Thursday, July 13, 2017

Disciple-making is hard work.

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
Colossians 4:12-13

Epaphras had a disciple-making shepherd's heart. He prayed hard for the maturity of the Colossians christians. He longed for them to be a church who followed Christ doing the will of God in full assurance. And he backed up his difficult, committed prayers for them with hard work with and for them.

Epaphras worked hard in prayer (the text says he was struggling for them in prayer) and he physically poured effort (possible translations could be "anguished greatly" or "took great pains") to see a church matured to be people who follow and proclaim Jesus faithfully. Both of these tasks, praying and disciple-making, go together. They require diligent attention. They are soul-deepening, life-committed, hard work. To see someone to maturity is the life work of a parent. Disciple-makers apply themselves as diligently, knowing there is just one letter's difference between "mature" and "manure".

I want to keep pouring myself into people this way, but I have to acknowledge it can be hard work, especially when they choose not to obey scripture or the gospel. People don't always get what God is doing, and I don't always get it either. People can resist the work of grace that the gospel needs to do in them. They willingly choose sin. Sometimes they are just so stuck in the wrong path they can't fathom the way out and choose not to let you pull them up. Even then, they need to be anguished over and struggled over mightily in prayer and personal conversation. Until you shed tears, you may not have made a disciple, just as every parent knows that you haven't really gotten into maturing your kids until you have cried over them and with them. Disciple-making is hard work.

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