Consistency is King Part 2: Disciplined Disciples
Last week Simon talked about the need for compliance, this week I am talking about the need for us to be disciplined. Compliance and Discipline are not popular words or concepts, but to move forward we need to embrace them. Being a disciple is about following Jesus. It is not about just listening or reading but emulating Jesus’ attitudes and actions.
After my 2nd year at college I was desperately home sick and wanted to give up on it. Thankfully I stuck with it and managed to complete the course and qualify as a teacher. At a similar time, I got to a place in my faith where I felt like giving up and turning my back on Jesus. I decided to read the Bible one last time and I read a passage that spoke about how much God loved me. So, I knew that God had felt my desperation and had spoken to me. I kept going. It hasn’t been an easy path for me, but I persisted. I kept up the discipline of reading the Bible, listening for God’s voice in it and kept praying even when I found that tough too.
You may have had similar experiences where you were struggling and just wanted to give up on something or someone.
Jesus is aware of this and talks to his disciples about it. Things change, times change, our faith levels change and can be rocked. As we look around us, as we experience pain or disappointment. Faith is knocked, hope is diminished and love goes cold.
The bible talk about this in Matthew 24:1-14. You can read this here.
As we look around us it might feel that much of this prophesy is being fulfilled in front of our eyes. The wars, natural disasters and fears for our planet. Jesus sees this as birth pains. This expression leads us to conclude that despite all this there is something to look forward to. Something new is coming from the pain. This also reassures us that God is still in control.
The mention of persecution is also timely. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review into an estimated 215 million Christians who face violence and discrimination. According to official figures, violence against Christians is rising, with 250 killed each month.
Being a Christian is increasingly tough for many of our church family around the world. So, what sustains them in their plight? I believe that it is the knowledge that they are loved and ultimately saved because love changes everything.
The growth of wickedness is evident every time that we hear the news. The definition of wickedness is: “The quality of being evil or morally wrong;” which is vileness, foulness, badness, dishonesty, double-dealing, roguery, vice, unscrupulousness, villainy, viciousness, degeneracy, depravity, devilry, immorality, perversion, corruption, fiendishness.” We see on our streets the growth of wickedness; knife crime, children being exploited and killed in our streets. Paedophilia, ordinary people stabbed to death on trains. There is also a worrying growth in racism and political extremism. The gap between rich and poor is growing, with the neglect of the most vulnerable a shameful reality in even our own society. The God of the profit margin and share prices is in the ascendance and the God who created us in his image is being side-lined.
Jesus tells us that “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” People have lost touch with the source of love and justice. If are not careful we will be drawn into attitudes and actions around us. Our love will grow cold.
We need to stand firm to the end and be saved. It is difficult sometimes. Our faith gets knocked our hope diminished and love dissipates. We need to hold on to the disciplines that grow our faith. Reading the Bible and reminding ourselves of the reality of God’s love and grace. We must keep meeting together to worship and be encouraged and encourage others. We must keep on praying even when our prayers seem ineffectual. We need to know that God loves us because love changes everything.
Read the passage through a couple of times.
What jumps out at you about what Jesus is saying? Is there anything that shocks or surprises you or anything that you find hard to accept or understand? What and why?
Think of an example of a time when you wanted to give up? If you kept going can you remember what helped you to stick with it?
Have you experienced this tendency to give up on things in others? How do you react to this?
Think about Jesus’ life and ministry. Can you think of times when you would have given up if it had been you? What do you think it was that kept him on course?
How easy or difficult is it for you to keep in mind the reality of God’s love for you, in the various circumstances of your life? List what hinders and list what helps.
What is the thing that you find most challenging about this passage?
As a result of looking at this passage is there anything that you would like to change in yourself. What are you going to do about it?