Keeping Up With Jesus Our Supreme Pathfinder:
to Help You Reach the Finish Line
in Full Stride
A concluding installment of our blog series on
what it means for Jesus to go BEFORE us today
[Editor’s Note: Think of this blog post as a postlude to David Bryant’s five-part series that explored one of seven key dimensions of Christ’s spectacular supremacy: who Jesus is BEFORE us. With this installment, David brings us vital, everyday approaches to help us keep up with where God’s Son is taking us—which is, as we’ve seen: into the future, into the heavens, into the promises, into the world.]
A nationally known investment and banking firm built an entire advertising campaign on a big green arrow. In each ad (print or digital), the pathway forward for clients is marked out by the brilliant emerald pointer that always stretches out ahead of them, supposedly leading them toward more profits in the stock market or toward a more stable retirement fund.
The invitation is for potential investors to walk the journey laid out for them by the financial institution, represented by that unavoidable green arrow always in front of them—rolling out ahead of them, setting the course before them, leading the way.
In a sense, this is a perfect picture of Jesus as we’ve come to know him better through this series of blog posts.
We’ve learned that the Lord Jesus, like that imaginary arrow, continually precedes his people, going before them, manifesting his spectacular supremacy in four directions: He draws us onward into the future, upward into the heavens, inward into the promises, and also outward into the nations.
How should we respond to all of this? How do we work with the “BEFORE” dimension of Christ’s supremacy as he exercises it day after day?
You can’t sum up the answer much better than the famous motto of the renowned 18th-century Moravian missionary movement that began in Europe:
“Our Lamb has conquered. Let us follow him!”
Yet practically speaking, what specifically is required of us as Jesus’ disciples to follow the Lamb as he goes before us—as he beckons us as heaven’s Supreme Pathfinder?
Here are a few insights you might find useful. I know I have.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
One might say that Hebrews 12:1-2 calls all believers to “Keep your eyes on the Prize.” That’s the true secret for following our incomparable Trailblazer to the finish line.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (NIV, emphasis added).
“Eyes on the Prize” does not simply mean that throughout every mile of the course we must remain fully focused on Christ himself. Though we must.
“Eyes on the Prize” does not merely mean we should give priority to the fulfillment of all the facets of God’s eternal purposes in Christ Jesus that lie ahead of us. Though we should.
“Eyes on the Prize” does not refer only to exulting in Jesus—who is truly worthy as the sponsor of the race, the shape of the track we run on, the sustainer of our desire to finish well, the strength we need to keep running, and the supreme spectator of all our efforts to win for him. Though he is all of that and more!
Nor does “Eyes on the Prize” suggest that we just rest in Jesus as our assurance of reaching the finish line victoriously—when we will enter the grand, triumphant finale promised all who have made following him our primary ambition. Though that glorious culmination is guaranteed to all who belong to him.
Ultimately, “Eyes on the Prize” means we keep lifting up Jesus as our Cosmic Champion who has finished the course ahead of us because the “Prize” IS Jesus—who invaded the human race (a play on words!) by his incarnation, pressed straight toward the mission of the crucifixion, convincingly defeated death by his resurrection, and then traveled straight to the right hand of God’s throne through his ascension. There he secured for all of us the trophy of eternal life.
What a race! What a feat! What a trophy! What a Champion!
And yet, wonder of wonders, as we run after him in a life that can sometimes feel to us like a marathon, we are running the course that Jesus has already mapped out for us. All we need to do is stay true to the pathway he has traversed ahead of us and already marked out for us—and along which he now draws us.
Listen again to Hebrews 12:1-2 in the Contemporary English Version:
Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete (emphasis added).
to Help You Reach the Finish Line in Full Stride
The flow of thoughts in Hebrews 12 suggests to me three approaches to the race required of those who intend to stay in step with the Savior with no flagging in zeal.
(1) Pursue Daily Repentance
In the Hebrews 12 passage, we are told to cast away—renounce—anything that would hinder our pursuit of Jesus and all he has pioneered for us.
Put in other words: We are to turn from anything that is not compatible with who Christ is and where he is headed out ahead of us. We must leave behind anything contradictory with or even inappropriate to the future he is bringing back to us, or the heavens he brings us to, or the promises he’s won for us, or the mission opportunities in the world he maps out for us.
Repentance does not deal only with moral or ethical issues. It is not only about turning from the ways we have disobeyed God’s Word. It is also about replacing ordinary, often justifiable, desires and priorities that simply don’t fit the life into which Jesus is taking us. Sometimes repentance means letting go of “good” goals and “normal” involvements if they keep us from the “exceptional” and the “best” that Jesus has for us as he goes before us.
Repentance is about renouncing mediocrity and lukewarmness in our relationship with Jesus, about choosing to become increasingly passionate for him and for what his reign is all about—about loving him “supremely” with all our heart, and soul, and mind.
This was Jesus’ plea with the Laodiceans:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3, NIV).
In other words, repentance isn’t just about what we turn from; it is also what we turn toward, or rather whom we turn toward—the Son of God who goes before us.
