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John Upton: Moment of Decision  

Posted: 1/18/17 at 1:00pm. Article by John Upton

The Gospel plot could hardly be simpler.

A man walks up to two fishermen saying, “Come with me,” and they get up and do it. Jesus sees two more fishermen, says the same thing, and they, too, get up and follow.  

Andrew and his brother were knee-deep in water casting out their nets. They weren’t fishing for fun. This was their work. What they caught was their income. Up walked this stranger who said, “Follow me,” and then said, “Guys, want to do some real fishing? Come with me.”    

They must have looked at each other and saw confirmation of what each one was feeling. They nodded to each other, headed for the shore, dropped their nets onto the sand, and walked behind Jesus.  

Is following really that automatic? What’s that all about?    

What I like about this story of Andrew, Simon, James, and John is that their story is also our story. The ones being interrupted now by the call of Christ are very likely you and me. The historical setting is right now! There he is standing right in front of us—like he did with Andrew and the others—looking into our eyes and inviting us, saying, “Follow me.”    

Like them, we must decide. Are you in, or are you out?  Do I leave things as I’ve known them, or do I take a risk? Andrew and Simon dropped their nets onto the sand.  

Just up the beach, it happened a second time. Two more brothers were fishing: John and James. These brothers were sitting in a boat, mending nets with their father. Jesus called, and like Andrew and Simon, without a word, they got out of the boat—leaving their father bewildered. I would like to have heard how the dad explained that one to their mother.   

Off they went, four following Jesus. Do you recall a moment in your life that bears a little resemblance to the emotional response of the first four disciples? A moment arrives, presents an invitation, and at the core of your soul you suspect it is the right thing to do. It will cost you something. Things will have to change. It will be inconvenient and challenging. Yet it could also be thrilling. It could offer a new way of being. I wonder if a great many of our days whisper that kind of invitation, if only we would hear it. “Follow me,” it whispers.   

Following requires a “yes.” What is scary is that “not following” doesn’t even require a “no.” You can just put off a decision. Not deciding is deciding.

Here is the scariest thing I know: Following requires a “yes.”  What is scary is that “not following” doesn’t even require a “no.”  You can just put off a decision. Not deciding is deciding.  

There were others fishing on the lake that day. I imagine many of them got the same invitation. In another boat perhaps were Dick, Jane, Bert, and Ethel. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Dick responded, “Hey, that is risky.” Jane said, “I find this theologically problematic.” Bert answered, “I already have too much stress in my life.” And Ethel declared, “It’s too hot for a walk today.”  

In the most critical matters, it is easy to miss our chance. How many times have we felt the stirring in ourselves? If you do not act on the stirring, it won’t be long before the stirring ceases. If we continually don’t listen, the day will come when we cannot even hear. Put off acting on what you know, and in time, you will lose even the knowing of it.  

The BGAV, you, your church—we are all on the lakeshore. Before us stands Jesus speaking to us, inviting us, saying, “Follow me.” It is time for a decision.   

Why is the BGAV important? There were two sets of brothers on the beach that day. The second pair heard the call and looked up. When they looked up they saw Peter and Andrew. They knew Peter and Andrew had made their choice to go. They saw gladness and freedom in their faces.  

This is why we need each other. When any of us decide for Christ’s way and take our stand for his way in the world, it helps the rest of us to choose. It helps all of us to keep choosing what is right. The courage of your faith can kindle the courage in mine. And so it grows.  

This is our moment of decision.   


John UptonJohn Upton is the executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 edition of the BGAV Express.