Are you stuck in a rut? Having trouble dealing with that one person at work that knows just the right button to push, and does it just for sport? Do you have trouble letting go of the small things that happen throughout your day, so they pile up and stress you out?
I think we have all been in one or all of these situations. How we handle ourselves and deal with these issues show those around us a lot about who we are. We all have a bad day; but is every day a bad day?
I worked in the medical field for about 20 years. People are at their worst when they are sick, and some days you question why you do what you do because it just doesn’t seem to be worth it. For the past six months I have been working at a school for middle and high school children with learning disabilities. This has a whole different set of challenges to face on a daily basis.
Many years ago, when I first truly began my walk with God, I came across a Bible verse that has helped me through many difficult days.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23
In situations when I had a difficult patient or family member, co-worker or supervisor, I would remember this verse. God gave me the gifts and abilities to remain calm under pressure, to be compassionate and understanding, to be patient and kind. It is my responsibility to use those gifts to glorify him. He is always there for me to draw strength from and sometimes the best way to draw that strength is through his word.
So, the next time that co-worker trods across that sensitive spot, remember that God made you who you are and it doesn’t matter what that co-worker thinks. As long as you are doing your job to the absolute best of your ability and doing it as though you are doing it for God, that is what is important.
Sometimes the solution to the problem is just an adjustment in our perspective. Whether it is your job, coaching your son’s little league team, being the troop leader for your daughter’s Girl Scout troop, do it as if you are working for the Lord and not for man. I sure felt more fulfilled and my job was more rewarding when I adjusted my perspective.
All you have to do to change your perspective is decide who you are working for, God or man.
Not everyone is a “Super Christian.” We don’t all have stories of how we glanced at the stranger seated next to us on the plane and led them to Jesus right there on the spot.
Most of us are probably missing about 9 out of every 10 opportunities we have to share the Truth. (Wait! What opportunities?!)
Worse, in the unlikely event that we ever did lead someone to Jesus, we wouldn’t have the first clue what to do next. Maybe the pastor knows what to do? Sadly, maybe not.
Or, maybe you know how to “lead people to Christ” but you have never considered that the ultimate goal is actually to lead people toward Christ-likeness.
We may not all be Super Christians, but every Christian has been tasked with making disciples of all nations.
The New Normal: Every Disciple Making Disciples
But is the mission even possible? Is it really true that every follower of Jesus is meant to make and multiply other followers of Jesus? Is it crazy to think you might make a disciple this year who will make a disciple next year?
I believe that if Jesus has given us a mission to make disciples of all nations, then he will give us the means to fulfill that mission.
Jesus did not give us an impossible mission. Well, according to Jesus it is impossible in our own strength. He reminds us of this when He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5)
It’s an impossible mission for a dead branch to make fruit, but when a healthy branch is connected to the vine, Jesus actually thinks that much fruit will be the result. Bearing fruit is normal for a vine with healthy branches.
Characteristics of a Dead Branch
There are several reasons why a Christian might not be bearing fruit (Hint: It’s never a vine problem. It’s always a branch problem).
Here are a few characteristics of a dead or dying branch:
No Purpose – Jesus made the mission very clear in Matthew 28:18-20: “Go…make disciples of all nations.” Evaluate your life and determine how much of your time is spent pursuing that mission and how much is spent on other pursuits.
No Prayer – Are you devoted to prayer? Are you intentionally praying for your neighbor who is far from God? Look up Paul’s words in Colossians 4:2-5and ask God to give you the same kind of desperation for “outsiders.” Dead branch Christians often have a dead prayer life.
No Preparation – Quick! Answer this question: “What is the reason for the Hope that is in you?” Peter tells us we always need to be ready to answer that question (1 Peter 3:15-16). Are you prepared to defend the faith? Are you prepared to answer questions? Are you prepared to articulate the Gospel in one minute? Three minutes? Thirty minutes? Start preparing now!
No Preaching – If you’ve never talked about Jesus, your friends will never know about Jesus. It’s simple: the Gospel is a message. Messages need to be communicated. Let stories about Jesus permeate your conversations every day (just don’t force it).
No Purity – It may be that you are caught up in sin and aren’t experiencing victory in your life. If your lifestyle conflicts with your message then no one will believe you. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Is this what Ghandi would say if he looked at your life?
No Perseverance – Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”
If we are going to pursue the mission it will take work, sacrifice, commitment, endurance, passion, and focus.
No Partnerships – None of the above will happen apart from community. When we’ve got a band of brothers (or sisters) who are on a journey together it’s easier to hold each other accountable. Superheroes often accomplish things on their own, but this isn’t a comic book – this is real life. In fact, it’s the abundant life that Jesus promised us. A dead branch lies there cold and alone on the ground. A living, healthy branch is connected to other branches through the vine.
If any of these characteristics describe your spiritual life, you will not bear fruit. You are a disconnected and dying branch. Jesus’ desire is that every branch would remain in Him and bear much fruit.
You may not be a “Super Christian” (whatever that is), but there might just be someone in your family or on your block that is far from God. Maybe, just maybe, God wants to use you to reach that one person. Making disciples is an impossible mission, should you choose to accept it. But don’t worry, Jesus knows you can do it with His help! Just stay connected to Him.
Nathan Creitz (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is passionate about making disciples in a post-Christian context. He and his wife Kim and two children, Zoe and Zac, live in Queens, NY where about 2% of the people are followers of Jesus. They are planting churches in Queens that are within reach of at least 64 unreached people groups. Nathan often records his observations about making disciples in a post-Christian context atnathancreitz.net. Twitter: @nathancreitz