it was for Noah? NOBODY believed him. It had never rained in his lifetime. No one had ever seen one single rain drop and yet he began to build the ark—all alone for over 50 years. Maybe you’re the only one who’s a Christian at work, the only one turning down your friends to go out on a night on the town, the only one in your family who serves Christ or attends church. God has called you to a personal mission with him. Trust in where he is leading you. Remember most of all—you are not alone. God is right there with you. He’s your companion and friend who serves as your sanctuary, fortress, shield, and refuge.
∙ Though I may wander I still will follow. We’ve all messed up. We’ve all sinned, turned our backs on what we knew was right. Sometimes, we’ve even lived in our desert far away from seeking God. God doesn’t turn away from us. No matter how long we wander, we can still return. The key is we adjust our path and turn back, knowing God leaves the porch light on to welcome us home.
The lyrics of this song are a tremendous guide to living a fruitful life. I downloaded a version from iTunes and every time I listen, I am encouraged and fortified in my faith. I hope you’ll make the decision to stay the course and stand strong just like the man in India who has impacted lives for generations.