This past Sunday my sermon dealt with the fear and doubt of the disciples the night of the Resurrection. Ten of the disciples were gathered in a locked room but Thomas was missing in action. The fear immobilized the men and one writer suggested they might have been making plans of escaping the city by night. Suddenly, the power of the Resurrection is seen by the appearance of Jesus in the midst. The question is this: “If the power of the Resurrection can bring Jesus to life, why is becoming a disciple a hard and lengthy process?” Could Jesus not have clapped his nail-scarred hands and the disciples would have been ready to change the world? Let’s examine some thoughts as to why it takes time.
One reason is self-reliance. Self-reliance is an Americanism in which the self-made man is seen as the icon for many because of his success in business or wealth. Names like J. Paul Getty, and Rockefeller fill history books of their impact on the industrial age of America. However, the Kingdom of God does not function nor is glorified in this type of individual. Jesus himself could only do what the Father showed him. Likewise, the Holy Spirit speaks what he has been told to speak by Jesus. If disciples were made complete the moment of their new birth, there might be a tendency to believe everything this “super-disciple” did was because of his personal efforts.
The church was initiated at Pentecost when peoples of various tongues, tribes, and cultures heard the Word of God and believed. What God did at the Tower of Babel, dividing mankind by languages, would now become the most incredible witness of the Son and his bride, the church. The church is individuals from around the world with different backgrounds, cultures, and languages and one common purpose: “Go and make disciples!” They are blessed and gifted for the purpose of ministry and each member is interdependent upon another to accomplish this Commission. There are no Lone Ranger disciples!
In my life as a Christian I have had many ups and downs in my walk with the Lord. I have come to realize God knew I would stumble so He would be there to make sure I never fell completely. In this I can celebrate because His Word says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. I am continually amazed at his providence because in times of victory I have the track record of those stumbles reminding me the victory is not mine. But, God is so good! He allows me to share in His joy. When I share Christ’s love and his message of reconciliation, I have the chance to see someone taken out of the Enemy’s hands and placed firmly in His–never to be lost again. Jesus told his disciples they would do greater works than he did. When he raised Lazarus from the grave there would come a time when Lazarus would eventually die. When believers work together to bring the light of Christ to people–they literally take part in raising someone dead in their sins and now alive in Christ. How much joy is that?
Lastly, the apostle John used the word believe as a verb in his Gospel. To John, believe was taking faith and putting it into action. Thomas doubted and when Jesus came to him, he said, “Stop being an unbeliever and become a believer!” Why would Jesus say this to a man who was a loyal disciple? The others had continually told Thomas of the resurrection, but Thomas would absolutely not believe unless he could see and touch the wounds of his Lord. He had seen the miracles but now he was full of doubt. John’s idea on miracles is they could lead someone to faith but were insufficient for continual faith–such as Thomas. To John, belief/believing was to take hold of faith, trusting the Living Word of God, accepting Jesus as the full revelation of God on earth and accepting his commission to go and make disciples. It wasn’t the miracles to John, but the written word which showed Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and God.
Discipleship takes time because Jesus is working to remove the impurities of my life by the crucible of time, pressure and heat. A lump of black coal, under heat, pressure, and time eventually becomes a diamond. But don’t stop there–for a diamond must have the facets chipped away and polished to reach its pure luster and value. So, don’t worry! He looking at the finished product–you reflecting the light of Christ in the world.