The Frustration of Discipleship

There is a standard phrase utilized in discussing Christian living that was coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.  The term is universally understood to convey the sobering reality that authentic Christian living is a hard, challenging, painful, suffering inducing life; filled with joy, intimacy with God, freedom and life – when one is willing to die to self and turn one’s entire life existence and control over to God.
The result of this cost is eternal life, to be sure, but there’s also a more practical & tempory side effect we must reckon with – the frustration of discipleship
I think we need to be realistic and address that the nature of walking in the way of Christ is not only hard, its frustrating for those walking and for those encouraging others to "walk the walk" after they've done a substantial job in "talking the talk".  It is frustrating to “walk alongside” new Christians and it is equally frustrating to deal with individuals who claim to be Christians, but their lives are so clearly outside of the scope of being humbled before God and authentically seeking to be like Christ in all things.
I recently re-read Eugene Peterson’s essay on the biblical Prophets.  What convicted me this time around is the characteristic that all the prophets had in common - they were unwilling to negotiate the need to put all things under God’s order, will, control and guidance. Obedience and Consecration MUST come with any genuine commitment to seek the Kingdom of God.  There is no other way. 
Grace abounds and surely love covers a multitude of sins.  Grace and love, however, are extended to each person in accordance to their heart’s honesty.  I can’t tell you if a person is sincere upon their voicing their commitment to follow Christ or in listening to their prayers that this time things will be different.  However, I can see their actions and know if they are sincere or not.  I can see how they react and notice if they are contrite before God when they stumble and fall again, and again, and again…
I can see if they choose to rebel rather than repent. 
The frustration of discipleship comes with this last point.  So often the frustration isn’t in the shortcoming, but in the individual’s desire to excuse, argue and avoid facing the reality that they need more of God, less of themselves and humility is not possible if pride, shame, guilt, arrogance, selfishness and anger, just to name a few, rule their everyday living. 
God sees all things, knows all things and will judge all according to their heart… and those actions which they have set before God.  Some people are only a few steps away from getting it, but the harsh reality is that it isn’t close enough and for all practical purposes, they might as well be light years away from getting it.   
What’s the cure for the frustration? 
In honest recognition of falling short from all that’s been prayed, promised and pretended this time around to be real and different, honesty sets one straight before God and before those one has transgressed against.  Honesty is what begins to chisel away at the hardened nature of one’s heart and slowly begins to unveil a soft, eager and broken heart ready and willing to have God’s hand heal and transform the pain and failure into peace and joy. 
Frustration leads the believer to give up on God and on others who have invested so much in them as spiritual family members.  Satan succeeds every single time a believer choose to be proud over contrite, dismissive over dedicated and to harbor hubris over humility.  In each case, it is our unwillingness to give up our old self.  We lack the love for God that we need to be truly transformed.  We lack the discipline to receive God’s guidance in full and we choose to ignore God’s presence in our lives.  All this will bring upon us the lack of blessings, favor and grace God is so eager to shower upon us.  All this will bring forth a spiritual famine over our lives and our prayers will fall on deaf ears.
As long as we are honest, the patience of love, the abundance of grace and the irrevocable power of mercy will flourish.  As long as we are rebellious and dishonest, the long winter of discontent, frustration and brokenness will chip away at everything we love until we have lost it all, gained nothing and find ourselves alone and estranged from God… again.   
Pastor Daniel


Popular Posts