The Importance of Desire in Discipleship
Over the years, I’ve found that people approach the practice of these spiritual exercises or disciplines in two ways: the proactive approach and the reactive approach. The proactive approach involves intentionally developing a structure of discipline and accountability. A proactive disciple has a specific plan for growth that includes specific exercises. For example, a person might decide to read, study, and journal through the Gospels in one year. Others may decide to covenant with three other people to meet at a scheduled time once a week to discuss questions, pray, and hold one another accountable.
The reactive approach isn’t a planned or scheduled one but exercise spiritual disciplines in response to circumstances or to positive or negative events in life that lead to significant changes. If you are diagnosed with a serious disease or your spouse leaves then you react. Reactive disciples who do not have a proactive plan for spiritual growth need a safety net, which for most is their church community. They need to belong to a group of like-minded Christians in a local church who have committed to live a life that is pleasing to God. This needs to be a real, flesh-and-blood church, not just membership in the universal church. When real troubles and difficulties come, disciples need to be surrounded by real people who can offer real help.
Beyond Survival Mode
The reactive approach is the bare minimum, or survival mode for the disciple of Jesus. At times in our lives, we may find ourselves in this mode, just surviving and reliant upon the grace of God through his church. But we will only grow into maturity as followers of Christ if we develop and follow a proactive plan that promotes growth. So why is doing this so difficult for many people?
I’ve found that the idea of having a training plan and exercising self-discipline to follow it puts people off. While they may agree that a self-disciplined life is good, they may have tried and failed or are intimidated by the work involved. Others believe that the disciplined life is for elite Christians, but not for common, everyday followers of Christ. Yet as we have seen, God expects every one of his followers to grow to maturity in Christ. And not only that, but to be contagious carrier of his message.
I believe the kicker, so to speak, is desire. We can develop plans and put structures into place, but if we don’t really want to change—if we lack the desire—we will inevitably fail. In a sense, a very thing that must be transformed is the key to transformation. While the initial desire to be disciplined comes from God, he does not magically empower our change apart from our involvement.
This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.
Image credit: Unsplash.