North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose by Matt Dobson

Having lived in the country all my life I grew to appreciate my wholesome rural upbringing. Many afternoons and Saturdays were spent exploring the countryside and beautiful woodlands that surrounded our home. As a boy and young teenager I would go fishing with my grandfather and was dependent upon him to lead the way. In the backwaters of the Escambia River (aka. swamp), a little kid could easily get lost. So I did what I needed to keep up and follow in his footsteps. I would literally step in the footprints he left in the mud. Never did I question his direction nor did I argue to go a different way. I had complete confidence he knew where he was going. It was the same with my father. I always wanted to be like him; do the things he did and try to walk in the footsteps he set before me in service to the community and the church.
There are some footprints we should all follow. And they’re called the footprints of Jesus. A traditional hymn still echoes through the old church houses today. It wisely tells us: “…Footprints of Jesus, that make the pathway glow; we will follow the steps of Jesus where’er they go…”
There’s a glib statement that some people live by: “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” Sadly this is too true in the life of professing Christians. It’s always the right time to do the right thing. I’ve been a teacher long enough to know that if you let one student “start something”, soon the others will follow. Whether we realize it or not, in many ways we’re all in the spotlight. Unless you live separated from society and the public, everything you do or say is open to inspection by everyone. Just like my father and grandfather made footprints, I find myself making tracks that my own son David sees.
In 2008, I won the Semper Fi Marine Association 5K in Pensacola. My Dad took first in his age group, and David won his age division. It was the first time all three of us took a first place in the same race. During the drive home, feeling good and always the confident one, David says to me: “You’ve won a lot of races Dad, but I’m going to try and beat all your records!” There’s hardly anything that could please me more to know he wants to follow in my footsteps and raise the bar a little bit higher. But I would never “dare” tell him or anyone to use me as an example. We are all individuals with flaws that will lead to shortcomings and missteps. Our own behavior and actions lead us on a journey that’s often up and down. It’s our strengths and victories that we hope outweigh the negative choices that follow us.
Yet, whether we “dare” or not, perhaps unknown to us, there are those who are looking at you and me as examples of what a Christian is. We shouldn’t let this fact frighten us. Nor should we let it keep us from being ourselves. God gives us parental authority, vocational authority, and other leadership positions so we can be positive guides for those that come after us. It’s a surety we will make mistakes. But a person with a heart bent on doing the right things has the glorious promise that “he or she, can do all things through Christ…” Big things, little things, all good things are possible.
To follow in the footsteps of Jesus let’s do these things: First, look to Christ for counsel. Many of us look to ministers, doctors, friends, and loved ones for advice. While their help is to be appreciated, it is sometimes misguiding and ill-advised. We must look to Jesus for the counsel which is enduring. And God always cares and understands what’s best. His infinite wisdom never misleads (Psalm 33:11). Secondly, look as Jesus looked—with compassion. “As he saw many people, Jesus had loving-pity on them. They were troubled and were walking around everywhere. They were like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Jesus looked upon the sick, suffering, and sinful with a compassionate heart. Too many people hold resentments and look for the faults in others. It’s a good idea to pray for people that we know are wayward and have compassion on them like Jesus did. Third, look at Jesus and conform to his likeness. The Bible plainly tells us in 1 Peter 2:21, “These things are all a part of the Christian life to which you have been called. Christ suffered for us. This shows us we are to follow in his steps.” Jesus’ footsteps always lead you in the right direction. People should sincerely desire to be more like Christ. They should strive to think, talk, work, and walk as he did. Follow in his footsteps. Care and share with those you know needs help.
Finally, look for Jesus to come again. Many of us have fallen in the cadence of societies “rush here and rush there” pursuits. Jesus admonished: “Therefore watch! You don’t know what day or what hour the Son of Man is coming (back)” (Matt. 25:13). Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. In other words, our faith comes from him as we follow him (Heb. 12:2).
As long as I stayed close, I never got lost following my grandfather in the woods. The same can be true for us as we draw close to our heavenly Father (James 4:8). Find ways to strengthen your relationship with God. Seek out good people to encourage you to do the right thing. Don’t settle for second best, always strive to do the right thing and you will find more peace in your life. And if for some reason you get off track, remember these words: “Once I was blind, but now I see… once I was lost, but now I am found.” Follow the footsteps of Jesus—there’s never a wayward step on that trail.
• This weekly column is written by Matt Dobson. A graduate of Florida State University, Univ. of West Florida, and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, he is Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Jay, Florida and a 1LT Chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserves. Matt can be reached by email: He welcomes your thoughts concerning faith, belief, and Christian living. Visit the Living With Purpose website at

Posted by on Feb 3 2013. Filed under Living With Purpose, Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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