Tag Archives: Suffering
Michael Wilkins has defined a disciple of Jesus as one who “has come to Jesus for eternal life, has claimed Jesus as Savior and God, and has embarked upon the life of following Jesus.” His very presence in my life and his promise to never leave nor forsake me, encourages me to daily follow Him. At the heart of following Him is this undeserved relationship I have with Him.
2. Discipleship is enabled and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the image of Christ.
The Holy Spirit indwells and fills believers (Eph. 5:18), guides us into all truth (John 16:13), brings forth fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23) and empowers us for ministry in the church and in the world. The Spirit is God’s presence in us (Rom. 8:11) to confirm that we are indeed children of God (Rom. 8:16) and to convict us of sin for the continuing process of conforming us into the image of Christ. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit encourages the response of submission to His sanctifying work.
3. Discipleship is grounded and guided by the Word of God
The Bible is our authority in all areas of life. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Consistent nourishment is a vital component of one’s spiritual growth (Psalm 1, John 15).
4. Discipleship is nurtured in community
Community with other believers is a vital part of our growth as disciples. We were made to be in fellowship with one another. Thus the imagery of the body of Christ portrays how vitally linked we are to one another. In such community we are able to fulfill the command of loving one another and with this community then to love the world.
5. Discipleship is a continuing process of being transformed from the inside-out
“The ultimate goal of the believer’s life is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Ro 8:29).” Jesus described a radical way of life in the sermon on the mount. In a world in which righteousness was very much regarded by one’s outward actions, Jesus emphasized the transformation of the heart.
6. Discipleship produces spiritual fruit
As the Holy Spirit works to transform the individual and change is made from the inside-out, the characteristics of God become evident in the believer’s life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
7. Disciples of Christ who are in the process of inward transformation, yield to the Spirit’s leading in service and mission.
Spiritual formation is both about the inward change of heart and the outward manifestation of that changed heart. Christ modeled the life of service for His disciples and commands us to serve in humility and love while proclaiming His truth in a lost world.
8. Disciples are called to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings
As we live in a sin-cursed world, we bear the effects of sin on a daily basis. With the presence of Christ and the promise of future hope with Him, we are able to endure the pain and even be transformed in the process. Paul writes of this truth in 2 Cor. 4:17: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” God invites us to suffer for His sake, for living to honor Christ in a world that is hostile toward Him. In this, we share in his sufferings and bring glory to Him.
9. Disciples Must Count the Cost
Following Christ as His disciple means letting go of one’s own will and seeking the will of God in all things (Luke 9:23). Nothing must take the place of Jesus as the “focus of allegiance,” as Wilkins explains.
10. Discipleship is a Life-long Journey
In my own life, describing my faith and discipleship in terms of the journey metaphor has been vitally important on many different levels. As I come to different forks in the road, or experience difficult trials, knowing that Jesus is my trustworthy Master and Leader, is my sole comfort and motivation to continue in this journey of faith. We must continue to realize and endeavor to endure the trials of faith that come with renewed commitment to following Christ on a daily basis.
 Michael J. Wilkins, Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 40.
 Michael Glerup, “The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Formation,” in The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation, ed. Alan Andrews (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010), 251.
 Michael J. Wilkins, Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 133.
 Michael J. Wilkins, An Outline Study Guide to “Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship,” 69.
*Article above adapted from http://www.thetwocities.com/practical-theology/discipleship-2/discipleship-principles/ Posted by Jeannette Hagen – February 25, 2013
About the Author:
Jeanette Hagan is currently a PhD candidate in New Testament at the University of Durham. Studying under John M.G. Barclay, she is writing her thesis on the relationship between Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith and the continuing participation a believer experiences in the death, resurrection and life of Christ. Previously, she studied English literature for her B.A. at Biola University while being in the first graduating class of the Torrey Honors Institute. In 2011 she completed her M.A. in New Testament at Talbot School of Theology. Her passion is training and equipping disciples to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. She has served in a variety of ministry capacities. Highlights include: organizing summer camps and humanitarian efforts for orphans in Ukraine and Russia, traveling 5 continents sharing the Gospel, helping to facilitate for theological and practical ministry training for believers around the world, and serving in a church plant in Whittier, CA. In her free time she enjoys reading, being outdoors in a variety of recreational capacities, playing piano, and mostly just spending quality time with family and friends.
Tabletalk (The Monthly Magazine of R.C. Sproul’s – Ligonier Ministries) And Matt Chandler on His Battle with Brain Cancer
Tabletalk: By way of offering a brief introduction of yourself and your family, when was God’s call to serve His people confirmed for you (Matt, cancer free, recently pictured above with his wife Lauren and their three children)?
