The Defining Spirit of Authentic Discipleship

Read: John 14

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1, NLT)

In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning tells the story of ethicist John Kavanaugh, who traveled to India to work with Mother Teresa in “the house of the dying”. Kavanaugh was searching for what to do with the rest of his life, so he asked Mother Teresa to pray for him that God would grant him clarity.  She refused, however, saying, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh protested that Mother Teresa herself seemed to have such great clarity, she responded, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.”

It is trust, Manning goes on to say—simple but ruthless childlike trust we place in God—that is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship. I agree. That is what Jesus called his disciples to in the first century—to trust in God, to trust in him—and that is the challenge Jesus lays down for those who would follow him in our age.

No matter how you slice it, the basic minimum requirement for following Jesus always comes down to this: Will you give him your total trust? If you will, you are on your way to the most exciting and rewarding experience of life a person will ever have—walking with Jesus. And from what Jesus said in John 14:1, we can deduce that one of the basic blessings of placing our trust in God is a trouble-free heart.  Not a trouble free life, mind you, but a heart (and a mind, Paul adds in Philippians 4:7) that is guarded by Jesus himself.

However, if you won’t give God your total trust, your Christian experience will never get out of the harbor and set sail on the rewarding voyage of risky discipleship.  You will find yourself nursing a troubled heart and traveling a less than satisfying journey with God.

“Trust in God,” Jesus says, “and trust in me, too.” So, are you?  When your faith is boiled down to its basic elements, will we find there, in spite of life’s circumstances and in scorn of faith’s consequences, a simple but ruthless childlike trust in God?  Or is trust something that merely gets talked about but never fleshed out?

A lot of people talk about trusting God, fewer people actually place the totality of their lives in the Father’s hands and unequivocally say, “into your hands, I commit my spirit.  May your will be done.” If you are one of the courageous and committed few who do, you have given the greatest gift a human being can place before the God who has everything—the rare trifecta of extreme dependence, radical faith and resolute obedience.  Nothing brings a smile to the Father’s heart like that.

In the 1850’s, a famous tightrope walker named George Blondin, for a publicity stunt, decided he would walk across Niagara Falls on a rope that had been stretched from one side of the falls to the other. Crowds lined up on both the Canadian and American sides to watch this unbelievable feat.  Blondin began to walk across, inch-by-inch, step-by-step, and everybody knew that if he made one mistake he was a goner. He got to the other side and the crowd went wild.  Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again.” And to the crowd’s delight, he did. Then, to everybody’s amazement, he crossed again, this time pushing a wheel-barrow full of dirt.  He actually did this several times, and as he started to go across one last time, someone in the crowd said, “I believe you could do that all day.” Blondin dumped out the dirt and said, “Get into the wheelbarrow.”

In a very real sense that is what God is saying to you and me. Our talk alone is cheap.  At some point, we need to get in the wheelbarrow of trust and prove that our discipleship is real.

“Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it. … Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic.” ~Brennan Manning

What If God Took Over?

Pray this honest and humble prayer:  “God, I trust in you.  Help my lack of trust!”

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