The importance of nurture and discipleship
Discovering ‘God’s will’ should never take priority over discipleship. If our focus is on events rather than process, we tend to concentrate on the present or the next few weeks or months. God’s discipleship plan will take a lifetime to unfold. Few people have the foresight to be able to see long-term. Sometimes the call of God can take a decade or two to mature; often we are just not ready to give God everything. God often gives us a glimpse of what he is going to do, and we tend to assume that he is going to do it right now. Abraham, Moses, and Joshua were all in their old age when the promises of God were finally realised. Many characters in the bible had to go through a sustained time of ‘training’ before they were ready to serve God at his level.
So often we want to bypass discipleship and dive into the programme. For God, discipleship is the programme. Discipleship is not a means to an end; it is the main thing. He is much more interested in who we are and what we’re becoming than he is about choosing what kind of job we would like.
True discipleship is about learning to lay down our will for his will. We cannot fulfil God’s will unless our own will has died. Jesus said, ‘take up your cross and follow me.’ Even he had to lay down his will in order to discover his Father’s will.
Matt. 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Doing stuff for God doesn’t make us mature believers – discipleship does.
Eph 4:13 … until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Heb. 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer in his book the ‘Cost of Discipleship’ talks about the Christian who assents mentally to the gospel’s message but fails to put its truth into practice; he calls this ‘cheap grace’ - “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth that has a place for the Fatherhood of God but omits Christ as the living Son. … There is belief in God, but no following of Christ… He wants to follow but feels obliged to insist on his own terms to the level of human understanding. He places himself at the God’s disposal, but at the same time retains the right to dictate his own terms. This is no longer discipleship, but a program of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves, and to be judged in accordance with the standards of our own rules."
When we practice true discipleship, we will be well on the road to discovering the will of God. Process is much more important than event; event is short lived and temporary; process is the steady gradual transformation of a person’s life.
Discipleship is studying the life of Jesus and then putting his words and example into practice. Finding God's will require us to seek Him by spending time reading His Word, the Bible. God's Word is the primary source for discovering His will. Prayer is also essential in finding God's will. Through prayer, we humbly ask God for direction and share with Him our desire to accomplish His will. This involves placing faith and trust in Him, knowing that He has a plan and purpose for our lives.
In Part 6 we consider how to offer a sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God.