Matt Chandler: I think my story is a bit strange in that my awareness of God’s call on my life to serve His people was a bit lost in me serving His people. I’ll try and explain that. I was very frustrated with my church experiences heading into college. I loved sharing the gospel and loved the God of the Bible, but it appeared to me (probably my immaturity) that my church and I were seeing different things in the Scriptures. I saw atonement and the fear of the Lord, and at church they were teaching us not to drink beer and not to have sex. To be truthful, I wasn’t drinking beer or having sex, and could see that drunkenness was sinful and that God had a plan for sex in marriage. Yet it appeared to me that those were secondary issues that should be addressed after the atoning work of Christ was communicated and understood. I started teaching at an ecumenical gathering while I was in college and assumed I would finish school, become a good lawyer, and teach Sunday school at the local Baptist church wherever I settled (I was hoping for the West Coast). The Bible study blew up numerically, and we were running around one thousand to fifteen hundred students every week. A young woman from that study asked me when I received the “call of ministry.” I was honestly confused by her question. I thought she was asking if the Baptists had literally called me on the phone and let me teach the Bible study. She clarified her question, and it sent all my dreams and plans into another direction altogether. It was at this time that I came to understand that I wouldn’t be spending my life doing law and teaching Sunday school but rather teaching and leading God’s people into maturity by the Spirit’s power and by the proclamation of the Word.
TT: What counsel would you give to a believer on the day he or she is diagnosed with cancer? How about six months after the diagnosis?
MC: One of God’s big mercies in all of this has been allowing me to pastor a young church. I have done multiple funerals every year I have been here, and only one has been for a person over the age of fifty. I learned very early that people need to have a good grasp of God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. On the day that a person is diagnosed, I try to encourage them in God’s knowledge — that this hasn’t surprised Him or caught Him off guard. I want to remind them that this isn’t punitive, but rather that God is on the move and He can be trusted. Six months after the diagnosis is harder to answer because cancer can go one of two ways. If the man or woman is still in a real fight, I want to draw his or her attention to Hebrews 11 or the story of Abraham being promised a son or even David being anointed king and then running from Saul for all those years before sitting on the throne. I think it’s important to remind people after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off and the wear and tear of treatment settles in that victory for those who are children of God is guaranteed, although difficulty, pain, and waiting might all be very present.
TT: In what ways has your cancer sanctified you?
MC: It’s made me look long and hard at my motives and has drawn me deeply into God in prayer. I am an excellent studier and researcher, and before all this began, I would say a decent man of prayer; but I learned after they told me I only had two to three years left that I knew much more about God than I actually knew Him. The bulk of my sanctification through this ordeal has been the birth of a deep desire for intimacy with our great God and King.
TT: How do you counsel Christians to face death and disease (both those who are personally facing such crises and those who are currently enjoying robust health)?
MC: I simply have tried to point out that we shouldn’t be surprised by death and disease because the Bible is filled with it. As I stated above, an understanding of God’s goodness and His sovereign power are necessary to cope with life in a fallen world. I want to teach people that life is extremely fragile and that there isn’t a person in our sanctuary or listening to a podcast who can’t have his or her whole world change with a phone call or, as in my case, getting up one morning and getting a cup of coffee. Those are heavy truths, and I know they don’t make for feel-good sermons, but it’s better to know these truths than to pretend it’s not reality.
TT: You’ve written that if you had not heard John Piper’s answer to the question “For whom did Christ die?” at the 1997 Passion conference, you would not have had ground to stand on years later when you heard the words “brain cancer.” How did your understanding of the atonement help you deal with such a devastating diagnosis?
MC: Actually, I think my wife, Lauren, said that in a blog she wrote after my prognosis was given to us. That sermon was significant for both of us because up until that point, I’m not sure we grasped the size and holiness of God. That sermon changed the trajectory of both our lives in that it shifted how we saw God and understood Him.
TT: You’ve also written that there were moments last year when you felt you were “punched in the soul” but that you were reminded nevertheless that the disease with which you’re dealing “isn’t punitive but somehow redemptive.” Could you unpack that a little?
MC: I have been very blessed by God in my life. My cancer has honestly been one of the more difficult things to deal with. Lauren and I have tried to trust the Lord in everything, and when we’ve stepped out in faith He has been beyond gracious to us. People come to hear; they give generously to the church, and almost every “idea” we’ve had God has blessed and grown. I can honestly say that ministry and life were pretty easy for us up until Thanksgiving 2009. After I had the seizure and they found the tumor, I thought it would be like everything else had been — easy and would end well. When I first met my neurosurgeon on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I was ignorantly and maybe even arrogantly thinking that nothing would come of it and that we would just need to watch this thing and see.