Surely this is what Jesus had in mind when he called his first disciples to find real life by “losing” their lives for his sake. He was inviting them to set aside all of their own dreams and ambitions, their personal achievements and acquisitions, in whatever ways would be necessary in order for them to give themselves more fully to staying in step with him as he led the way, as they joined him in spreading the Good News about himself (Mark 8.)
Today our Redeemer offers all believers the same transformative outcome. As we choose to enter into a Mark 8-type transaction with him—repenting of, turning from, and losing the old life in order to pour ourselves into his greater, global cause—he promises we will find unparalleled fullness of true life.
This is the fullness we’ve summed up in this blog series as four directions: the future he brings to us, the heavens he opens for us, the promises he shares with us, and the ministries he prepares for us.
(2) Let Hope Abound
Like I said above, we find ourselves running a race that has already been won, with our eyes focused ahead to the Victor who waits for us at the finish line. This should encourage us to run with tremendous hope, anticipating that there’s so much more just ahead. Participants in this race are always watching and waiting and wanting—knowing the best is yet to come.
Christians should be anything but complacent or self-satisfied in life. We’re running to win! Actually, we’re running as those who already have become “winners” in Christ Jesus. In Paul’s zealous declaration:
But here is the one thing I do. I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me. I push myself forward toward the goal to win the prize. God has appointed me to win it. The heavenly prize is Christ Jesus himself (Philippians 3, NIRV).
With the conquering Vanguard for the people of God who leads the way, we can have a confident hope that there’s so much more, not only for us but also for HIM—more that he deserves and designs and decrees. Therefore, it’s certain there is more he desires—not for himself but for us.
Jesus explodes the boundaries of what we have expected or experienced so far in terms of what we’ve studied in this blog series: the future, the heavens, the promises, and the mission.
That is why, first of all, the Church is fundamentally a band of receivers, which means even prior to that the Church is a society of seekers. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 2:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him (NLT).
Christians have every reason to remain ready to enter into increasing measures of the riches of God’s grace toward us in Christ Jesus who waits for us at every mile marker of the journey.
Every day a surge of “hope and expectancy” should rise within us.
Every day we need to be looking for more evidence of Jesus’ reigning power being revealed in us and around us.
Every day we should be on the alert for his spectacular supremacy to break through as he transforms the status quo—in our own lives as well as among the people where we live—because in everything he actively keeps going BEFORE us all. So we pray:
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him [Christ]. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15, NLT).
(3) Practice Anticipatory Discipleship
To run well, we must first train well. That requires discipline—in other words, Christian “discipline-ship” or as we normally call it, discipleship.
Regarding the preparation it takes to run this race toward Jesus, Hebrews 12 declares:
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? . . . . How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! . . . . No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest . . . for those who have been trained by it (NIV, emphasis added).
Here’s an example of what I mean: At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the world witnessed the marvel of what one might call “anticipatory training.” Four years earlier, the US had boycotted the Olympics held in Russia (for political reasons). That moratorium required a number of American athletes to spend not four but eight years getting themselves in shape for a single event (like relays, pole vaulting, swimming) that lasted only a few minutes!
Thousands of hours of discipline were expended for, in most cases, a few minutes of action.
Where did their determination and willingness to sacrifice like that come from? It was inspired by their overriding vision of what lay ahead for them—that at the end an Olympic gold medal actually could be theirs.
Like those hearty souls persevering for years in pursuit of a victory they wanted—though it could offer only momentary fame plus a token made of metal—even so, followers of God’s Son should anticipate something so much more valuable than a thousand Olympic medals as we run the race he has set before us because he has gone before us. Ours is the superior motivation Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9:
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should (NLT).
Anticipatory discipleship is focused on the goal of the main event into which Christ has welcomed us—the race of faith that begins and ends in him (Hebrews 12:2). It should cause every disciple to proclaim:
Everything I do for Christ today
is not only about what happens today
but also about preparing to pursue
everything he intends for me tomorrow.
Therefore, anticipatory discipleship requires us to ask ourselves every mile of the race:
What new steps of obedience do I believe Jesus
is asking me to take today so that I’m better trained
for additional blessings and victories tomorrow?
Anticipatory discipleship could take as its motto a paraphrase of Joshua 3:5. It was the command to God’s people waiting for God’s intervention to open a path through the Jordan River at flood stage, as the priests (like Jesus, our High Priest) went before them:
Purify yourselves today
the LORD will do great wonders among you.
That is similar to what Peter urges us to do (1 Peter 3: 15, AMP):
But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you.
Essentially, the apostle is saying that how you respond to Christ right now is directly related to the outcomes you know are waiting for you as he goes before you as Lord of your life.
Bottom line: As disciples of Jesus, we have every reason to practice a daily discipline that looks not only to fruitfulness for Jesus today but also sees ourselves always in training for an even greater impact for Jesus tomorrow—as he goes BEFORE us (as we follow behind him) into the future, the heavens, the promises, and the nations.
