When I was in second grade I began taking piano lessons. My teacher helped me understand that effectiveness in playing the piano takes practice, learning through one-on-one lessons, more practice, playing in front of others at recitals, learning more through lessons, more practice, growing through listening to great performers, learning more through lessons, and more practice. You probably get the idea: learning an instrument takes effort. Learning an instrument well takes a lot of effort. Becoming a master at one’s instrument takes strenuous effort.
All through that, a great teacher, who knows more than you do, will help you see develop and improve, even as you practice and practice until certain skills become infused with muscle memory.
Discipleship is similar to this. We learn from the greatest of all teachers, Jesus the Messiah, and then put His lessons into practice daily in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit until we naturally respond to our circumstances like Jesus would. It is learning journey that takes a lot of practice.
At the end of His mission on earth, after the cross and resurrection and just before His ascension to the Father, Jesus said to His disciples:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
In the midst of this Great Commission, Jesus invites His disciples to become disciple-makers, just as He has done with them. Discipleship is truly a learning and growing process. It is an intentional journey of growth, like a student learning from a teacher or an apprentice learning from a master.
A disciple is someone who follows Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus. It takes effort on our part, but it is all the grace of God from start to finish.
The first time I played at a recital in front of my fellow students as an eight-year-old, I fumbled through my music and cried afterwards. By the time I stopped taking piano lessons at the age of sixteen, I was playing with adult jazz musicians and, much to my surprise, holding my own. Unfortunately, my skills have faded a lot since then because I have not kept learning, growing, and practicing.
When we begin the journey of discipleship, we may fumble our way through things with God. Sometimes, we may even want to cry out our inabilities or failures. Yet, as we stick with Christ daily, and allow Him bring His life into our life, over time we may be surprised at how we have grown.
Paul writes to the Philippian believers: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). Let’s take those words to heart and carry forward on the learning journey of discipleship.