In the gospel stories, we see plenty of people who wanted something from Jesus, but the disciples were interested in something more than what Jesus can provide for them. This is not to say Jesus doesn’t provide us with good gifts. Jesus absolutely meets us in our need. He provides us with salvation, forgiveness, and freedom—all of which we couldn’t gain on our own. That’s where our relationship with him begins but is that where it ends?
Changing into a position of discipleship involves changing our perspective about God. In his book “With: Reimaging the Way We Relate To God,” Skye Jethani encourages us to move into a position of living with God instead of living in a position strictly from God. Life “from God,” he writes, “makes receiving God’s gifts the entirety of our religious lives.” In this view, “God exists to supply what we need or desire.”
He argues that this posture is so attractive because it doesn’t ask us to change, but our pursuit of God is driven by our own agendas of consumerism. We become the prodigal son who forfeited his relationship with the father in order to take what his father could give him to live a life centered upon himself. We look at God and as, “How can you fulfill my will?” instead of asking him, “What is your will?” Instead, disciples are interested in what Jesus can do through them.
How do we know that we’re seeking after Jesus himself and not only what he can provide? Let’s look at a few areas of our lives to test and see if we’re seeking Jesus and his mission or only his gifts:
What are your prayers filled with?
Would anyone else’s life be changed if God said “yes” to your prayers or would they only serve to make your life more comfortable? Jesus cared deeply for the world and especially the lost, so our prayers should reflect that same outward focused concern.
What are your thoughts filled with?
When you have a spare moment, where does your mind wander? Does it drift into places of worship and thanksgiving towards Jesus or do you spend more time dreaming about your plan for your life and how others can support your goals?
What are your words filled with?
If our words are an indicator of our hearts, how are they showing our desire to trust and pursue God’s will over our own? Do they display to others that we are submitted to God or do we evidence a lack of faith through grumbling, complaining, and worrying about our current circumstances?
This is important because discipleship costs our whole life, in both the big and the small moments of our days. Jesus said to his disciples and says to those of us who desire to follow him, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).” The cross isn’t about our comfort, but submission to God and his plans. Crosses—not personal comforts—create disciples because disciples are people who join Jesus in His work.