I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to freak out when I don’t have everything all figured out. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you just started following Jesus and you’re wondering, what happens now? Trust me, I’ve been there. Or maybe you’ve been following Jesus for a while, but you just want to dive deeper into your relationship with Him. But what if there’s something better than figuring it all out? What if we can stop trying to know everything and instead just focus on our next step?
Somewhere along the way, we started thinking that if we don’t know everything, we know nothing. And that’s not necessarily true. You may not know how the whole story of your life will go, but you know what chapter you’re on, and that’s actually a gift.
Think about it. When you take a test, it would be nice to have all the answers in advance. But having the answers doesn’t actually help you learn. In fact, the opposite happens. Knowing the end product robs us of the process of learning, growing, and developing.
Following Jesus works the same way. Accepting Jesus is just the first step in a series of next steps. That’s why we call it following Jesus. It’s a journey, and the goal isn’t to get to the end but to keep pursuing Jesus. We never actually arrive in this life, but every day is a new opportunity to know Jesus more and to become more like Him.
So, how do you even know what your next step is? We tend to overcomplicate it. Here are some things we can learn from Jesus about our next steps.
Get to know God.
First, you have to know God. All knowledge and wisdom come from God, and God desires an intimate relationship with us. Jesus modeled this with His life. Even as a kid, Jesus liked to hang out at the temple and spend time with His Father. In fact, one time, his parents freaked out because they didn’t know where He was. After they found Him at the temple, Jesus explained that of course He’d be at His Father’s house (Luke 2:41-49).
Jesus made a regular practice of spending time with God. We should follow His example and do the same. You’ll never know what you’re created to do until you know Who created you.
Getting to know God looks different for everyone. Some people connect with God through worship, others connect with Him through prayer or spending time in His Word. Being around other people who love God also helps. Another great way to keep getting to know Him is to take regular time to rest, be still, and listen to God.
Jesus modeled this again and again as He got older. Before Jesus ever did anything in His public ministry, He spent 40 days of private time with God, which enabled Him to use God’s Word as a weapon to defeat the enemy (Luke 4:1-13). Then, even when Jesus was in ministry, He never let the needs of others keep Him from His need for His Father. Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:15-16). It was second nature for Him to spend time talking with His Father. We should strive to the same standard—we can’t follow Jesus if we don’t fully know Him.
So talk to God. You don’t have to be awkward about it—just talk to Him as You would a close friend. There’s actually a great Bible Plan all about prayer and getting to know God through it. Here you go! Bottom line? Practice what works for you, and enjoy time getting to know your Father.
Get to know others.
Trying to figure out anything by yourself is just plain hard. It’s why they tell you to find study groups in college. It’s why superheroes are constantly teaming up. And it’s why churches often tell you to get into a small group of people—a LifeGroup. That may sound intimidating, but the alternative can be equally terrifying. Sure, meeting new people can be awkward at first. But being alone? It gets old fast.
Jesus modeled this for us, too. Jesus chose 12 imperfect people to live His life with. He called them His disciples, and they did everything together. They served together. They made a difference together (Luke 6:17-18). They prayed together. They shared meals together.
Before you get some idyllic picture of what this was like, remember that Jesus knows everything. And the people Jesus chose might not be your first draft picks for a LifeGroup. When Jesus chose Matthew, he was a crooked tax collector everybody hated—not exactly your ideal friendship candidate (Matthew 9:9-13). Jesus knew Judas would be the one to sell Him out, leading to His death (Matthew 26:23-25). And Jesus knew that at the most pivotal time of His life, Peter would deny that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:71-75).
And yet, Jesus still chose them. That shows us how important it is to get to know others and to make a regular practice of doing life with other people—and to take a closer look at the people who may not be your first picks.
When you join a LifeGroup (or start one), it’s going to feel uncomfortable at first. Different personalities will sometimes clash. Preferences won’t always align. And there will be times when you wish you were just bingeing a new TV show instead of having that awkward dinner conversation. And yet it will be one of the hardest and most rewarding things you do for yourself.
You learn how to be patient. You learn how to put others’ needs above your own. You make a difference together. You find someone you can call in the middle of the night when everything is going wrong. You stick up for one another. You serve one another and fight for one another.
It takes time, but you’ll find friends who will help you fully follow Jesus. After you’ve pushed through the initial awkwardness and continued meeting even during difficult times, you’ll have those friends who will encourage you when you’re ready to give up because you’re also encouraging them to not give up. You’ll have someone to watch that Netflix series with. You’ll have someone to pray with. And we all need those kinds of people.
So get to know people. Jesus modeled it, and following his example helps us become like Him. He also promises to be with us when we gather together.
Love God by loving others.
Jesus said the most important thing we can do is to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:34-40). But then He expanded on that—we are to love others the way Jesus has loved us. People will know we follow Jesus by the way we love others. Paul—a man who persecuted Christians, met Jesus, and then was completely transformed into one of the most influential Christians of all time—had some passionate feelings about this topic as well. He wrote that if we don’t love, we are nothing but a noisy gong. If we truly love God, we won’t just tell God how much we love Him—we’ll show Him by taking His love out into the world!
When we follow Jesus, we have a tendency to look for rules where we need to build relationships. We want a checklist of things we can do, say, or believe. Jesus came to abolish that checklist because we would never be able to complete it ourselves (Ephesians 2:4-10).
Maybe you’re new to following Jesus and you feel like there’s so much you don’t know yet. That’s okay. Paul wrote that knowledge makes us feel important, but it’s love that strengthens the church (1 Corinthians 8:1). Love is the way to lead others to Jesus. Loving others is the way to love Jesus. And love is who God is. So don’t freak out about how much you don’t know. Instead, go out and love others. Because love? That’ll build the Church, set people free, and honor God.
One way to love others is by serving others. When Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, He answered them by explaining that the greatest are those who serve and model that behavior by kneeling down to wash His disciples’ feet.
There are so many ways to love others, but one next step you can take to regularly practice elevating others is to serve. That might mean serving in your church through volunteering in your children’s ministry, greeting people at the doors, designing social media graphics, leading small groups, or any number of things. It might mean serving your community by volunteering with a local missions partner. You have gifts, talents, and passions God put inside of you to change the world around you. Learn about them. Use them. And love others through them.
Tell your story.
One of the best next steps you can take when you first follow Jesus is to tell someone! Tell the person who invited you to church. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell the coworker who has that church bumper sticker on their car. Or the one who doesn’t! Your story has power. One time, Jesus met a woman at a well. (It’s an incredible story. You should check it out here.) He tells her everything she’s ever done and gives her grace that transforms her heart and her life. Then she immediately runs back to her hometown to tell everyone about it.
She changed a community because she told her story! Your story has power. No one else can tell it. Jesus actually gave all of us a mission to tell everyone about Him. It’s called The Great Commission, and you can read it here. So telling others about Jesus is an important step that Jesus Himself calls us to do. When you tell your story of how Jesus brought you from death to life, from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, you’re sharing His grace and Good News with others in a way that only you can.
So don’t freak out if you don’t have it all figured out. None of us have it figured out, and that’s okay. Instead, take a look at your next step. Take that step. Then find your next step after that. Keep doing this, because we’re all still in progress. Whether you’re just starting to follow Jesus or have been following Him for a while, you have a next step to take.