I was caught completely off guard when Dr. Barnett told me that it didn’t look good and that we needed to do surgery immediately. That was one of the first times in my life, if not the first time, that things went “worst-case scenario” on me. The Holy Spirit was quick to remind me of great passages on God’s sovereignty and goodness in difficulty. I thought of Romans 8, Hebrews 11, and several others. I wasn’t being punished with brain cancer because I didn’t tell that guy at the gym about Jesus or because I hadn’t read Piper’s latest book, but rather God was at work. He was doing something, and I could be sure that He loved me and in the end I would have increased joy and He would be glorified. Here we are over a year later and that’s exactly what’s happened.
TT: How has dealing with your disease affected your view of God’s sovereignty (or, how has your view of God’s sovereignty affected how you view your disease)?
MC: (Pictured above Matt on a video update to his church after chemo treatment – having lost his hair – which has since grown back) I believe the Scriptures teach that God is aware of every act at every level of the universe. From a star exploding to the rate at which our planet spins to a cell dividing, He knows. I don’t believe in the end that God gave me cancer, but He certainly could have stopped it and didn’t. So I have to believe like Joseph, John the Baptist, and Paul had to believe when they were in prison — that God is working, and what the enemy means for evil, He will turn to good. There have been multiple occasions when God has used this tremendously. The Associated Press let me preach the gospel in an article that ran worldwide. The story has caught the imagination of the media here in Dallas, and we’ve been able to talk about the atoning work of Christ on TV as well as in newspaper articles. That has led to a ton of men and women surrendering their lives to Christ after wanting to talk with me through their own sufferings. If my life gets “cut short” but we get to see new births in the kingdom, then I don’t feel slighted or robbed in the least.
TT: In the late summer/early fall of 2010, you went to Sudan. How did that trip impact your life?
MC: I was deeply moved by my trip to Sudan. I’ve traveled quite a bit internationally but have never seen anything like it. It isn’t even a Third World country. That’s what they want to be. We are connected with some extremely godly men there, and the opportunities for the advancement of a Christ-centered, biblically-strong faith growing in southern Sudan are very real. On a side note, if I had not been diagnosed with cancer, I would not have been able to make the trip. The original diagnosis had us clear my external speaking schedule and opened that time frame for us to go.
From: Tabletalk Magazine – From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. Interview published on July 1st, 2011.
About Matt Chandler:
Matt Chandler serves as lead pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He has become a leader in the evangelical world through his ministry at the Village Church, the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, and his teaching at multiple conferences. Matt is known to a wider audience most recently through his faithful witness to Jesus Christ while battling a malignant brain tumor. Chandler is also the author of the teaching series Philippians: To Live Is Christ & to Die Is Gain; and his excellent first book published by Crossway, entitled: The Explicit Gospel.
Anchors to Throw in a Time of Testing
In Bible college at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon (now Multnomah University) almost three decades ago I was going through a very difficult trial. Since that time I have encountered “trials of various kinds” as James calls them in his epistle. My godly father (now 89 years old) sent me a cut out containing the following advice from Andrew Murray. I have kept this cut out in my Bible ever since and have referred to it countless times:
*(1) He brought me here. It’s by His will I am in this straight place. In that fact I will rest.
(2) He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child.
(3) Then He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn.
(4) In His good time, He will bring me out again—how and when He knows. So let me say: I am
(a) Here by God’s appointment.
(b) In His keeping.
(c) Under His training.
(d) For His time.
*From a Sermon by Andrew Murray on Acts 27:28-29 entitled “Anchors to Throw in a Time of Testing.” Andrew Murray was a Dutch Reformed Church missionary sent from Scotland to South Africa. Andrew pastored churches in Bloemfontein, Worcester, Cape Town and Wellington, all in South Africa. He was a champion of the South African Revival of 1860.
In 1889, he was one of the founders of the South African General Mission (SAGM), along with Martha Osborn and Spencer Walton. After Martha Osborn married George Howe, they formed the South East Africa General Mission (SEAGM) in 1891. SAGM and SEAGM merged in 1894. Because its ministry had spread into other African countries, the mission’s name was changed to Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) in 1965. AEF joined with SIM in 1998 and continues to this day.
He died on January 18, 1917, four months before his eighty-ninth birthday. He was so influenced by Johann Christoph Blumhardt‘s Möttlingen revival that he included a portion of Friedrich Zündel’s biography at the end of With Christ in the School of Prayer. Over the years he has influenced many, including Jessie Penn-Lewis, a key figure in the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival. His writings have greatly influenced the writings of both Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.
This is a fantastic concise guide written by two experienced church planters in England designed for individuals, one-on-one, or in small groups. This is one of four books in a series of guides on the themes of being gospel centered. All four of these guides (also on the Church, Marriage, and Family) are loaded with great topics, questions for discussion, and saturated with good theology and biblically based. The best thing about this guide is that it is short, without sacrificing depth – for people who don’t have a lot of time, or simply don’t like to read. It gets you straight and to the point of discussion quickly – designed for action.
