Many of the posts that I have shared regarding discipleship may not be rocket science. Some of these topics, however, seem to have been forgotten, postponed or devalued in our well-intentioned pursuit to make disciples. Today's topic is one of these "no-brainer" concepts that I think we've forgotten.
I think one of the greatest parts of discipling others is that of listening to them. Jesus modelled this for us as He listened to countless questions and comments from not only His closest 12 comrades, but others as well (Nicodemus comes to mind).
What I am learning in youth ministry reminds me of this simple concept of listening to others. My wife and I were chatting today about the journey we've been on together for the last 6 years as a married couple. We both could point to times when we felt led by God in a certain direction, only to receive opposition from people regarding our pursuit. This whole idea got me thinking today about this concept of listening. Take the story of Job for instance. Job had the life that many of us dream of (independently wealthy, healthy family, friends and plenty of success). In an instant, all that Job had was taken from him. In this moment of transparency, Job doesn't blame God for his set of circumstances (although Job does ask God a lot of questions). In the counsel of his wife and friends, however, Job is encouraged to blame God for this trouble in his life. The story continues to unfold with the culmination of restoration as all that Job had was given back to him in God's timing.
What speaks to me about discipleship from the story of Job today is the "counsel" of Job's friends. These well-intentioned, thoughtfully spoken men saw this set of circumstances in Job's life as an opportunity to speak into him. It was like looking in a mirror this morning as I pondered this story. How many times have I seen grief, chaos and calamity as the opportunity to speak truth into someone else's life by using words. Yet what I failed to realize is that in this moment, those struggling with pain, grief, sorrow and hurt often do not need anything more than a listening ear. If you think about it, sometimes when we step up to speak, we may unintentionally be diminishing the work of God in that person's life. We know that God works through suffering in a way that we cannot comprehend from a human standpoint. But in our devotion to the task at hand and perhaps our zeal for the gospel, we forget to simply pause to listen to those who are in need.
Maybe we fall back into default mode during these times of crisis where we want to fill up the space with words so that it feels like we are accomplishing something. Or maybe we simply do not want to see this other person experience life to the full before we do. I wonder how much of what we do and say is motivated by something other than love? I know in those moments when I allow myself to be truly honest, I am shocked at where my motivation comes from at times.
How about this: the next time a friend or neighbour is experiencing darkness, pain or hurt do these three things - listen, pray and remain. Take the time to listen to them, to pray for them and remain connected not only with the person, but also with their pain or hurt. It may not be rocket science, but it seems to be something we've forgotten to practice over time. I think when we embrace these three practices we give God room to continue to work through this other person's life, and I know that I'd rather have God doing the transformation in another person's life then me trying to do the best that I can. Good intentions don't really get us very far, but the transformation of the power of God's Spirit alive and active in our world is what truly does the changing of lives. Maybe our role is simply to partner with what God is doing by letting God be God and us simply being who we were created to be: human beings made in the image of the Almighty who are yearning to embrace the life we were created to live...life to the full.
How can we navigate through the uncertainty of conflict in relationships? Where do we start?
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