Is discipleship something we do, or is it something that God does through us? The base command of the Great Commission is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), but how does that happen? I have discovered that one person cannot make another person into a disciple (you can lead a horse to water…). I’m not even convinced that I can make myself into a disciple of Christ. Paul told the Philippians that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He gives us the want to and the strength to work for the kingdom.
Growth does not come out of my own strength, because it is God who is the One who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). We can faithfully till the soil, prepare the ground, plant, water, weed and cultivate, but God causes the growth. We set goals and when they are achieved we generally take the credit. When we come short after doing all that we can to cause growth, God still says it is up to Him because Jesus said that “apart from Him we can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Paul tells the Ephesians that “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16). God makes the body fit together and causes growth, which is a sign of a healthy and loving church. The key is each part doing what God has called them to do. I believe that God wants much more than my earthly success, He wants my obedience and faithfulness. Will I continue to do what He has called me to do even when there are no visible and measurable signs of growth?
The Great Commission also says we are to teach people all that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:20), but does that create a disciple? Perhaps we are to create an atmosphere of hunger and thirst where the believer will desire to become more like Christ (Romans 8:29).
I am an encourager; I challenge people with the claims of Christ and the truth of the gospel in hopes that people will receive salvation and desire to grow in their relationship with the Lord. Complete trust and dependence on God is freeing but it is not easy. It is a marathon more than a sprint. It takes endurance and patience. It takes the understanding that we cannot become a disciple on our own.
Oswald Chambers wrote:
“Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on water is easy to someone with impulsive boldness, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something altogether different. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he “followed Him at a distance” on dry land (Mark 14:54). We do not need the grace of God to withstand crises—human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people—and this is not learned in five minutes.”
Faithfully continue in the things that God has called you to do. Allow God to work through you. Turn your will and ambitions over to Him. Strive for obedience and understanding of His will and mission for your life. All of us need to exercise clarify, movement, alignment and focus allowing God to take us where He desires, rather than where we desire. Be patient while you remain faithful.