CONCLUDING THIS SERIES: As a joyful celebration of this weeks-long blog series on “Christ BEFORE Us Today” consider one more “practical” step:
Set aside the next three minutes to offer up this “Tribute” to Jesus. Incorporating the essence of many Scriptures, it captures much of what we’ve uncovered together and turns it into dynamic praise. Make it your own—from your own heart and lips to your King as you bow before him.
to the Christ Who Goes BEFORE Me
Father, I come to you to proclaim the name of your Son—to spread his fame, embrace his reign, increase his gain, and honor his claim about who he is BEFORE us.
As I do, awaken me even more to him for ALL that he is. May the praise I bring to him in these moments come forth alive in me by your Spirit and rise as a blessing to you forever.
I use your Word to magnify your Son, without whom I am nothing and can do nothing. This TRIBUTE is all for Christ alone, my one and only Hope of Glory, and the hope for all the nations.
Lord Jesus Christ:
Here is my tribute to you as you go BEFORE me today!
I have set my mind and my affections on things above, where you have gone BEFORE me into the presence of the Father, making a way for me to follow you as you sit on his glorious throne. I died, and now my life is hidden within you. Therefore, I reckon myself to be a part of the same perfect fellowship you have with the Father.
Truly, all things eternal have become mine because I belong to the Christ who precedes me and welcomes me into the future to bring it back to me; into the heavens to take me there with you; into the promises to make them mine as well; and into the world to open up a way for me to serve you.
I anticipate the day when, in a similar invitation, you will go BEFORE me into the climax of the ages so that I might join you and appear with you on that great day of victory.
Hallelujah! You said that because your kingdom is forcefully advancing ahead of me right now, I can lay hold of your prior initiatives, follow in the steps of your triumphs, and as a result, join in your kingdom breakthroughs—first of all because you go BEFORE me.
In this way you fill up Micah’s promise when he foresaw One whose origins are from of old, from ancient times, who would break open the way to go BEFORE his people, that our king would pass through the gate and go ahead of us, leading us at the front lines of God’s plan for the nations.
In this way, as you assured us, you are not only the gate of the sheepfold but also the shepherd who calls me by name and leads me, your disciple, through the gate, as you go on ahead of me to feed me with great expectations by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, lead on, O King Eternal. The day for marching has come. I am so ready to follow.
Lord Jesus Christ:
Here is my tribute to you as you go BEFORE me today!
I celebrate how you died, were buried, and rose again so that I might follow you into my own death, burial, and resurrection taking place right now. Because you went first, I can now reckon myself dead to sin but alive to God, passionate for the One who died and rose again ahead of me, but who included me.
No wonder you invite me to declare myself to be a new creation! It comes from my union with you, in whom the promised new creation has already begun. As the firstborn from the dead, YOU resound with the recapitulation of the whole universe as you exhibit in yourself an unparalleled transformation that will one day encompass everything, everywhere, including all who are united to you.
You go BEFORE me! Therefore God, who is rich in mercy, has made me alive with you right now, has raised me up with you right now, has seated me with you right now in heavenly realms where I can focus entirely on you, in order that both now and in the coming ages the Father might pour out on me the incomparable riches that have already become yours, now to be shared with your people forever. Yes, your Church has become co-heirs of the living God of the universe because you, God’s Son, share with all of us your inheritance of all things in heaven and earth.
Lord Jesus Christ:
Here is my tribute to you as you go BEFORE me today!
Furthermore, because you have been raised to life and placed at God’s right hand, you intercede for me. You go BEFORE me by your prayers. You open up to me all the promises of God. You guarantee that those promises will be “YES” to your people because of who you are and what you have done ahead of time, even while I was still ungodly and reprobate.
Such a high priest meets my need because you are holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. You have gone BEFORE me to the Throne of Grace, making a way by the power of your indestructible life for me to come behind you.
I come with confidence then to enter the Most Holy Place by your blood, Lord Jesus. I now walk the new and living way you have opened for me through the giving of your body for me. With such a great priest over the house of God, I dare now to draw near to the Father without fear and in full assurance of faith.
I bless you, the One who is holy and true, who holds the key of David so that you can go BEFORE me to open what no one can shut. What wonder is this: Going BEFORE me, you have set before me an open door into the presence of God, the power of God, the promises of God, the unfolding of the purposes of God, and the everlasting praises of God.
Lord Jesus Christ:
This has been my tribute to you as you go BEFORE me today!
Therefore, everything I am and have, every breath I breathe, every step I take, every service I render, every prayer I pray, every praise I bring, is possible only by you and you alone.
For without you—without all that you are as you go BEFORE me into the future, into the heavens, into the promises, and into the world—I am nothing and can do nothing.
More and more, by the revealing work of your Spirit, awaken me to ALL you are. Awaken your whole Church to the glory of your spectacular supremacy so that we move increasingly into the fullness of yourself. AMEN!
P. S. Consider exploring the other dimensions of Christ’s spectacular supremacy—who he is to us, for us, over us, within us, through us, and upon us—by ordering David Bryant’s latest book, Christ Is NOW!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.