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Struggle to be Faithful

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

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The middle area of discipleship can be difficult for many reasons. At times we struggle to be faithful. Why is this? Doing life with people can be scary and hard. How can we endure? How can we be faithful? Today we will discuss some challenges of discipleship and how to overcome these challenges.

Challenges Within Discipleship

Expectations. Do you have expectations for your discipleship relationships? Where do these expectations come from? Have you put them on yourself? Have they come from others, the church, or Scripture? Are they appropriate expectations?

Unmet expectations can be challenging because they leave us feeling disappointed and discouraged. We have to remember that discipleship won’t always look the way we expect because discipleship is about relationships. And the people within these relationships cannot and should not be condensed into a specific discipleship formula, with hopes of always producing the same outcome. People are different, and everyone is on their own unique journey with God.

What should our expectations be? We can expect that God is the one who changes hearts (Ezekiel 36:26) and that His Word will not come back empty (Isaiah 55:11). This we can believe and expect because God’s Word tells us so. Even if God works in unexpected ways, we can trust that He knows best because He changes hearts and His Word is powerful.

Fear of Failure. The fear of failing can negatively impact our thoughts and actions involving discipleship. What if I mess up? What if the person doesn’t change or choose to follow Jesus? What if I am not a good example? These are real fears. How can we overcome our fear of failure and be faithful to the call of making disciples?

First, we must remember the Holy Spirit is with us. In John 14:16 Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” The Helper is with us forever. Give Him your fears and let Him ease your worries. Second, we must remember that God is made strong through our weaknesses. Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s grace is enough for us as we faithfully make disciples. We do not have to “do” discipleship perfectly, because His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. If we sincerely seek to follow Jesus and show His love to others, our weaknesses will not hinder the discipleship relationship. God is bigger than our weaknesses. Rest in this truth.

Exhaustion. Discipleship can be tiring because it involves doing life with others. When you do life with others, you are there for people in the good times and bad. You rejoice with each other and weep with each other (Romans 12:15). This takes time, consistency, selflessness, and a loving and caring heart. Clearly the effort is worth it, but we can get tired—and that’s okay. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If you are tired, go to Jesus, and He will give you rest! Remember that discipleship takes on many different forms because all relationships have different characteristics. Therefore, don’t let the idea of discipleship weigh you down. Rather, turn to Jesus for freedom and rest.

Overcoming the Challenges

In your discipleship relationships, when your expectations are not met, when you have a fear of failure or when you are exhausted, remember all the things God has done in your life and for those around you (Psalm 77:11). Be encouraged because Jesus is alive and at work!

Remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil that God has the victory over (Ephesians 6:12).

Last, when the middle of discipleship seems overwhelming and it’s difficult to be faithful, keep it simple. Discipleship is about modeling Jesus. He said these words to His disciples shortly before He went to the cross: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Love others as He has loved you!

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What challenges have you faced in discipleship, and how have you overcome them?

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