After following Jesus for a good number of years now, I look back on my life and am extremely grateful for receiving the goodness of God in my life. That he has chosen to extend his kindness towards me is humbling and entirely gracious. In the Psalms we read, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits," and "the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places" (103:2, 16:6). And to that I say a wholehearted yes and amen. From Scripture and my experience, I have become convinced that the best possible path for my life is following Jesus Christ. And that is not unique to me. I believe that this is true for every person—it is true for you. The best possible life that you can have is following Jesus Christ.
Now, of course the benefits of following Jesus are not the primary reason that we should follow him. As C.S. Lewis said, "The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it is true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort." So the first reason that we follow Jesus is because it is true. Even if we would not receive any benefit from following Jesus, we would still be compelled to follow him based upon the truth of who Jesus is and what he said.
But, the Good News is that not only is Jesus true, he is also good. The strength at which this is proclaimed in the Bible has been the most shocking part of it for me. Again, as only Lewis can put it: "Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak." For example, the Bible says that faith must include not only the belief that God exists but also the conviction that "he rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus himself said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" and said that he taught us "that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 10:10 and 15:11). On another occasion Jesus' disciples were grumbling about the sacrifice they have made in following him, Jesus made it clear that in comparison with anything that they have left, the will receive one hundred times as much "in this time . . . and in the age to come eternal life" (Mark 10:30). While ruminating on the words of God, Psalm 19:11 points out that "in keeping them there is great reward." The Bible is replete with such examples; following Jesus improves our lot.
The primary benefit that we have in following Jesus is knowing Jesus. This is the relationship for which you were made, and it is hard to quantify or overestimate the satisfaction that this brings to the soul of a believer. Jesus is our reward, Jesus is our treasure. He is not just a means to provide for us other stuff which brings us joy—he IS our greatest joy. He is also the only effective solution to the guilt and shame that appropriately hangs over the head of every person. Full forgiveness is the necessary ground of living in full freedom. And that full forgiveness can only be found in Jesus.
The benefits of following Jesus also extend to our relationships with other people. It would be hard to deny that the quality of our human relationships greatly impacts our quality of life. The transformation that Jesus produces in his followers will make them more adept at those relationships. The gift of God's wisdom and the fruit of the Spirit produced in your life can only help (Galatians 5:22-23). You may not be the most loving or wise or kind person who has ever lived; but you will surely be more loving and wise and kind than you would have been otherwise.
And the benefits do not stop there but rather flow down into every area of life. No part of your life is excluded from the blessings and benefits of following Jesus. They reach down to your work, your play, your finances, your hobbies. 1 Timothy 6:17 says that God "richly provides us with everything to enjoy." Understanding that Jesus is Lord over all things places all things in their proper order. Whenever we look to a relationship or an experience to provide us ultimate satisfaction, we are placing a burden upon them that is too big for any created thing to bear. When any created thing is pursued as an end in itself it eventually proves hollow. So even things that we think should provide us with enjoyment cannot bring us the enjoyment for which we hunger. But when we are satisfied in Jesus, we are freed to receive other enjoyments as gifts from him. Then they can be truly enjoyed as God intends, rather than leaving us tinged with disappointment. In this way the blessing of Jesus increases our true enjoyment not only of him but of other things as well.
One clarification just to ensure that we don't end up heading in the wrong direction. Saying that the best possible life that you can have is following Jesus does not mean that everything will go your way. No money trucks will necessarily back into your driveway, you may not be exempt from the need for medical treatment, and all of your adversaries will not automatically give in to you or be immediately struck dead simply because you follow Jesus. But nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). The testimony of many of our brothers and sisters throughout the centuries proclaims that even amidst great suffering and persecution, Jesus is enough. Sometimes we will not truly understand that he is enough until he is all that we have. Psalm 63:3 affirms to God that "your steadfast love is better than life." At times God will graciously purge our lives so that we receive the benefit of knowing how true and precious that statement is.
The best possible life that you can have is following Jesus Christ. So what are you following?