God’s Spirit was speaking so strong to my spirit over the last two days, regarding DISCIPLESHIP in the churches. So I was prompted to begin my investigation with the Letter of Paul to the Philippian Church: “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]” (Philippians 2:5 AMP).
As I prepared my WORD investigation on discipleship, I thought about things that I needed to hear. So what I am about to uncover is just as much for me as it is for you.
I certainly agree with one preacher who said: ‘God is more concerned with our CHARACTER than our comfort. He is more concerned with our HOLINESS than our happiness. And He is more interested in us as a PERSON than our possessions.’
Before I get started in the discussion regarding DISCIPLESHIP training in your particular church setting [my church setting], there has to be a test to take for each one of us individually:
* THERE IS AN I.Q. TEST TO TAKE:
Before getting your Driver’s License, you had to go first to the State Department of Motor Vehicles (the D.M.V.), taking a written test first and passing the questions on general road safety: road sign identification, local speed limits, auto safety, etc. This State requirement is not only for first time drivers but new residents in that particular area of the country–each state has their own requirements.
I remember taken this written test back…let’s just say I was 16 years old. I received a study brochure, read the sample questions, and thought I was ready. Well, evidently I wasn’t ready because the D.M.V. employee, after checking my answers, informed me that I had NOT PASSED the written test. She underlined my wrong answers and said, ‘you can come back in a week and try again.’ “ONE WEEK?” I asked. “But I have to get my ‘learners permit’ to drive,” raising my voice in sheer panic! What are my friends going to say?
Well, after really studying the DRIVING INSTRUCTION booklet, coming back exactly one week later, I PASSED the test; I was much better prepared to begin my journey as a California State approved…a learner and authorized vehicle operator.
NO CHEATING ALLOWED!
Believe it or not, I found a CHEAT SHEET on taking a Department of Motor Vehicles written test before becoming a licensed driver on- line: dmvcheatsheets.com/ Sorry folks, CHEAT SHEETS won’t help you in becoming a DISCIPLE!
–“DISCIPLESHIP” INSTRUCTIONS – Passing the 4-I.Q. Questions of DISCIPLESHIP–(PHILIPPIANS 2:19-30 NAS).
verse 19: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.”
verse 20: “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.”
verse 21: “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”
verse 22: “But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.”
verses 23-24: “Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly.”
verses 25-26: “But I thought it necessary to send you Ephaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard he was sick.”
verse 27: “For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
verse 28: “Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.”
verses 29-30: “Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.”
# 1. The Test of COMMITMENT (INVOLVEMENT):
The Greek word for commitment, I found quite interesting:
(1) The verb; In the sense of “doing or practicing.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary continues the definition of COMMITMENT by using the Greek word, prasso (STRONG, 4238), “to do, work, practice,” is said of continuous action, or action not yet completed.
* Timothy and Epaphroditus have something in common.
Their willingness to go whenever their leader sends them to go:
“But I hope and trust in Lord Jesus soon to send Timothy to you” ~ Php. 2:19
“I thought it necessary to send Epaphroditus [back] to you” ~ Php. 2:25
We are living in a generation that hates responsibilities and ignores commitments People do not want to be personally involved anymore. They can attend church if…they have the ‘mood’; offer their help sometimes. But if it involves personal commitment, they find it difficult to do.
* In the contrary, JESUS said the mark of DISCIPLESHIP is LOVE.
We cannot LOVE without INVOLVEMENT: “By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]” ~ John 13:35 AMP.
The Author of our salvation already commissioned us to go (Mark 16:15).
* COMMITMENT is a question of INVOLVEMENT.
Now I’m not just talking about stripping the wallpaper off the women’s Restroom at church–and that IS important. You cannot be committed unless you become involved:
“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And He said, Go tell this people, Hear and hear continually, but understand not: and see and see continually, but do not apprehend with your mind” (Isaiah 6:8-9).
I believe that God has a personal calling for each and every one of us and obedience to His call becomes the evidence of our maturity and discipleship.
Sometimes God may lead us to a place that we didn’t want to go. As mature Christians, we defy all hardships; ignore personal risks; jump and say goodbye to our comfort to follow Jesus our Lord. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Because we are followers of One who left the comfort of heaven-sent by His Father to join us in battle to commit His life for ours.
Now there is a pattern to follow in our character development.
# 2. THE TEST OF COMPASSION (INTEREST?):
–Timothy stands head and shoulders compared to others.
Paul has a very exceptional comment about him here in Philippians. It’s as if he examines all other believers, that he alreadyknows, then concludes that he has no student like him.
