Brett Seals (DMin) is Youth and Discipleship Director for the Church of God in Eastern North Carolina
As shepherds of God’s children, we are entrusted to pioneer new frontiers and guide wherever He might lead. This is an incredible responsibility. Given this reality, we cannot take lightly the opportunity of discipleship. Our students are in desperate need of experiencing Christ and nurturing a relationship with Him that will transform their lives. They are lacking the tools to survive in a world that has discarded the church and denied God altogether. Our classrooms are filled with young followers who lack biblical knowledge, doctrinal understanding, and spiritual experience. With the duty of discipling and the increasing pressure to perform, we must not lose sight of our own walk and the relationship we must foster. The temptation we face is pouring into others while failing to fill up ourselves. Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”
As we stepped into a new century by stumbling over a pandemic, we picked up a few pointers and realized that sometimes we need to help ourselves. Soul care has been the topic of many conversations. Ensuring our relationship with Christ stays in check and continues to blossom is necessary for healthy ministry. Taking time and making space to spend with God consistently are the ingredients for the purpose-filled life He has designed. Connecting with Christ and plugging into His power produces the results God desires and the outcomes we seek.
Confronted by a religious scholar, Jesus was asked, “Of all the commandments, which was the most important to follow?” He replied quickly and concisely, pointing this individual to the Old Testament writings and the commandments His Father had given Moses. “We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.” Our relationship with God is based on love and requires all our affections. In accomplishing His plan and fulfilling our purpose as pastors, we must be willing to submit every part of ourselves to His service. If we cannot serve Him, then we will always fail at serving others. Personal discipleship is an act of worship that requires the offering of our bodies as living sacrifices. This produces a holiness that is pleasing to God. It is both perpetual and transformational in understanding the difference God is making in us and through us. Our ministries will find fulfillment as we offer all we have to the God who sustains all we will ever be. As disciples we must be committed to pursuing Him will all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength.
Making His way to Jerusalem one day Jesus was approached by a young man who possessed both finances and influence. He knelt before Jesus, acknowledging Him as a good teacher with hopes that he might find eternal life. He was unfulfilled, and there was something that stood in his way in experiencing true salvation. Following rules had been a lifelong pursuit, but following Jesus was concept he had not considered. With love in His heart and instruction on His mind Jesus pointed out the missing elements in this man’s life. Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21 NLT). Following Jesus meant committing his entire being and consecrating all he had for the cause of Christ.
I believe Jesus is addressing us just as He addressed this rich young ruler. Following Him means we must completely sell out and give all to His cause. As disciples, God desires our heart, seeking an emotional connection with unending implications. He must be the focus of our affections. Jesus must remain a daily priority and take precedence over every part of our lives. Cultivating our relationship with Him trumps all other connections and acquaintances. Every day is deserving of time spent with Jesus. He is the centerpiece of our lives and the only reason we will make a difference. Instead of chasing rules to find our significance, we were designed to pursue Christ in discovering our purpose. The abundant life He offers means understanding it will never be about who we are or what we have done. The fulfillment we seek is unlocked as we worship Him for who He is and all He has accomplished.
Just beyond Capernaum on a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee, many believe Jesus preached His first message. This is what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount. In this collection of incredible thoughts, Jesus outlined Godly living and an expectation of what it would take to follow Him. In light of those who were pursuing temporary wealth, He pointed to the lasting riches of eternal life. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20 NLT). Investing in their heavenly home could only be secured in the Father’s hands. The adversary would never be able to touch what was being stored up in the life to come. Jesus wanted those who were hungry for God to realize their hope was in much more than a finite world. They were to be working towards fortified a future with their heavenly Father.
Following Jesus will always consider our present situation, but we cannot lose sight of our destination. Life is much more than the moment we are living in; we must consider our existing conditions in light of eternity in order to follow Jesus properly. Being a disciple is a daily decision to love God with our soul. This intangible part of our lives transcends time and reminds us that tomorrow will always meet us. Our soul is an eternal connection we have with Christ. We must consider nurturing our long-term relationship with Him and the impact it has on others. How we invest our time and steward our resources impacts our destiny and the fate of those following. As we navigate the opportunities each day brings, we must look through the lens of eternity in order to determine what Christ wants and the direction He is leading. Personal discipleship means we dedicate every part of ourselves to God, which includes our soul. We must get a hold of God daily in order to preserve the gift of today and perpetuate the goodness He has in store for tomorrow.