How to be a Resilient Follower of Jesus

Matt Mylin   -  

Resilience is revealed in opposition.

In their book Faith For Exiles, David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock compile more than a decade’s worth of research with nearly one hundred thousand teens, young adults, parents, and church leaders. They inspire hope by revealing how young faith can mature and thrive in cultural exile. Here’s the premise of the book (which I highly recommend):

“Young non-Christians are avoiding Christianity, and young Christians are abandoning church; however, by cultivating five practices, we can form and be formed into disciples of Jesus who thrive as exiles in digital Babylon.” 

In other words, we can become resilient followers of Jesus in the face of opposing voices.

Here are five practices they highlight to become a resilient follower of Jesus:

1. Know Jesus.

Just like knowing a person requires spending time with them, becoming a resilient follower of Jesus is built on a foundation of spending time with him. As you know Jesus, your life will begin to change.

The apostle Paul explains that “anyone who is in Christ (joined to him by faith in him as Savior) has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, AMP)


2. Develop cultural discernment.

Exercising cultural discernment means joining a community of people under the authority of scripture to wisely navigate an increasingly complex culture.

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Proverbs 15:22).

3. Forge meaningful intergenerational relationships.

The truth about friendship is that you will become like the people you spend the most time with.

I’ve heard it said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” We may agree with that statement, yet too often, we only see how people influence us once we look back to see how.

The challenge? Be humble enough to ask for help from those further down the path. Learn from those who have gone before us.

4. Right-size our ambitions to God’s purposes in our work.

Following Jesus will influence our views on work in two primary ways:

•Knowing what we are made to do, especially in the arena of work.

•Right-sizing our ambitions to God’s purposes ensures that we are not building our kingdoms but learning to find our place and use our skills to build God’s Kingdom.

One of the most interesting findings in this book was when the authors asked millennials what they wanted to do in life. Their top interests were categorized into three different buckets.

#1: Entrepreneurship — millennials who want to be business owners and leaders, start nonprofit organizations, and work outside the traditional employment structures.

#2: STEM — Millennials interested in science, technology, engineering, and math.

#3: Creative careers — these individuals were interested in design, filmmaking, journalism, and the arts.

Skye Jethani observed these findings and wrote,

“This is exciting because those buckets correspond to the three things work is designed for: to create beauty (arts), to cultivate abundance (entrepreneurship), and to generate an order (stem).” 

Aligning our work and ambition with God’s purpose is a lifelong journey.

5. Curb entitlement and self-centered tendencies by sacrifice and serving.

Live counterculture.

Humans are not designed to handle a high level of celebrity and success.

Humans are designed for sacrifice and service.

Yet, as a person serves well, they experience success and power. Any position of power, no matter how big or small, brings with it the temptation to leverage that power for personal benefit.

The test of success and power is choosing to leverage what you have for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Times of significant change, intense pressure, and opposition to faith can tempt us to back down, but putting these practices into place will build resilience.