This summer I barely survived the West Coast Trail; it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I actually do not enjoy hiking that much at all. It is a 75 km trail with a 40 lb backpack attached to you, and we did it in 6 days. In the moment, it was very difficult, and I wondered to myself many times -- why am I doing this?? I was joined by 10 other guys who were very passionate and enthusiastic about this trip. They were the main reason for me saying yes to the trail. There is something about suffering together -- okay I was the only one suffering -- there is something about a shared experience like this that bonds you together. We were there for each other on this trip: if someone needed a lighter load, there was someone to carry it, if you needed water someone would get it, if you needed encouragement and energy there was a lot to be passed around. Like Ecclesiastes 4 says, two is better than one. We built some great memories on this trip and also deepened our friendships!
The author and pastor Mark Devers says that we are either influencing people or being influenced by others. All of us in a sense are discipling or being discipled. I look at Paul and how he walked with Timothy and encouraged a timid young guy who became a pastor in Ephesus or Mordecai who walked with Esther who faced death as she defended her people. True Christian discipleship is intentional and the goal is what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” We are made in God's image and we are created for others, so being involved in the lives of others is a natural and normal part of the human experience. You could say we were made to disciple.
If we define discipleship with lots of prayer, walking with people through good and bad times, encouraging them, praying for them, teaching them, learning from them, being transparent, challenging them, sharing experiences, growing together in Christ, it looks a lot like the iron sharpening iron from Proverbs 27.
We realize that discipleship is work, it can be painful, disappointing, and very difficult at times. Paul uses words like labour, agony, and suffering at times. When we deal with people like ourselves Mark Devers says "we are dealing with nature's most unstable force”. Discipleship is costly.
It also well worth it! It is divine work! And Colossians 1:28-29 says that Christ works within us. John 15 says that if we remain in Him we will bear much fruit. Working with people, walking alongside them demands what C.S. Lewis says "deep magic" of God's visitation on us to restore us back to our original design. Our discipling efforts must not be taken lightly, but we must come before the Father in prayer to the one who began a good work in us and will complete it.
Discipleship is taking a step out of our comfort zone, inviting people into your life and letting God use us. It is intentionally getting involved with people and all that that entails. You might say you have nothing to offer, but you do! We all want to go deeper. I encourage you to pray and ask who can I be influencing? Who should be influencing me? You don't have to go hike 75 km to do this; it starts with prayer and then a coffee/slurpee or helping someone fix a car, taking a meal over, going on a walk, playing badminton......
There was so much joy on all our faces when we finished the West Coast Trail and relief that we had crushed that trail. I prayed a lot during the hike -- mostly that the pain in my knees and back would go away, but also for opportunities to have good conversations with the ten guys I went with. God did give us some great chats and memories. I am hoping and praying we can build on those and go deeper as we are back in Calgary now.
Let's find ways we can grow and encourage each other together in Christ and pray that God would build our church.