Being a Disciple of Jesus – Part 2
Welcome back! Last week we talked about being a disciple and I tried to make the case for being a disciple. I went through some of the things the bible tells us it takes to be a disciple like time, commitment, and self-denial. We talked about it being hard and not being something every Christian will choose to do. This week I want to go through some practical steps we can take to get us started on our journey. The one thing I have heard said by several different people is, the longer you are on this journey, the more you realize you are just beginning.
Paul talks about our part as disciples a lot, but a couple of the more noticeable places are Philippians 2
'Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. '
And 1 Corinthians 9
'Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.'
St John Chrysostom says it’s not enough to just show up and run. We have to train to box in a match or run in a race. We have to train to be the men and women we are called to be. He tells us to train our bodies so that when temptations arise we don’t give into them. Paul talks about those temptations in almost every letter he writes.
Paul also makes it clear that it is not because of what we want to do that we become disciples. It is always God working in us that brings us back to him.
Here are some practical steps we can take to be disciples.
Have A Guide
Just like we see Paul being a guide for those who were trying to be disciples in the churches he started, we need to have a spiritual guide who can speak into our lives. In the Orthodox church, we are well aware that we do not just become spiritual apart from the leadership of a spiritual parent. Our church teaches that we need a guide for the spiritual journey. This starts with our Father Confessor. Our priest knows us and knows our needs so he is our first guide. As we get started having someone to encourage us, who has been where we want to go, will help us stay on track when we start to get bored or lose focus.
While our priest is the first person to hold our hand as we grow, God puts other people in our lives who can walk with us as well. Most of the people I rely on for spiritual guidance aren’t ordained. They are men and women who have been or are where I want to be spiritually.
In order to be disciples, we have to be willing to listen to the people around us. If we can’t listen to the people we can see, how can we listen to God whom we can’t see? For me, having a person in my life who genuinely cared for my spiritual growth was a game-changer in my growth. I talked last week about the fits and starts my spiritual life had gone through over the last twenty years. Finally getting someone in my life who will walk me through the ups and downs of the spiritual life, someone to show me what I needed to do to take the next step got me out of just reading books and into the application of the spiritual life.
Have a Prayer Life
St. Nikon of Optina said, “Do not forget prayer─it is the life of the soul.” Having a prayer rule will help us to not forget prayer.