By CHRIS BATES
Discipleship is simpler than you think
Beto and I, along with several others, got to work rebuilding his house on the side of the mountain. The forest smothered us with humidity but also gave much-needed shade. Everyone chipped in making homemade mortar, then carried and stacked dozens of loads of cinder blocks down the steep embankments. Together we grew new walls on the flat ground that others had made by digging into the side of the mountain near Lake Yojoa, Honduras.
His small, stick-framed house had literally washed away down the side of the mountain in a flash flood. He also had been disconnected from his family due to his drinking, and had left them altogether. Then God went to work on him. The small community near Peña Blanca was forming a new church and Beto got connected. When I met him, he was on a new path, had reconnected with his wife, children and grandchild, and was surrounded by this mission team providing a new home for them.
My big mistake was thinking that we were there to serve Beto and his family. I only thought we would bring labor and resources, share some of the gospel and hopefully impact their lives. What happened over the course of several days, though, literally shifted my perspective.
Partially through a translator, Beto and I got to share our stories with one another about life challenges, recovery from alcoholism, fatherhood and raising a family. He shared his spiritual journey with me, and we read and talked about the Word together. He shared his experience finding faith unexpectedly through the most challenging of journeys, and in doing so he helped me grow.
This taught me a clear and very simple lesson: Discipleship is not about having all of the answers or being able to reach far and wide. Discipleship is about being willing to learn from what God puts before you, and then simply doing what is right in front of you.
Mark Twain (who was a Christian, though he was critical of organized religion later in life) said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” Twain might not have been referring to learning to serve God and others, but his point is fitting.
In Matthew 28 we are given the Great Commission, our greatest task, to “go and make disciples of all nations…” We are given the opportunity to accept Christ as our Savior, and then, in turn, are given the chance to serve as a disciple to others. That kind, tireless and quiet man that I got to know in Honduras demonstrated that we are to be willing to hear, and then be willing serve.
For a moment, let each of us think of ourselves as a disciple. Do we doubt what we can really do? Maybe we aren’t on mission journeys or don’t have wealth to spread or the ability to speak poetically to the masses. But what we are really called to do is use what He gives us — and that is more than enough.
Romans 12:6-8 tells us, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” We are each incredibly valuable to God and our fellow man in our own unique ways.
Another important consideration is to be aware of our motives as we serve. Our human nature does not always lead us to serve God or others for the right reasons. Our motives can be selfish or otherwise off course. Ephesians 6:7 guides us: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” That should be our guidepost for everything we do to serve.
Find your gifts and talents. Learn how to best use them by listening to God’s voice around you, which can come unexpectedly, as I was taught. In Psalm 34:7 we learn, “As we draw near to God, He draws near to us, and His desires become our desires.”
Remember that being a disciple is simple: Learn, and then go and do.
Chris is president and founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.