This book has 14 short chapters that each contain these elements: 1) A Principle based on the biblical topic being discussed; 2) Consider this – a short case study on the topic at hand; 3) a biblical background reading on the subject of the case study; 4) Read all about it – a brief discussion on the topic tying in the context, bridging the biblical passage, and it’s relevancy to the topic; and 5) Questions for reflection and discussion.
Here are the Principles and Key Biblical Passages Developed in the Three Sections of this book:
Part One: Gospel-Centered Change
Chapter 1: “A Life for God” – Principle: “It’s not about me—it’s about God and His glory.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1.
Chapter 2: “A Life for others” – Principle: “It’s not about me—it’s about loving God and others.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Matthew 22:34-40.
Chapter 3: “A Life of change” – Principle: “God is making me more like Jesus for His glory and my good.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Hebrews 12:1-11.
Chapter 4: “A Life of Miracles“ – Principle: “The Holy Spirit changes me through the gospel.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Romans 8:1-17.
Part Two: Gospel Centered Perspectives
Chapter 5: “Look up to God” – Principle: “I respond to the gospel with daily repentance and faith.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Acts 20:17-24.
Chapter 6: “Look back to the cross” – Principle: “The cross is the foundation and pattern of my life.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Romans 8:28-39.
Chapter 7: “Look around at the Christian community” – Principle: “Belonging to Jesus means I belong to His community.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Colossians 3:1-17.
Chapter 8: “Look forward to eternity” – Principle: “Eternal glory offers more than this life.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Hebrews 11:8-11, 24-26; 12:1-3.
Part Three: Gospel Centered Living
Chapter 9: “Decisions” – Principle: “My top priority is serving Christ.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-12.
Chapter 10: “Relationships” – Principle: “I have a duty of care for others that involves taking the initiative to serve and resolve conflict.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from James 3:1-4:12.
Chapter 11: “Friends” – Principle: “My willingness to speak about Jesus arises from my delight in Jesus.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Colossians 1:13-20.
Chapter 12: “Horizons” – Principle: “The gospel enlarges my horizons, giving me a concern for God’s world.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Isaiah 12.
Chapter 13: “Possessions” – Principle: “God gives me blessing that I might glorify Him.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 1 Timothy 6:6-19.
Chapter 14: “Suffering” – Principle: “God gives me suffering that I might glorify Him.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
I highly recommend this book for all followers of Christ. The most beneficial way to read it will be in the context of community with other believers so that the many ideas in this book can be immediately fleshed out among real life. It is theologically sound, biblically saturated; Christ centered, and will truly help you live a more gospel-centered life.
Good Biblical Foundation For Understanding the Topic of God’s Will For Your Life
I am currently reading a handful of books on decision making. I figured I would start out with the shortest of them, and work my way to the longest (from the simple to the complex). John Macarthur’s greatest strength is that you can count on him staying close to what the Bible says and not giving any speculation as to what it doesn’t say. He doesn’t delve into the emotional or philosophical realm, but sticks like glue to what the Bible clearly articulates concerning what God’s will is for humanity.
In the first chapter John clearly spells out what he wants to do in this little booklet: “Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. How would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation. Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God. God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture.”
Therefore, MacArthur proceeds to deal only with what the Bible states explicitly about the Word of God. He gleans six principles from six (actually more – but for the purposes of this review I will only give the key texts he uses) key passages of Scripture.
1) The first thing about God’s will is that He wants all kinds of people (economic classes, high positions, low positions and all ethnicities) to be saved based on 1 Timothy 2:3,4 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Referencing verses1 & 2 where Paul says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”).
2) It is God’s will that we are Spirit-filled (numerous verses). The key verses used in the chapter is Ephesians 5:15-18 where the Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” According to MacArthur the Spirit-filled life is “being saturated with the things of Christ with His Word, His Person.”
3) It is God’s will for us to be sanctified. The key verses here are in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in passionate lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
4) It is God’s will that we be a submissive and obedient people. Colossians 3; Ephesians 5 & 6; and 1 Peter 2:3-15 all talk about the roles of submission that every believer has with ultimate submission to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.
5) It is God’s will that we mature in Christ through suffering. 1 Peter 4:19 & 5:10 specify, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
6) It is God’s will that in all things we give thanks and delight in Him. In Psalm 37:4 David reminds us to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In the final analysis if you are saved through the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account in exchange for your sin, and thus Spirit-filled, seeking to be sanctified, are submissive to Christ’s leadership in your life, endure suffering, and are continually giving thanks in all things – then according to MacArthur, and I agree – it doesn’t matter what you do. The foundation for all your decisions has already been established, and now you have great freedom within the parameters of God’s protective boundaries delineated in the Bible.
This book is by no means exhaustive, but is recommended because it lays a solid foundation for what the Bible does say about “finding God’s will for your life.”
“The Bible teaches power under pressure, not power without pressure.” – Steve Brown from the Book If God Is In Charge