The goal of Discipleship Discipline Four is to develop relationships with other believers, support other believers, seek support from other believers, and to develop strategies to do God’s work together with other believers.
Your relationship with others is what discipleship is all about. In discipleship discipline one, we prepared our heart through worship and developed our relationship with Jesus Christ. In discipleship discipline two, we worked our way deep into the pages of the Bible to uncover where our understanding is lacking, and fill in those gaps with diligent study. In discipleship discipline three, we shored up and expanded our prayer life to better communicate with God. Along the way, we should have been putting into action all the information gathered. Now it’s time to expand our connection to others in a more detailed way.
Of course we respond differently to people depending on the amount of intimacy in our relationship. We interact with our immediate family members differently than we interact with strangers at the local mall. However there are some important common threads that will remain constant no matter who we encounter. Our goal as disciples of Christ is to meet people where they are and provide understanding, encouragement, support, and guidance.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:14-16 (NIV)
The best way to accomplish this goal is by using a filter. Imagine if you will, a bright white spot light – if a blue colored filter is lifted in front of the light, the white light becomes the color blue. In this same way, we are to raise the filter of love in front of the light we are projecting toward everyone we come in contact with.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
For you to succeed in this effort, there must be some measure of accountability. You can start with your family members. Ask them to candidly tell you how you can improve your relationship with them. Do the same with your close friends. If you have a mentor working with you in your path to discipleship, ask your mentor to evaluate how you respond to others and offer advice on how you might better serve their needs. This is not something you can do yourself. You will need help. If you don’t have a mentor, take a trusted friend along with you in a social situation and ask your friend to evaluate how you present yourself. The more feedback you get, the better you will be able to adjust your demeanor to properly reflect the love of God.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
Every person you encounter has a life equally as complex as your own. When you view their persona through the filter of love, you will set aside any unappreciated demeanor that may be present and allow them time to grow in knowledge and wisdom. In so much as you have the ability to help, do so never expecting any more than the person in question is willing to give. As God sees fit, your efforts will bear fruit or continue to develop as His plan unfolds. In all cases, be patient and joyfully wait on the Lord.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
As a disciple of Christ you put your own interest aside to serve others. First and foremost you seek to serve and not be served. Allow yourself to hear the noise coming from others above the noise coming from your own mind. Look for ways to be supportive and encouraging. Consider how a kind word brightens your day and pass that gift onto others. In all you do, seek to provide a connection to the love of God to everyone you come in contact with.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV)
Why people do the evil that they do is beyond your control. As a disciple of Christ, you will need to have compassion for those who mistreat you as much as you do for those who love you. It’s not always possible to apply this instruction in every situation. You may face resistance that requires you to retreat and deliver your compassion through prayer. If you are unable to provide help directly, you may be able to send help in some other form. Don’t give up on those who are difficult to love. Seek God’s guidance and continue to do everything in your power to share God’s love.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
All of the above will be made easier if you employ a network of trusted supporters. This may be in the form of a small group that meets weekly, or a string of individuals you regularly interact with. In either case, these supporters need to be dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. Together you can support each other in Bible study, prayer, and developing ways to serve God together by serving others.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)
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