Today’s post is short and sweet and likely to stir up a nest or two. I’ve been brooding lately over the practical side of being a disciple, specifically who it is that is called to disciple us. Or should I say, who it is that God appoints to disciple us, because there’s another side at work: We have to submit to the one He calls us to follow.
Who is Ruth without Naomi? Or Timothy without Paul? (It is also valid to upend the questions, since Ruth and Timothy were undoubtedly gifts to Naomi and Paul as well, but that’s for another day.) It’s interesting to me that in these two stories, there isn’t any mention of personality matching, or easy camaraderie, or even the likelihood of compatibility. Considering how thorough Paul is in covering spiritual ground, I think he’d take the time to assure people that they’ll be matched up with a BFF if they become a disciple. But he doesn’t.
God chooses. The relationship between disciple and teacher is God-ordained – it does NOT originate with man. It follows then that sometimes a would-be disciple looks at the one that God has chosen for him and says, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Happens the other way around, too. Poor Ananias got a visit from the Almighty in a vision, and even with God right there in front of him in a divine and holy dream-state, Ananias basically said, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, I KNOW who this guy is and I REALLY don’t think this is a good idea” (Acts 9:10-17). A rather bumpy start for the Apostle Paul, no?
I guess where I’m going with this is that any illusions you hold about discipleship will be shattered—and shattered in the best possible way. There’s no Gregorian chant in the background as the sacred scroll is passed on to you. You’ll meet God in a particular vessel, and then you’ll choose to surrender to who God is IN THEM. It’s often scary, sometimes messy and very, very worth it. I don’t have words at the moment for how deep and true and glorious is the love I’ve met through being discipled, but I can share a small incentive of mine: Phygelus, Hermogenes, Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Demas. Paul mentions each as having left him in some way.
Because Paul mentioned them by name, but didn’t call out their evil treatment of him or enemy status (which he certainly doesn’t hesitate to do with others), it appears that these were disciples, or maybe potential disciples – Timothys in the making, perhaps. Either way, they left Paul, and they’re mentioned by their names and their choices and nothing else. Did they choose their illusions over reality? Did they prefer the world to the Cross? Were they afraid to be thrown in jail with the fearless, fire-breathing Apostle that God appointed for them? Did they decide that Paul was a bit too much to take and go in search of a quieter, calmer fellow to follow?
We won’t know the answers in this life, but I think we know enough to tremble.
I thank You, God, for the abundant grace You give us to enable us to choose and to surrender every day. May we not miss the hour of our visitation, and our eternal destiny, by resisting or downright refusing Your perfect will and choice for our lives.
Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. May God’s grace be with you all.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 NLT
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Luke 9:62 KJV