What is Discipleship?
Discipleship isn't just about learning about God, though that is important. Discipleship is about hearing God, listening to God, discerning God's counsel, and feeling God's presence and peace. Discipleship is about being able to make our way through life with Jesus. But, trials present problems. Discipleship is about how to experience God, particularly when life problems and issues arise.
In the business world, learning how to develop and improve relationships is called "relationship building." In the Christian world, it is called "discipleship." "Being discipled" is learning to let the Lord grow you in your part of a two-way relationship with Him.
Discipleship itself is not represented by one of the "Keys" to understanding life. Discipleship is what we engage in when we seek to discover how to use each of God's "Keys" in our lives, particularly when it comes to our spiritual battles, a.k.a. trials. Our spiritual battles are part of Spiritual Warfare, and that is represented by one of God's Keys! The spiritual war represents Satan's fight against God the Father... and we are in the middle of that!
Everyone, believer or not, is involved in the spiritual war. That doesn't change even if a person doesn't see things that way. For Christians, one of the biggest purposes of discipleship is to enable us to actively interact with God DURING our spiritual battles. Spiritual battles are times when Satan and his influences are trying to get us to NOT interact, or walk, with God!
How Are We Discipled?
When asked how we are discipled, it is natural that different people will express their answers differently, according to the meaningful experiences they have had. You may think of worship services, Bible study, and/or Sunday School. You may think of prayer groups or activities that are often offered in addition to Sunday worship.
The most common forms of spiritual and Christian living training focus on the basic teachings of Christ, salvation, Bible study, Scripture memorization, etc. Sometimes the training examines deeper aspects of theological teachings, or how to deal with certain kinds of trials: marriage issues, personal issues, financial issues, etc. Studying advanced theological teachings or how to deal with certain kinds of trials can be part of discipleship, even though not all believers may be into these sort of things.
Our Christian training is suppose to help us deal with trials well. When training helps us recognize opportunities for spiritual improvement, we can say we have "been discipled." Discipleship training is ultimately to prepare us for letting the Lord live through us during our trials. It is to prepare us to be able to be certain of what steps of faith God wants us to take in response to a spiritual battle.
The ultimate aim of all the spiritual activities we participate in, programs we attend, prayers we pray, Bible study we do, etc., is to serve God, live for God, be led by God, experience God and learn to be disciples of Christ - especially DURING trials! Some believers see trials, or spiritual battles, as the ultimate tests of our ability to live what we've learned in our Christian training. In truth, our spiritual battles are times when the Lord is seeking to disciple us in real-life!
Discipleship during Trials
The Lord also seeks to teach us in our trials. This is part of what it means to experience "the Lord's discipline."
When we are in trials, we aren't usually in a "classroom" setting. The bulk of our trials happen outside the classroom, in our everyday life. Basically they can come up anytime and anywhere. Wherever we are when a spiritual battle arises, the Lord is using that moment to attempt to connect with us... to teach, or disciple, us about something. This is true regardless of how much is going on in the trial situation.
Picture it in your mind... when a trial arises, God sees all that is going on. He isn't surprised! Regardless how "busy" you may be, He is picking that moment, for whatever reason, to try to teach you something! It is important to be able to discern that.
Learning to be discipled by the Lord during our trials requires us to let Him grow our ability to do two things well. One is prayer (talking to God); the second is listening listening to God, hearing His voice, discerning His direction, and feeling His love (as opposed to what we usually feel when a trial pops up).
The "hearing God" part can be harder. So, it is natural that believers sometimes feel they want, and need, more. Believers may feel this way, not just because they love God, but because they sense that the Lord is offering more. Believers may feel this way because they have spiritual needs which are not being met. Believers may feel this way because they are looking for something that the Bible talks about, but which they haven't been able to experience as much as they believe is possible.
Why don't We Always "Hear" God during Trials?
- ...don't realize that the Holy Spirit's guidance always involves Christ changing something about us - so we don't seek that out.
- ...don't see how we need to be changed, because it is so much easier to see how someone else needs to change... so we expect to hear the Lord talking to us about them, not us.
- ...don't even recognize that we are in a trial, so we don't think that there is anything to hear from God!
- ...fall into thinking that it's normal to spend a long time trying to figure out how to handle a trial because the issue at hand is so huge and important - we don't want to rush in to it and mess it up... so we assume God hasn't made up His mind on how we should respond to the trial!
- ...are missing something, in terms of being discipled, so we don't really know what God might be trying to say to us.
- ...want a big answer when God is only trying to communicate a small piece of what He wants us to do next, so, we listen for the whole answer and don't take steps of faith on the little bit we have heard from God.
- ...aren't looking for a lifestyle change in us. We want another solution. So, we don't listen for what we don't want to hear from God.
Keys offers a series of Bible Study lessons that focus on getting better at connecting with God during trials. It is great for small groups of Christians. The lessons don't just talk about the concepts, but walk you through how to discern, for yourself, what God is trying to teach in a given trial. This study is a great tool for learning all about the kinds of things Jesus wants to talk with us about when any kind of trial comes up.