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My wife’s first pregnancy was rough—she experienced nausea the entire time, and she tore a muscle. She was just miserable. So, when her water broke, I honestly felt a sigh of relief! It was almost over. And then, bam! Jude was born . . . Now what? Oh yeah . . . now, I need to be a dad!
I can’t tell you how many people with kids said to us, “Pregnancy is the easy part. The hard part begins after he’s born!” And we’d laugh it off, thinking there’s no way it can be more difficult than this. Today, I use that same advice when talking to expecting couples, as I’ve learned something immensely valuable through this whole thing: We only see what’s right in front of us, and we often act as though each chapter in our story is the entire book, as if each stop is the entire journey.
Before Jude was born, I honestly couldn’t conceptualize what being a parent really meant. We read books, took classes, and talked with other parents. Intellectually I “knew,” but none of that truly prepared me for the moment. This reality didn’t actually become real until the pregnancy chapter of the story came to a close. It was then that I came to grips with the fact that a new chapter in the longer narrative of our lives was beginning.
As strange as this sounds, I believe this is what the disciples must have felt several times in their journey with Jesus. It’s probably safe to assume the disciples couldn’t imagine a scenario where Jesus—who healed the blind, walked on water, and raised people from the dead—would be killed. But then, He was arrested by the people He came to save and subsequently died on the cross. Wow . . .
I have to imagine that after all they’d seen and gone through, the disciples must have felt hopeless, fearful, confused, angry, bitter, and inconsolable. They must have asked themselves, “What do we do now?” “Where do we go from here?”
And then . . . on the third day Jesus resurrected. He’s alive, amazing! But 40 days later, “while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9 NKJV).
Again . . . “What do we do now?” “Where do we go from here?” Well, just like I knew what would come next after the birth of Jude, because of the books I read, the classes I took, and the conversations I had, the disciples knew what was next. Just before Jesus’ departure, He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).
When I read Acts 1:11 (NLT), it makes me chuckle. Here, two angels appeared and asked the disciples, “Men of Galilee . . . why are you standing here staring into heaven?” When I read this, I translate it as, “What are you standing around for, ya knuckleheads? You have your orders; get to work!”
Soon after, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit came upon believers and they learned firsthand that “It is finished” (John 19:30) was not the end of the journey . . . it was just the beginning; that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12 NIV). And the message of Jesus began to spread around the world. God’s redemptive work continued with the coming of the Holy Spirit and His work through the Church. The Book of Acts is the continuing story of Jesus; it’s the story of how the Spirit worked through the apostles and early believers.
Both my story and the story of the apostles show us that a major milestone—like the birth of a child or the resurrection of Jesus—is not the end of the story. Instead, these milestones are catalysts for something bigger and greater in our lives. In my case, it was fatherhood; for the apostles, it was spreading the gospel and establishing the Church. And this same principle applies to us today as it pertains to our relationship with Christ and the work God has for us!
Though Acts comes to a close with the apostles’ deaths, the acts of the Holy Spirit continues to this day through us! 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 (NKJV, emphasis added) tells us that God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation . . . and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.” We’re all part of that work, part of God’s story of redemption, and God has entrusted us to carry His message of salvation to the entire world!
Whether you’re a new believer or you’ve been following Jesus for 40 years, God wants to work in and through you. He’s not done with you, no matter how old you are, how much you’ve failed, or how much you’ve already accomplished in His name. Greater things are yet to come! His work in and through us isn’t done until He calls us home. So, every day we need to be working on both being a disciple and making disciples. What does this look like?
Well, the first thing is prayer and Bible study. These two components are such crucial, indispensable parts of following Jesus. Why? Because they enable us to experience a deep relationship with Him. The word disciple means learner. And what does a learner do? Well, generally, someone who wants to learn something will study up on it—watch tutorials, read articles and books, soak in everything they can from trusted sources. Well, the same goes for being a disciple of Christ.
When you devote time to pray and read the Bible, you will see God direct your life, you will see Him work in your life, and you will experience a healthy, fulfilling, and vibrant Christian life. When you make prayer and Bible study a priority and an intentional, consistent habit, discipleship naturally happens and growth takes place. When you put into practice what you receive from your time with God, you’ll notice a major difference in yourself, the way you interact with others, and the way you view the world!
Life is better when you share it with others. We were created to be in community, to experience life in relationship, and to share in the joy and fullness of our relationship with the Lord with others. I believe a major part of discipleship happens in our interactions and relationships with other believers. Solomon said it best in Proverbs 27:17 (NIV): “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Life is hard. There’s no way around it, and the Christian life is no different. In fact, Jesus told us in this world we’d have trouble. Everything in life doesn’t just magically become easy and carefree as a Christ-follower. Sadness, grief, pain, loss, anger, and bitterness don’t go away—if you need confirmation on that, read Psalms! Having a community of believers to walk through life with makes the lows of life more manageable and the highs more enjoyable.
In community, we find strength, boldness, comfort, wisdom, and the undeniable presence of the Spirit. We learn, grow, laugh, eat, cry, and work together to accomplish the work God prepared for us.
Another major part of community and discipleship is finding a mentor. I can’t tell you where I’d be if I didn’t have the guidance of people who have walked in my shoes and can help me along the way. Luke needed Obi Wan, Arthur needed Merlin, the disciples needed Jesus. In the same way, if we want to grow as disciples, we need people who have been there to help us, hear us, and teach us; to bring clarity and wisdom on issues we’re struggling with and things we don’t understand; to keep us accountable.
We’re not called to grow in our time with God and His people, and then retreat away in isolation from the outside world. As disciples and disciple makers, we’re called to go out into the world and be ambassadors for Christ, to represent Him and reflect Him for the world to see . . . the same way He represented Himself when He walked among us!
And what did that look like? Well Jesus’ life was all about us! He selflessly loved others and was devoted to helping and serving others. Our objective must also be to help others, meeting their needs with the same love, sensitivity, and passion as Jesus did. I firmly believe we’re closest to Christ and most like Him when we’re showing compassion, kindness, and serving people. A disciple makes this a priority because they know that nothing shows the power of the gospel and the love of Jesus more to someone who doesn’t believe than selfless service.
All disciples have a personal and corporate goal. The personal goal is to conduct ourselves in a manner “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). The corporate goal is to help guide others in their journey the same way others help us, to enable others to live worthy of the gospel. The Great Commission isn’t primarily a call to evangelism, but to discipleship. And discipleship takes deep intentionality and dedication. It means pouring into the lives of others, making yourself available, loving and living like Jesus, being a godly influence on the lives of those around you, and being accountable and holding others accountable.
I pray that through your discipleship journey, you’ll look forward to each new day and what God wants to accomplish in you, and that as you grow and become more like Him, that He’ll do even greater things through you!
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.