A Genuine Faith Trumps the Fake Every Single Time

'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven — then come follow me'

Ever since I was a young boy, I have been fascinated with “Aesop’s Fables.” I can still remember sitting at my middle-school desk devouring story after story, totally captivated with the amusing characters and powerful morals in these stories.

Even today as an adult, any time I come across one of the fables I can’t help but stop and take it in. Not long ago I came across a famous fable called “The Hunter and the Woodsman.” And when I finished reading it, I saw a powerful spiritual-life application.

In that critical moment, the rich, young ruler balked — just like the hunter in Aesop’s famous fable.

From “The Hunter and the Woodsman”: “A hunter, not very bold, was searching for the tracks of a lion. He asked a man felling oaks in the forest if he had seen any marks of his footsteps, or if he knew where his lair was. ‘I will,’ the man said, “show you at once the lion himself. In fact, I will take you to him.’ The hunter, turning very pale, his teeth chattering with fear, replied, ‘No, thank you. I did not ask that; it is his track only that I am in search of, not the lion himself.'”

What a fascinating fable. This man genuinely liked the idea of hunting. He was probably outfitted with all the latest gear, clothing, and boots of a hunter. He enjoyed the quiet serenity of the deep woods, the exercise of his tracking skills, and especially the thrill of stalking prey. However, when given the opportunity to come face to face with the lion itself — he balked. It’s hard to imagine any real hunter being satisfied with tracks rather than the animal itself. In the end, this “hunter” was a miserable failure because of his preference for talking about lions rather than finding them.

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When we open the New Testament to Mark 10, we find a biblical example of this very same behavior. In this account, a rich, young ruler approaches Jesus and is passionate about finding eternal life. After a series of questions that should have humbled the young man and revealed his need for a Savior — Jesus exposes the young man’s fatal flaw when He tells him: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

As the all-knowing God, Jesus knew this young man was controlled by money and consumed with materialism. If he was truly “on the hunt” for a real relationship with God and the promise of eternal life, then he needed to turn away from every other earthly love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Words and desires would suffice no longer. It was now time for action. But in that critical moment, Scripture says the rich, young ruler balked — just like the hunter in Aesop’s famous fable.

While the rich, young ruler liked the idea of a deep relationship with God and the promise of eternal life, he was unwilling to take the appropriate action when Jesus gave him an opportunity. Just like the foolish hunter, this young man ultimately preferred words and appearances over actions and spiritual realities. Faced with the heavenly lion Himself, this foolish young man was unwilling to take the risk of real Christian discipleship: denying his fleshly desires, turning away from earthly treasures, and embracing Christ.

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What a powerful lesson for our lives today.

Many people today like the idea of following after Jesus.  They get up on Sunday mornings, put on the appropriate attire, make the trek to their local church. They sing the songs, hear the sermons. They enjoy the quiet serenity of prayer, the exercise of their intellectual skills, and especially the thrill of stalking spiritual insights. However, when they are given the opportunity of coming face to face with the real lion, Jesus — they refuse. They don’t go through with it.

Are you only after Jesus’ footprints, or do you desire Jesus Himself?

In the final analysis, these people aren’t disciples at all. What a powerful reminder that true Christian discipleship is much more than a working religious vocabulary or weekly attendance at a worship service.

It is marked by a genuine commitment to hear Jesus’ words and obey them from the heart (John 14:21). Real discipleship isn’t a soft pew but a stiff spine that embraces Jesus’ commands no matter what the cost (Matthew 16:24).

So the question falls to you. Are you a true disciple of Jesus Christ? What are you after — to look like a disciple, or to actually be one? Are you only after Jesus’ footprints, or do you desire Jesus Himself?

True disciples find the lion.

Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 18 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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