Discipleship - It's What Keeps You Pressing On

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

As I was thinking about what to write about discipleship this week, the Holy Spirit once again brought it to me through something that is a routine activity, as he often does. It seems to me that the Church has been trying to “figure out” discipleship for a long time. We have classes in seminaries, conferences within denominations, and programs within local churches that are all crafted with the purpose of teaching people how to be disciples. But the more I read about Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament and the situations in which they found themselves, the more I think discipleship can be boiled down to hanging out with Jesus enough to know what he would do and then going and doing likewise.

I’m not trying to trivialize something that is not easy for any of us, but I am hoping to shed some light on how we so often over-complicate Biblical concepts. This all came to my mind yesterday as I did something that is now routine but still not easy - exercise. A few months ago, I decided, for at least the tenth time in my life, to start putting more emphasis on healthy living. As I’m sure anyone reading this who has made the same decision knows, it’s not as easy to do it as it is to talk about it. I’ve done pretty well and I feel blessed that God has given me health to be able to implement these changes in my life, but this past weekend was certainly a bump in the road on the way to wellness. I got lazy, didn’t exercise, and ate pretty much whatever I wanted.

When it came time to go for a run on Monday, I was mentally defeating myself before I even started, thinking about how unhealthy I felt after the weekend and how much more difficult the run would be because of my poor choices. I can admit that I started thinking about giving up only about a half mile into it. I was literally asking the Lord to keep me going. As a side note, isn’t it interesting how often we ask God to cover for our pathetic choices, and how often he does? Anyway, the thought that came to my mind as I struggled, and often does when I am doing something physically taxing, is how much my pain and fatigue pale in comparison to what Christ went through for me on the day he was crucified. Then I find myself asking him to help me have just a little bit of the strength and perseverance that he had. I think to myself that, if he could persevere on that horrible day because of his love for me and desire to obey the Father, then I, someone who calls himself a follower and disciple of Christ, need to find a way to finish my 30-45 minutes of pain without quitting.

As a disciple, my desire to be like the Master even in a small way gives me motivation to press on even when nothing else does. If it were based solely on my will power or my desire for personal achievement, I’d throw in the towel almost every time. As I continued on the run, two different random strangers gave me encouragement to keep going. I see them as little reminders from God. Before I knew it, I was back home and realized I had persevered in this one test. This small victory can lead to larger ones in my life as I continue to face other challenges that make me think about how Christ handled himself while he walked this earth and strive to be more like him. Discipleship for me is becoming more about watching and doing and less about figuring out the proper formula. Jesus faced many trials in this world and told his disciples they would face the same and more. They didn’t need to have all the answers. They just needed to listen, watch, and repeat.

Check out Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 10 as he sends them out “like sheep among wolves” (v. 16). First, he gives them authority to do extraordinary things that they figured only he could do (v. 1). He then commands that they go and preach that the kingdom of heaven is near throughout all of Israel. But I don’t see anywhere in there that he teaches them “how” to preach. These guys didn’t need a class or program to learn how to be disciples. Jesus simply told them to do what he had already done. We know this because Matthew 4:17 tells us, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Jesus also told them how to deal with rejection and persecution. They had already seen him walk the walk, so now he was talking the talk for their benefit. He tells them to move on if someone doesn’t welcome them or listen to their words (v. 14), then tells them not to worry about “what to say or how to say it” WHEN they are arrested, not if (v. 19). That’s interesting because the first thing we start thinking about today when we are arrested, or even accused for that matter, is what our defense will be. Jesus tells them they don’t have to worry about mounting a defense, because the Holy Spirit will speak through them and for them (v. 20).

Jesus continues through the rest of his instructions to make the connection between what he has done and what they will do. He tells them they will be hated not because of themselves, but because of HIM (v. 22). Then, he explains why being his disciples means they should expect to be like him in every way, even the ways that won’t make them happy. “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:24-25)

Friends, discipleship is not easy and is not comfortable. Jesus certainly didn’t mince words about that. He went on to tell his disciples that they couldn’t even love their family members more than him (Matthew 10:35-37). In other words, Jesus was willing to give up everything in order to obey his Father and save you and me. To be his disciples, we must also be willing to sacrifice whatever he asks in obedience to him. When we struggle and want to give up, we know that Jesus was in a similar situation and yet overcame. Whether it’s physical exhaustion, the responsibility to forgive, having to face betrayal and rejection, having your reputation ruined, looking at a seemingly impossible task that you know God has led you to, or even being threatened with physical harm or death, you can find encouragement to press on just by knowing that Jesus did it first. And just as Jesus’ first disciples continued lives that served as encouraging examples to the next generation of disciples, so can you be encouraged today by other disciples of Christ in your life and be an encouragement to others. Being a disciple of Jesus requires us to KNOW him and how he lived, then face our “giants” just as he did. With no example before us, we have no motivation or hope to keep resisting the temptation to be our own gods. But with Christ as our master and the examples of others around us today, we have all the motivation that we need!