The Intimacy of Discipleship: The Destination versus the Journey
You may wonder where you are. You may wonder why you’re going through this strange experience. The answer lies not so much in the destination as it does the journey.
We live in a world where audio-visuals are the means by which we learn. We sit in classrooms, listen to lectures, and watch tutorials. Everything the media offers is geared toward the audio-visual. And if you’re expecting your discipleship with Christ to be all about words and visions, think again.
When you need to hear something, He will tell you. When you need to see something, He will show you. But when you need to learn something there’s another element to discipleship that we don’t often consider.
There are certain things you can only learn by experience. Your show and tell days are over. Experience is that cumulative effect which is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. It’s much more than seeing, hearing, and touching. It’s about LIVING.
EXPERIENCE CHANGES YOU.
That is what this post is about. You’ve graduated to discipleship on a whole new level. You’re no longer elementary. If you’re in that place — you likely know it. Because it’s entirely different from sitting in a pew on Sunday, reading a daily devotional, or even hearing the LORD’s voice in your spiritual ear. All those things are wonderful, needed, and very much applicable. But this discipleship is what I call the “Field Trip”. Things may get quiet, and they may even become somewhat dark.
I’ve been on many, many field trips. And if you’re chartering unmarked spiritual terrain, this post is for you. Put on your hiking boots.
Intimacy & Dependency
Discipleship is rooted in intimacy. Nothing will cultivate intimacy like dependency. Christ made it very clear to His disciples that they become like Him. He called them “friends” (see John 15). Christ, although He was the Son of God, made His dependency upon the Father absolutely clear to His followers. That is the discipleship example He consistently demonstrated and taught. Let’s consider the dynamics of His discipleship relationship with His twelve:
- He gave them power on earth as it was in heaven by way of authority.
- He gifted them with His indwelling Holy Spirit just prior to His departure.
- He promised them unbroken fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- He promised them victory over every enemy — including the devil, the world, death, hell and the grave.
- He initiated a blood covenant.
- He disclosed the mysteries and secrets of heaven.
- He unveiled Himself in the form of a man.
- He served them in humility.
- He loved them personally.
- He knew them intimately.
- He taught them individually.
Christ modeled a dependency that was marked by humble submission. His was a state of complete reliance, acknowledging that apart from His Father He could do nothing. He therefore taught the twelve in John 15 that apart from Him they could do nothing. His allegory of the Vine and branches is clear. Yet in and through Him we can do all things, Paul declares. Both statements are inversely true, proclaiming the same message of dependency, reliance, humility, and submission. What is even more profound is that fruit is produced effortlessly when the branches are intact. When you’re intact, you’re intimate.
Discipleship demands dependency and intimacy. That is not merely a principle Christ taught His disciples, but it is a lifestyle He consistently demonstrated before them in relationship with His heavenly Father. And it was not motivated merely by necessity. It was driven by desire.
Your Personal Field Trip
The beauty of discipleship is that Christ tailors it for every individual person. No two discipleship experiences are the same — which is true even of the twelve who followed Him. Every gospel account is different although the same stories are told. Every individual who knows Christ personally has a unique relationship with Him unlike that of any other.
Christ is sensitive to you in your personality, your learning style, and your temperament. He knows how you tick. He knows precisely how to teach you so that you “get it”. He speaks your language and style. Whatever manner or means He chooses to accomplish any given lesson for you is largely dependent upon how you process, assimilate, and apply what He teaches.
Apart from the audio-visual means (which Christ definitely uses through dreams, visions, and the spoken word), He loves to use the “field trip” method as well. This is not so much about where you are as it is about what you’re experiencing in life at any given moment. These field trips may be brief lasting only a few moments, or they may be lengthy excursions lasting several years. Let’s consider some examples.
Abraham is perhaps the finest example of any. When God called him, Abram didn’t know God. God did speak to him on occasion. He gave him both dreams and visions, however sporadic. But how did Abraham truly come to know Him? He experienced God personally. And how did that happen? God took him on a twenty-five year field trip. Abraham came to know God very, very well through a state of utter dependency that developed deep and abiding intimacy.
Israel as a nation did not know their God when He called them out of Egypt. God was relevant to them in name only. They had certainly heard of Him, but He was distant and they were aloof. So what did God do? He took them on a field trip. It lasted forty years. He called them out of Egypt into the wilderness so they could worship Him — and He had to teach them how to do that, what that meant, what that looked like, and all it entailed. He did this by demonstrating Himself openly through manifold signs and wonders. He dwelt among them in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. He fed them with manna from heaven. Water gushed from rocks. Mountains quaked. The earth split. Their enemies drown. All the world, so far as they knew — feared them because of their God. God discipled them with great care, teaching them, instructing them, and revealing to them not only who He was, but His ways. Israel was cast into a state of utter dependency, which again developed intimacy.
David was a man after God’s own heart. He was called and chosen at the tender age of seventeen to be King of Israel. This young shepherd boy who adored God — who knew Him intimately, suddenly found his life cast into the fire. For thirteen years David was hunted by Saul like a dog, hiding in caves and disguising himself even among enemies to spare his life. God’s refinement was at work in this young king who was to lead Israel into victory over many enemies. David was launched into a state of desperate dependency unlike any ever seen or heard. Let’s remember who this mad man, Saul, really was. He was the king of Israel. He had access and authority to do with David whatever he desired. Saul killed prophets and priests in his attempt to find David and murder him in cold blood. Yet every attempt was thwarted. And even when David had opportunity to kill Saul, he feared God so much that he relented on more than one occasion, thereby proving his innocence.
