Church Training

Is it just 'trust God and it'll be okay?'

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It was a question raised during our first evening of our Growing Together course. Is this what discipleship boils down to? Whatever suffering we’re facing, trials we’re going through, sins we’re wrestling with, we simply need to trust God and it’ll be okay?

There’s a wonderful element of truth implicit within the questions. It recognises God’s power, as well as His inherent love, compassion and goodness that means He can, and will, work in every circumstance. It also recognises our limitations, there is both tragedy and evil in the world and our ability to change that is often limited. There are things that happen to us that we have no control over and consequences to our actions that we could never foresee.

However, the best discipleship is more than simply stating the truth of who God is.

Firstly, the best discipleship speaks truth out of an abundance of love and compassion for somebody. I’m reminded of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus tells Martha the truth, that her brother will rise again (“It’ll be okay” – vs. 23) and that she must believe in Him (“Trust God” – vs. 27). But the whole episode is wrapped in Jesus’ love and compassion for her and the wider family and friends. He is deeply moved and troubled when He sees the distress of those who have lost a loved one (vs. 33,38) and He weeps with them (vs. 35). Jesus’ words of truth to Martha are said to someone He knew and loved. They’re not abstract, cold, and heartless platitudes.

Secondly, Jesus tells Martha the truth of who He is as the redeemer and how that was relevant to her struggle. In our discipleship we need both parts of the equation. We need to speak the truth and apply it to the particular sin or suffering someone is facing. Why does what Jesus has done and who he is, matter? How does it bring hope and comfort in this moment? Lazarus had died, so Jesus spoke of the hope of the resurrection He brought (vs. 25-26). He showed Martha why trusting in Him would ultimately mean it was okay. He spoke truths that were relevant and gave her genuine hope and comfort in the midst of her pain.

In our discipleship, we must be reminding one another of who God is. Yet we need to be doing it in a way that is relevant to the struggles someone is facing and out of a Christlike love and compassion for them.

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Growing Together

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And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
— Philippians 1:9-11

Sometimes when we talk about discipleship, maturity, or counselling it’s not clear where we’re heading. What are we seeking to mature into? What’s the target? Where are we heading and what are we hoping to achieve?

There are dozens of voices telling us who we should be seeking to become and what kind of person we ought to be. Some of those voices are external, the voices of our culture that lure us with the promises of acceptance and success if we follow them and threaten us with ridicule and isolation if we demur. Or the voices of parents, friends and family, who have their own particular vision of what and who we should be. Other voices are internal, the voices in our own minds that tell us what we deserve, can achieve, or have failed to become. Like a plant growing towards the sun all these voices give us a direction to grow in and a target to aim towards. 

In the passage above the Bible speaks another voice, it gives us a different direction to seek to grow in, a God-ward direction. Paul is writing to a church with his prayer and hope for who they will become and who they will mature into. It’s a maturity that’s rooted in love, lived out in wisdom, achieved through Jesus, and that brings God glory and praise. It’s a direction that we need to regularly turn back to. Our discipleship is a means of doing that, it’s a means of re-orientating ourselves towards a life that brings God glory and praise. 

For the next three weeks at Christ Church Walkley we’ll be looking together at how we help one another to grow into the kind of people Paul describes. We’ll make Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church our prayer. Each week I’ll try and share some of my reflections on what we’ve been discussing and learning here on this blog.

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