How can we help others become more like Jesus?
We’ve been looking at Paul’s example of discipling others in 1 Thessalonians, and we’ve seen:
He shares the gospel.
He depends on God.
He encourages the saints.
He models the faith.
He perseveres in difficulty.
And this last quality is important because discipling is going to be difficult.
Most of us love comfort. Discipling someone else is often not very comfortable at all.
It certainly wasn’t easy for Paul.
Listen to the way he describes what his ministry was like in chapter 2.
“For you yourselves know brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel in the midst of much conflict.”
What did Paul have to go through to make an impact on their lives?
He suffered physically, he was embarrassed, he had been shamefully treated, and he describes what was going on in his life at that point as much conflict. If you think about it, those are three big reasons most of us stop reaching out to the people around us. If it is painful, embarrassing or difficult we think it’s time to move on.
You can’t have a fairy tale view of discipleship.
Sometimes we might think, you know, if I just get involved in someone’s life, and try to do the right thing, then it is going to go amazing. But then we try and it is hard and we are like, can I do this, or maybe I am doing something wrong and we give up. When the fact that it is hard doesn’t necessarily mean that at all and maybe what we need to do is just keep on going.
If you read Thessalonians you find there are parts where it seems like Paul is having to defend himself. That’s part of why there are all the you knows. He has to remind them of what his life was like, because there seem to be some questions people have in their minds, maybe mostly because he wasn’t visiting them as of yet.
It can be very painful to disciple someone else. You will get involved in someone’s life and go through a lot for them, and sometimes they don’t even notice. Or later, it might seem like they have questions about you, in spite of all you went through to help them follow Christ. If that happened to Paul, it’s going to happen to us, I am sure of it, but like Paul, the big point is, it shouldn’t cause us to give up on pursuing people’s best.
How do you disciple someone else?
Obviously, I am not really giving you a one, two, three step program.
But, I am calling you to something even more fundamental. And that’s a certain attitude towards people. And, if God helps you have this dogged, I am going to stick with this person no matter what, I am going to pursue their spiritual good, until I can’t anymore, that’s going to take you much further than any program, because there are just a lot of reasons to give up when you are trying to disciple someone, it might be them, it might be the circumstances, but, the only way you are going to make a long term impact on people is if you are able to stick with it, to stick with them even when it is difficult.