Challenges of Biblical Discipleship and Enduring in Christ

As many of you know, I've been very ill for the past 13 years. I have more specialists than there are colors in the rainbow. I've had countless procedures, many emergency room visits and hospital admissions. I've had nine surgeries in eight years and I have at least one more to go.

It hurts just to be alive. And often, I want to give up. I'm in constant physical pain all over my body, and I hate the perpetual weakness I feel daily. I have to take medications, vitamins, enzymes, and eat and drink certain things daily in order to help my organs function. It's annoying. It's depressing. It makes me grumpy. But then, there is God, who is far greater than any trial or tribulation I encounter in this life (2 Cor 4:16-18). My Father's love, grace, extreme kindness and faithfulness always lifts my heart to praise and thanksgiving. My body may be weak, but indeed, the Spirit of Christ that dwells within me is more than willing to carry me out of my miry pit and set my feet upon the Rock that makes my steps secure (Ps 40:1-2).

I want nothing more than to spend my life for the sake of the Gospel—for the pleasure and glory of Christ Jesus my Lord—for the edification of the saints, and salvation of the lost. My extensive duties as a wife, mother and homemaker is challenging enough without constant physical pains and weaknesses. So when I minister to those outside my home through serving in our church, my writing, biblical counseling (on and offline), and one-on-one discipleship, I often feel stretched beyond what I can bear. Living life within my home is exhausting. And when I disciple a sister in Christ, I make myself available to live life with her (e.g., I teach married and single sisters biblical submission, how to cook, clean, sew, plan meals, gratefully live within her husband's budget, wisely and frugally shop for anything, how to practically obey Deuteronomy 6:6-9, etc.). Basically, when I disciple, I endeavor to fulfill God's mandate in Titus 2:3-5. If I sat with a sister and only did a Bible study, but never taught her how to practically live it out, then I'm not actually discipling her, I'm just doing a Bible study with her. Not that doing a Bible study with a sister is a bad thing, but it's not the same thing as discipling.

The Greek word for "disciple" used in Luke 14:26, 27 and 33 is μαθητής, transliterated mathétés. And the Greek word used for "disciple" in Acts 9:36 is μαθήτρια, transliterated mathetria. The first is the masculine form and the second is the female form, and they both mean the same thing: learner, pupil. No one learns anything well with only book knowledge. Which is why Jesus Christ taught His disciples with Scripture, gave them spiritual insight and practical applications, personally demonstrated how to live what He taught, then commanded them to do it themselves (Jn 13:1, 14-15; 1 Jn 2:4-6).

Discipleship as it's exampled to us by Christ and all the apostles, is living what you're learning. It's not just filling someone with head knowledge that only puffs them up and deceives them into believing they're more mature than they really are. Discipleship is not an arms-length relationship, but an intimate one. It's sacrificially getting into the nitty gritty of someone's heart and life, and lovingly cleansing and exhorting them with God's Word—to live what they profess they believe (Prov 27:5-6, Eph 4:29). It's making yourself vulnerable and transparent so that whomever you're discipling can witness your victories in Christ as well as your failures in the flesh. I can't model what repentance looks like if I never live life with anyone, so they can, first hand, witness me sin and repent to God, and to anyone who was injured by my sin.

When I disciple a spiritual daughter, I not only spend hours teaching her what biblical womanhood looks like, but I avail myself to pray for her when we're apart and pray with her when we're together. I pour myself out to her throughout the week, counseling her with God's Word, always pointing her to Christ, inviting her to live my life with me as well as live her life with her. She knows my family and friends and if she is willing, I am happy to spend time with her family and friends as well.

Because of my constant physical challenges, and my first ministry to my family, I often feel guilty when someone asks to meet with me for a simple lunch, a one-time counseling session, or a long-term discipling relationship, and I have to tell them "No", or "My first opening is in three to four weeks". I question and examine my heart, "Am I being lazy, unloving, selfish? Am I giving into my weak and wicked flesh, rather than living in, and by the power of the Holy Spirit?"

That's when I ask my Heavenly Father to search my heart, test it, and cleanse me of anything that is offensive to Him, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps 139:23-24). I pray for Him to remind me how short my life is, so that I might walk in wisdom (Ps 90:12). Then I ask my gracious and merciful Father God to help me to live out Philippians 2:17 and Acts 20:24. I speak truth to my heart and remind myself that I am crucified with Christ; that it is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me. And the only life I live in this body is by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:20). I remind my heart of Christ's example in John 13:1-2, and His command to His disciples in verses 15-17. And I pray that my Lord would help me to understand what it means, what it looks like, in my life, to genuinely love others until He returns or calls me Home.

One of the blessings of being so weak and pained in the flesh is that I have to be more careful and prayerful than those who are healthier than me. I can't and don't even commit to a single coffee, lunch, etc., without seeking my Father's counsel through prayer, reading His Word, consulting my darling husband and waiting patiently for the Holy Spirit's perfectly loving and wise leading (1 Cor 2:14-16). I can never tell who genuinely desires to live abandoned to Christ and who's merely giving me lip service. Only God knows. And though I have been led to offer my time to many lip service people who are merely satisfied with temporary relief from their trials, I am satisfied. I am satisfied because I don't offer my life, my time, my money, or resources for the results. I offer anything my Father has equipped me to give for His pleasure and glory alone. I neither control nor own the results. My Father does.

Not to say that it doesn't pain me when someone I've poured my life out to spurns me when I touch a golden calf in their life—a sin they refuse to repent of and are angry/offended by me because the Lord used me to expose their idol.  This is truly one of the most grievous parts of entering into a discipleship relationship with someone—to give my life, only to have them slander me because I've rebuked them in accordance with God's Word, or they're angry because I refuse to chase after them when they walk away. These unrepentant deceivers tempt me to give up. But then, I remember my Savior's words, "Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." (John 15:20, ESV)

I'm writing this to share how breathless and burdened I've been feeling lately. And how often I've wondered if the Island of Patmos is still around and if so, perhaps the Lord would send me there. You see, what many of you may not know is, I'm an extreme introvert. There's nothing I love more than spending time with my Lord through reading, studying and meditating on His Word and doing it—alone. I love silence. I love being alone. It drains and pains me to be with people, whether I'm just with one person, or a room full of people. Though, like everyone else, I desire to live in a way that's most comfortable and enjoyable to my flesh, because Christ is greater than my sins, I am free! I am free to live, love, laugh and pour myself out for the good of others, just as Christ my Lord has done for me.

Therefore, I press on. I press on not because discipleship is easy, pleasant, or rewarding (though it often has been), but because this is what my Lord has called and equipped me to do. And after all that Christ has suffered and done for me, how then can I turn to my flesh to fulfill its desires rather than my Lord's? I cannot. I refuse.

If you too are a faithful disciple of Christ, and therefore a faithful teacher/discipler of His Word, I pray this resource the Lord provided me through my darling husband, will encourage you:  9 Factors to Consider When Choosing Someone to Disciple.

May the LORD help us all to be wise about how we spend our time, and who we spend it with; for the days are short, and they are evil (Eph 5:15-17).