The scriptures reveal that Saul was cursed of God and eventually lost his mind, going completely insane — at which time he died, falling upon his own sword. And David wept for him, mourning the death of Saul. This hunted man lived in unimaginable circumstances –not for days — but for years. The dependency upon God which David had learned is transparent in the Psalms. It took him into the Holy of Holies and trained him for war with nations. To this day he is the greatest King who ever lived. God spent David’s youth carefully, discipling Him for the kingship of Israel under Saul’s tutelage of torment. It was no accident. Though at the time, David candidly chronicles his agonizing journey and the miraculous favor of God’s hand upon his vulnerable young life in the book of Psalms.
What are you going through? Have you been cast into a state of utter dependency? If so, Christ is discipling you — not necessarily by word or vision, but by experience. It’s okay if the audio-visuals have ceased momentarily. Through this silence and darkness He will sharpen your ear and bring clarity to your vision. When He does finally speak or show you something you’ll never take His word for granted again — EVER.
His goal is that you become refined even as Abraham, Israel, and David, as well as many others who could be named. God knows what we need to experience so we can know Him, love Him, serve Him — and be like Him. For that is truly the goal of intimate discipleship: That we become like Christ Jesus, being transformed into His image (see Romans 8 and John 15).
Anytime you can come away from an experience in life knowing Christ more intimately, understanding a lesson He’s taught you personally, and being made more like Him because of it, it’s probably safe to say that you’ve been on a “field trip”. This is not something He whispered in your ear. He didn’t show you a vision, dream or sign. You experienced the discipleship of Christ intimately through a presentation of life itself. And the outcome was you were changed.
Instant vs. Processed
When we think of miracles the instant, immediate, and the “right now” come to mind. But miracles do not always come packaged in the instant. Christ often packages them in the process. They come one day at a time as we journey with Him through the valleys of life that overshadow us — with death, despair, discouragement, and darkness. Regardless of what your personal journey may look like, Christ does some of His most profound work in the process. The greatest miracles take time. Creation took six days. Christ was raised in three. Take heart.
The miracles we read about in the Gospel accounts which Christ performed were, of the majority, instant — and with good reason. It was of dire necessity which no other method could accomplish. In secular terms, it was all about supply and demand. He was a singular person on a desperate mission. He had a very, very limited time in which to fulfill God’s ordained call. People thronged Him. There was work to be done on a massive scale in a very brief amount of time. His method was miracles, but if you look closely His means was to divide and conquer. In due time He trained the twelve and sent them out two-by-two. When their faith failed we see His frustration. He chastened them for their lack of faith. So we must understand that there was a purpose in those miracles and the manner by which they had to be instantaneously performed. Time was of the essence. Again, He was one person, being limited by the confines of His human body. For the Son of God who knew no such limitations within the expanse of eternity, this no doubt created a dependency upon His Father which nurtured the intimacy He demonstrated for all who followed Him. Heaven cannot come to earth without it.
But the day would come, as He promised, when the Holy Spirit would be sent to dwell within all believers. That residency created an exponential growth in potential. Suddenly Christ’s Body is both massive and mobile. That is not to say that instant miracles are no longer performed, because they most certainly are. They are many times needed, no doubt. But there are many believers suffering today with various trials and tribulations who need a legitimate miracle, and they do not understand why the instantaneous is eluding them. I humbly submit to you that the miracle is no less theirs — it’s just packaged differently. If we can learn to embrace the process with the same faith that would demand the instant, we’ll see the glory of God revealed to an even greater degree. There’s something much more precious than the miracle itself which is to be had and won. There is a treasure of far greater worth and value than the miracle being sought. The journey of discipleship by which we become dependent upon God is the means by which we come to know Him intimately — in a way we would otherwise never experience. That precious treasure is one you only obtain by experience, hence the “field trip”. Audio-visuals cannot accomplish this. Never. Israel saw His works and they died in the wilderness. So let us understand God’s method. The field trip affords us the high honor and privilege of watching Him perform His work in us and our lives moment by moment, day by day, until the completion of His work is finally achieved. God always finishes what He starts. And when that moment comes, we are much richer individuals than if we had been given something instant. The wealth of knowing Christ is beyond compare, and the refinement of character is one of being made in His likeness — not as man with the first Adam, but as sons and daughters of God through the Last Adam who is Christ. Again — the goal of discipleship is to be made like Christ, transformed into His very image.
I can boldly and firmly attest that I would not be the woman I am today without my many “field trips”. And neither would Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, or any other true disciple who is worthy of Him. Add your name to the that list.
Many experienced the instant miracle in Christ’s time. They saw Him. They touched Him. And they walked away ungrateful. They did not necessarily follow Him, nor did they always believe in Him. Yet those who never saw Him, who were driven into the dry places of the desert and wilderness — they came to know Him. They saw Him through different eyes. They learned of Him in ways no miracle could ever grant.
That is the treasure of discipleship. That is what your field trip is all about. When you can arrive at your destination and say, “I now know Him” your miracle — which He will no doubt grant you — will pale in comparison. You will be able to say with Paul,
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him… that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead, (Philippians 3:8-10, KJV).
Never confuse the destination with the journey. Savor the trip, and above all — the One with whom you travel.
Cheers & Shalom,