Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
The word disciple has been in use since the Bible was translated into Latin, around A.D. 200. It comes from the word discere, which means “to learn.” The definition of today: a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower. And yet, somehow knowing the definition and where it came from isn’t enough to grasp how to be one or to “make” one. So, we need to dig into the Bible and unpack, just what discipleship looks like.
When Jesus spoke what is now referred to as the Great Commission, in Matthew 28, he was speaking to all of us who, by grace and faith, commit to a life in which Jesus is Lord and heaven is our finish line. We are all to GO and make disciples. ALL of us. For a follower of Christ to omit this calling from her Christian-walk, is to deny an important calling placed on her through the power of the Holy Spirit and the heritage of the Saints.
I believe we all, deep down, want to live in obedience to Christ and to fulfill our calling, but sometimes we just don’t quite know what that looks like. Especially, when someone like Paul is our example. I mean, he knocked it out of the park: living in chains for the Gospel, writing many of the books of the New Testament, and being executed for his belief in Christ. Yeah, it might seem intimidating to study his life in order to learn how to do this discipleship way of living.
And yet, once you study his letters you see that he had flaws, humility, and sought no gain in sharing the Gospel and passing it on to the next generation. He was human, just like you and me. He had access to the Holy Spirit, just like you and me. He took his calling seriously and we can too.
As I comb through 2 Timothy, I see so much to glean from Paul and Timothy’s relationship and how it demonstrates vividly the ways discipleship is authentic, personal, and central to the call of the believer and the growth of the Church.
Discipleship is authentic. It is lived-out through relationships and purposed on entrusting our one life and faith experiences to others. Put simply, it is allowing others in to our daily life and journey with Jesus in both a spirit of companionship and one of learning. Not the kind of learning that involves tests or essays. But spiritual, practical life lessons based on examining Scripture in light of what is going on in one’s life and the world at large. And not one-way learning. Rather, mutually beneficial learning.
2 Timothy 3:10-11 says, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings--what things happened to me. . . the persecutions I endured. And yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” How would Timothy know about any of these things unless Paul was living in an authentic, learning-style companionship with him?
Paul shows us here that he is equipping Timothy to lead and grow by simply letting Timothy in on his life--the good times and the trials. What is happening around him and inside of him (heart, mind and spirit). He says, “Hey, Timothy, you know who I am and what I have gone through. And in it all, I testify to Christ: his rescue and my need of him. Let that bring you confidence and strength in your faith when times get hard.”
This is a sacred authenticity: authenticity that points to Jesus’ rescuing and the Holy Spirit’s power in his life. It is more than, here is my good-messy-hard life. It is here is my good-messy-hard life and here is how God is using it to redeem and restore me and spread the Gospel to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Discipleship is personal. Paul writes to Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” (2 Timothy 3:14). Essentially, stay strong in your faith. Don’t let go of what you believe because you can trust God based on the evidence in the lives of the people from whom are are learning. The relationships you have in your life are able to tether you to your faith. And it is this personal aspect of the Christian faith that will build confidence and courage to keep going. Personal connection can do this in a way that knowledge can’t.
Paul is saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” that will allow you to remain confident in your faith. Yet, we live in a time and culture where it is so much easier to look for learning experiences online, in books, on podcasts or social media. Yet, these are not personal. These do not bring the confidence that can be gained when learning in companionship with others.
Because we don’t really know the authors and speakers we can follow online or in books. You could read your favorite author or blogger’s every published word, but you still wouldn’t know them. And more importantly, they wouldn’t know you. Their words are instructive and encouraging but they are not as powerful in growing your faith as being in relationships in which you are known. I love learning and gaining knowledge from reading from authors and teachers. But these amazing women and men cannot fill the need in me for learning-style companionship. My personal relationships with others and my individual study of Scripture, hands down, have had more impact on my faith than anything else in my life.
When we learn from those whom we have come to know (those we observe in their daily life and can call when we have a specific situation we are needing prayer or counsel for) we find that learning and growing is more powerful because it is personal. Looking back on 2 Timothy 3:10, we see Paul wants his little brother Timothy to remember his teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, and sufferings. The sharing of these things are what makes discipleship personal, impactful and able to bring confidence of faith and the passing on of the Gospel from generation to generation.
Discipleship is central. As mentioned earlier, understanding discipleship is not optional for those who have committed their lives to Christ. 2 Timothy records Paul’s last words. The “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20) are some of Jesus’ last words. Paul is about to be executed for his faith. Jesus is about to ascend to heaven for eternity. Last words hold great significance, and are not to be taken lightly.
As we pair Jesus’ and Paul’s last words we can see a common theme: stay committed to sharing the faith you have found with others because of whom you have believed. First, know Jesus. Second, know those who are living out a life committed to the words of Christ.
Discipleship is the method by which the Church is intended to grow. Discipleship is the method by which a believer matures. Discipleship is the method by which the mature believer brings strength and courage to the next generation. And just as Jesus came to save us through coming down to build a human relationship with us lost humans, we are to build relationships in which those we are connecting with know our teachings, know our life, know our purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings and moments of rescue that come from our Savior King, Jesus. And in turn, we should be asking questions to get to know these things of others.
I don’t want to go all statistics on you, but I think to ignore them is not wise either. Our culture is moving away from Christianity being the norm. Away from church being a part of the weekly rhythm for most families. Some would say we have moved to a Post-Christian Culture. In addition, the suicide rate among the young has increased nearly 200% in five years. We have a generation on our hands who feels so unknown and hidden that killing themselves seems logical because no one will miss them anyway.
Discipleship is the intentional knowing of another person. Yet, it is more than that too. It also invites in the Holy Spirit to be a teacher, companion, and miracle worker in the lives of those who come together under the banner of Jesus. Matthew 18:20 reminds us, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am.” Discipleship invites Jesus’ presence into our lives and provided space for the Spirit to work.
Discipleship is central because it is a call to bring the sacred and the secular of our lives together in our conversations and to learn from one another how to stay confident in our faith. Jesus came down as human to have relationship with us. He left us with the command for us to do the same for one another. And he even gave us a helper--the Holy Spirit.
I sometimes wonder what will be my famous last words. Morbid thought, maybe? But the reality is last words are weighty and important. As men and women who have experienced God’s saving grace and Christ’s power in our lives, we need to take seriously our calling to discipleship. The next generation is depending on us to help them fan into flame the gifts God has given them (2 Timothy 1:6). We are the ones whom they need to know in order to have the confidence they need to withstand the suffering and persecutions that come with living a godly life in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). We are the ones who need to know them to fulfill the greatest calling on our lives.
Let’s not let discipleship become a word of the past. Let’s bring it to life by living in relationships that foster sacred authenticity through intentionally personal conversations, that invite in the Holy Spirit’s power to bring growth and vitality to our lives and the Church of today.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: