Thursday, March 31, 2005

Discipleship Test

I have focused my self study over the past several months on true discipleship. I guess God approved of this study and decided some testing was in order to measure my progress. Three amazing but easily dismissed incidents have occurred over the last week that caused me to carefully consider my actions and to assess if some fundamental changes in me have occurred.

Test 1: last week I was surprised by criticism over my participation in a worship service. No one complained directly to me, in fact, all the direct feedback I received was very positive. However, one of the worship leaders informed me that someone had questioned the appropriateness of one segment of my part in the service. I handled this well when first confronted and was sincere in my responses of apology and surpise. But as I stewed over the situation, it became painful. Upon reflection, I felt the method in which the complaint was presented to me was not fair nor was it straightforward. I thought about several methods of response to voice my pain and concern. Yet through the whole process and in discussions with my wife, I kept coming back to my study. I constantly questioned what my response as a disciple of Christ should be. This questioning was reactive, that is it just naturally occurred. In the end, I have made no response and tried to put my hurt and indignation aside. I pray that I will continue to be involved in this service and can participate in the way that serves God. I will be honest, this was not my natural nor desired response. There is still a part in me that wishes to express my hurt and concerns, but it has been checked so far.

Test 2: yesterday one our college life-group members called wanting to borrow a large quantity of tools to take to a mission effort in Appalachia for a construction project. The fundamental me is a type-A, control freak who is very possessive. As a rule, there are three things I rarely ever do. Lend tools, lend books, or lend CD's. I am so adamant about this, that he prefaced his request with, "it won't bother me if you say no." I immediately told him I would help. I have to admit that I was uncomfortable, and I still am. However, my first response was not to make excuses, but to say yes. This is not the norm for me and I suspect it would not have been my response several months ago. As we loaded the tools, we joked about this. I expressed that I always viewed the items I own as my possessions, but I have come to realize that they are His possessions provided for His use. My wife looked over at me, tearing up, and said, "I am proud of you. It is so true that you are acting out of character. You really have changed." At first this made me feel good, but then I felt humbled and sad, realizing just how un-Christian this "christian" has been most of his life--especially in handling small, everyday matters.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not boasting with these examples. I am just amazed that as God has led me through this spiritual growth, He is also putting tests in front of me to exercise any growth that has occurred. I am not necessarily saying He laid out specific tests, but they are all around us, all the time. I am also amazed at the power of Christ to change me. The small changes in my nature our not mine, done by my self-discipline. They are His changes, that is, Christ living in me. When I truly sought God's will and sought change in my life as a deep response to His grace, I opened the door of my heart just a little. When this door is opened to God, small bits of me exit and Christ fills these empty spaces. I have not been able to change myself.

For me it is hard work to open that door just a crack. Spiritual discipline and diligence are required. Prayer, submission, fighting my desires and my nature, these are the efforts I can put forth, then Christ will make the real, substantial changes that I just cannot make.

Now, the third test. That happened today as I read the blogs of two young men who are struggling mightily with health issues. They have endured so much pain and agony, and they both have a long road ahead of them. They will both bear the permanent effects of their trials. They will never be physically what they were, but I pray that they will be spiritually more than they ever would have been. As I read through their blogs, I realized that my worst days would be unbelievable days of celebration in their lives. The test? What am I going to do with this realization and this grace?

I still plan on a blog about Discipleship and Athletic Allegiance. Maybe next week.

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