So, how did Timothy become different from the other followers? It’s not because of his intellectual knowledge or his abilities. Here is the answer:
“For I have no one like him who will be so genuinely interested in your welfare and devoted to your interests” (Php. 2:20).
–Paul then admonishes the believers in Philippi–Honor men like Epaphroditus.
What makes him so special, a man of honor? It wasn’t because of his special ability but because he’s a man who has COMPASSION; a genuine interest for the people who are in need of his help.
Philippians 2:25 says, “…who you sent to take care of my needs.”
Epaphroditus had a great excuse to forget the welfare of others around him because he was ill, deathly sick. Others would have probably thought about his situation because of how lousy they have felt. BUT not Epaphroditus. He was more concerned with the anxiety; that the news of his illness made to the brethren in the church at Philippi rather than his own condition. That’s COMPASSION!
# 3. TEST OF CONSISTENCY (INTEGRITY?)
I published a blog not too long ago entitled: INTEGRITY in a World of Changes. If you haven’t already read it after reading this particular topic of DISCIPLESHIP development, you might go there afterword.
* Paul’s Description of Timothy.
Paul describes Timothy as the one who has proven integrity:
“Timothy’s tested worth…he has toiled with me zealously in [serving and helping to advance] the good news (the Gospel)” (Php. 2:22 AMP).
It means that he is CONSISTENT–“tested worth” in his faith and ministry in sharing the Gospel with others. Timothy accompanied Paul almost his entire missionary journey. He suffered the same persecution that Paul experienced. Yet, he didn’t give up!
And when the time came to stand on his own two feet, far from his mentor, he continued his ministry without any hesitation. Timothy is an example of consistency and integrity in the service for Christ Jesus.
#4. THE TEST OF COOPERATION (IDENTIFICATION?):
Timothy’s sharing with Paul through thick and thin; through joys and sorrows; through riches and poverty; through sickness and health (Php. 2:22).
Next, Epaphroditus‘ sharing with Paul in all kinds of situations:
–in the house.
–in the work.
–in the battle.
–even in fulfilling their responsibilities of bringing the GOOD NEWS of Christ to his gospel ministry:
“[He has been] my brother and companion in labor and my fellow soldier, as well as [having come as] your special messenger (apostle) and minister to my need” (Php. 2:25 AMP).
–Epaphroditus: MY BROTHER – (PARTNER in Care). The words imply his personal care and compassion; as a member in the family picturing what a brother in Christ should be during times of persecution, trouble and need.
* He risks his own life to defy his own health for the sake of his brother Paul and the Philippian brethren.
–Epaphroditus: MY FELLOW-WORKER – (PARTNER in Work). The implication here is about his TEAMWORK.
* With other believers by sharing in the same task; with humble submission.
* SUBMITTING himself to the decision of the brethren who sent him to assist and help Paul in prison. Then…sent him back again by Paul to Philippi.
* He obeys without any complaint because he always did his part in the task assigned for the Lord. Empowered by his own love for the Philippian Church.
–Epaphroditus: FELLOW-SOLDIER – (PARTNER in Battle). Implies his WILLINGNESS to fight for the cause of God’s kingdom.
* A true soldier of Christ who is willing to die for the sake of God’s glory!
–Epaphroditus:YOUR MESSENGER – (PARTNER in Responsibility). Implying his single-mindedness of fulfilling his task to carry God’s message; the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
“KOINONIA” – (A PARTNERSHIP, SHARING CHRIST IN THE FELLOWSHIP):
DISCIPLESHIP involves SHARING in a partnership with the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In turn, DISCIPLESHIP involves SHARING with people whether they are believers or non-believers.
We’ve learned our CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT requires our commitment to the task at hand. We will need to “prasso” or to “practice” what we’ve learned from Timothy and Epaphroditus as DISCIPLES:
* To be involved in community SHARING our LOVE.
* To be committed to Christ !
* To have compassion for others (coming from our LOVE for Jesus).
* Being consistent in our character; our INTEGRITY.
* Identifying with others in SHARING in their needs; their comfort; their joy and sorrows.
* Being obedient to God’s Word in partnering with Him in the tasks at hand.
* SHARING the message, the Gospel of Christ.
LOVE Is Like A “CURTAIN ROD”.
Everything that you practice in DISCIPLESHIP hangs on the ‘curtain rod’ of LOVE. If one end of the curtain rod falls from its place, everything hanging on the rod slips off on the floor.
Your CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT hangs on that principle. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you keep the LOVE ROD in place.