The word disciple most readily defined is simply a follower of Jesus, and although it may be easily defined it is not easily lived or put into practice in our lives. Great perseverance is required to embark on this journey of following the Lord wherever He may lead. However, there are all kinds of things that seem to hinder and often inhibit our most noble efforts to follow Jesus. We strive to follow Him at our family get-to-togethers, prepping in silent prayer on the drive for the inevitable dramatics. We diligently seek Him as we force a smile while dealing with a difficult customer or client. We yearn for Him as we nervously wait for the test results in the doctor’s exam room. We praise Him when our child returns home safe and sound after being an hour late for curfew. And yet, in the midst of all of our striving, seeking, yearning, and praising we miss the mark. We leave our family’s house offended, we talk back to the client, we are crippled by fear and doubt when the results come back, and we lash out in anger at our teenager. It’s these times where it is imperative that we remember who we are following.
Eugene Peterson in his book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” writes the following concerning Christian discipleship:
“We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to own; finding the meaning of our lives not by probing our moods and motives and morals but by believing in God’s will and purposes; making a map of the faithfulness of God, not charting the rise and fall of our enthusiasms. It is out of such a reality that we acquire perseverance.
This is what the writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrew Christians did. He sang a litany of people who lived by faith, that is, people who centered their lives on the righteous God who stuck by them through thick and thin so that they were able to persevere. They lived with uncommon steadiness of purpose and with a most admirable integrity. None of them lived without sin. They all made their share of mistakes and engaged in episodes of disobedience and rebellion. But God stuck with them so consistently and surely that they learned how to stick with God.”
This sticking with God is what I would say true discipleship is all about, whether you are like Peter and have denied Him, or like Thomas and have doubted Him. The truth is that Jesus will always provide you an opportunity to proclaim your love instead of your fear. He will always give you the chance to touch and see him with a revelation you couldn’t have dreamed was possible. The truth is that He is faithful to be found when we search, answer when we call, comfort us when we break, and love us when we feel unlovable. The call of Jesus is not to have an existing skill set or moral code in place before we follow Him. Our job is to simply reciprocate the faithfulness He has modeled for us and show the same great loving kindness He has given to us to all those that are in need of His saving grace.
Discipleship is about coming into a greater awareness of this truth and allowing it to affect the way we live. When we see how quick He is to forgive us, we forgive quickly. When we see how patiently He deals with us, we can deal patiently with others. When we make this manner of life our focus we may just look up one day and see that others are following behind us! Discipleship is not a program or formula, it is a relationship that completely impacts the way we live. Marriage transforms every area of our life because we are no longer living for ourselves, our relationship with Christ should be the same way. Being a disciple looks like being married to Jesus, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. And when we are standing at the altar we aren’t the only one making that vow. When we say we can’t, He says I can. When we say we won’t, He says he will, and when we say we’re done, He says I’m not… He looks at us, us eye to eye, and says “I do.”