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“Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all” (I Tim. 4:15).
Over the years, our understanding of discipleship has changed — and not always in a good direction. Discipleship has shifted — from an ongoing process over the course of one’s life to a class you sign up and hopefully complete. Usually after some time the class that started with twenty dwindles to eight or ten.
I grew up on the tail end of the “training union” of the late 1960s and early 70s. But even in this the shortcomings were felt. Again, it was based upon this premise…you come and sit, I’ll teach. You and I ought to be dissatisfied with mediocrity. God has placed in each of us the desire to minister and develop through others.
Discipleship should not be left to chance. The Lord Jesus was intentional and calculative from the beginning. In fact, as Jesus discipled the twelve men who would change the world, He gradually released them into ministry through a definitive four-step process.
First, Jesus ministered while the disciples watched.
Second, Jesus allowed the disciples to assist Him in ministry.
Third, the disciples ministered with Jesus’ assistance.
Finally, Jesus observed as the disciples ministered to others.
If Jesus had a model and a plan, shouldn’t we have one? If discipleship was then, should it not be for today?
“Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
In earlier days the Bible was maligned by even the religious establishment. The church itself was against the translation of the Bible into languages of the people. There were some who wanted the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, for themselves, for their own personal reading. This evoked bitter and awesome persecution. This privilege was denied the people for hundreds of years. Martin Luther was a grown man when he said, “I have never seen a Bible,” and he had been in church all the days of his life.
John Wycliffe translated the Bible into the language of the people. He wanted it to be possible for anyone who wanted to know the Word to have it. He said, “I’m going to make it possible that a plowman will know more of the Word of God than the priest himself, than the king himself.” John Wycliffe died before men could burn him and try him. But even after his death they exhumed and publicly burned his body, then cast his body as ashes upon the River Swift. If anyone was found with a Wycliffe Bible , the Bible was hung around his neck and he was publicly hanged and burned.
What the English inquisitors did not realize was that when they burned the body of Wycliffe and scattered his ashes on the River Swift, that river flowed into the Avon, and Avon flowed into the sea, and the sea loved the shores of the continents of the world, including the new land of America. Wherever the sea carried the ashes of John Wycliffe, there God scattered the truth of the Word of the Living Lord. Isn’t that glorious? Over the whole face of the earth the Word of God has traveled. That’s God!
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of judgment is come” (Revelation 14:6-7).
Time is now short for the earth-dwellers, for no longer is it the day of judgment but now the hour of judgment. In just a little while those who dwell on earth will face God’s wrath. God’s mercy and compassion fail not. Rebellious creatures are given an extreme measure from God to repent. The eternal gospel during the days of tribulation is flying high with the voice of an angel.
“Fear God, and give glory to him.” Fear God ought to be the conviction that would fall upon every person who dwells upon the earth. And this fear of God ought to lead to the conversion of every person who would no longer take the glory but give the glory to Almighty God.
We do not know how much longer it will before the God of glory returns to judge. So we ought to be ready by fearing God and giving glory to Him. Too many fear other things and other people while we need only to fear God and honor His Son by elevating Him in our daily walk.
“I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).
There are so many times when we do not realize the sovereign hand of God at work behind the scenes, caring for His people. Are we left at the mercy of stalled cars on a railroad track, or of a car that breaks down and costs us our income, or even at the mercy of people who are intent on doing us wrong and harm? No, a thousand times no! We are in the hands of a sovereign God who controls every circumstance of our lives and who rejoices in doing us good.
Many would say that God is in the miraculous, and He is, especially in the scenes we find in the Word of God. We see it with Moses and Elijah, the miracles of God. But is God also in the details of our life, of those details we can’t see? Is God in the events of our lives for our good? In other words is God in a car wreck? Or is God with those involved in a Tsunami? Must we conclude that God always orchestrates the events of our lives to fulfill His purpose? According to Romans 8:28, the answer is a solid yes. That verse says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose“. That is why we are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
How can we give thanks to God for all that happens to us, the circumstances of our lives, if He were not at work in them for our good? No circumstance is outside of God’s sovereign will. And no plan of God’s can be thwarted. God does as He pleases, and only as He pleases, and no one can frustrate His plans or hinder His purposes! Look at Psalm 115:3, Job 42:2, Isaiah 14:27, and Isaiah 43:13.