Ever wonder why God takes you through valleys and storms of life?
Through the ups and downs and twists and turns with your children? Why do you have the miserable boss or annoying co-workers you have? Why does “Needy Harry” seek you out every Sunday? Why has God stuck you in the town of “Boresville, USA”? Is God trying to teach you something?
Jesus is continually “doing something” in our lives. And he isn’t simply trying to teach us “lessons.” He has plans for our lives. Plans to transform us into his own likeness. And Jesus fulfills those plans. Perfectly. Completely. And nothing can stop him from fulfilling his purposes for us. When I first called upon the Lord I was desperate for him to deliver me from my slavery to sin. I wanted to have some peace and joy in my life. I didn’t know that to believe in Jesus meant I was signing up to become a disciple. I was more like the crowds of people who just wanted Jesus to be heal them. I didn’t I needed to enlist to become a life-long follower of Jesus.
I think that sometimes we forget that we are disciples of Jesus.
At least I do. But we never graduate from being disciples in this life. Even after we have followed him for 35 or 65 years. Even if we are teaching and discipling others. Each one of us will always be a disciple of Jesus.
A disciple is a student. An imitator. A learner. A lifetime learner.
So what does Jesus want to teach you and me? How does he intend to mold us into his likeness? Here are powerful life-transforming lessons I know Jesus is still teaching me. Maybe you can relate…
Jesus teaches his disciples to trust him
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Why do we get anxious when finances are tight? Why do we get fearful about our children? Why do we worry about the future? Ultimately it’s because we forget to trust the Lord. To trust that he will provide for us. To trust that he cares about our children infinitely more than we do. To trust that he will hear our prayers. To believe he will fulfill his promises.
Jesus told his disciples to trust God to provide for them.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:25-33
What are tempted to be anxious about right now? What do you need to trust the Lord for? Ask him to help you trust him. Ask him to give you his peace about whatever you’re going through.
Our Lord will continue to teach us to trust him for the rest of our lives. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter the next situation we need to trust him in.
Jesus teaches his disciples to delight in him
Remember when Satan took Jesus up on a mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their spendor and tried to get him to delight in them? If he tempted Jesus like this he will certainly tempt us to delight in this world and its “glories” as well.
There is a beautiful neighborhood near mine that I often walk through. Huge beautiful homes – mansions. Perfectly landscaped lawns. At times I have been tempted to be envious of those folks. Which is crazy, because God has blessed my wife and I with a comfortable older home on a quiet street with great neighbors. And I would not want to have to maintain those mansions. Yet I can still be tempted to envy.
But God tells us:
Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Proverbs 23:17
We can all be tempted to delight ourselves in this world. We can be tempted to think if only I had this or that and I’d be fulfilled. We should be grateful for all the blessings and pleasures and delights that God gives us, but we should never forget that our chief delight should be in God himself. God tells us:
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
All the delights, wonders, beauties and joys in the universe are but dust compared to the infinite splendor, glory and joy in Jesus. The first second of looking upon his glorious face in heaven will make us forget every pleasure we knew in this life.
Adam and Eve got in trouble when Satan got them to look at the “desirable“fruit God had forbidden them to eat.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6
Jesus teaches his disciples to delight in him and not the delights of this world.
Jesus teaches his disciples to be humble.
The afflictions God takes us through reveal how weak we are. How much we need him. Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. Though he was God he humbled himself and took on human weakness.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8
Jesus humbled himself. And he tells his disciples to humble themselves
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble people realize they need the Lord. Humble people don’t think they have it all together. Humble people don’t think they can solve their own problems. Humble people don’t think they can provide for themselves. Humble disciples cast all their anxieties and cares upon God, knowing how much he cares for them. When we cast our cares on the Lord, we are saying, “Lord, I am weak. I am needy. I can’t do this on my own. I need you.”
That is why Jesus takes his disciples through deserts and valleys. To help us realize how much we need him. To help us become humble, like him.
Jesus teaches his disciples to be patient
Queen pretty much summed up the way most of us are naturally: “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” I have told people I never pray for patience because I know God will take me through something that will require it.
Jesus teaches his disciples to be patient. To wait for him to fulfill his purpose in his perfect timing. To trust he will save their children in his timing. The trust he will provide for them in his timing. He tells us:
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14
Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit. And like all fruit, patience takes time to grow. Wouldn’t it be great if we were automatically patient? Sorry. Take a deep breath. Jesus will make you patient little by little. Day after day. Keep seeking him, asking him for grace and help and patience and joy. You’ll get there.
Jesus teaches his disciples to believe that he works all things together for their good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
If we really believed that God works all things for our good we would never grumble or complain about anything.
When we are tempted to grumble or complain the best question we can ask ourselves is what am I believing about God right now? Do I believe he is good and loving? Do I believe he is using this to make me more like Christ? Do I believe he is in control of all things? Do I believe God is infinitely wise and knows what is best for me?
Jesus teaches his disciples to endure to the end.
Even when Jesus walked the earth many of his disciples followed him for a while then fell away. When Jesus taught that believers must “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood” many quit following him:
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66
In the parable of the four soils Jesus said that some people receive his word with joy initially but then the cares and worries of this life cause them to fall away.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. Mark 4:16-17
I know there are various interpretations of these verses, but what is clear is that not all who initially respond to God’s word with joy persevere when they suffer “on account of the word.”
God tells us we must run the race with endurance. It doesn’t matter how we start the race. What matters is how we finish it.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Jesus teaches his disciples to endure to the end. We do this by fixing our eyes upon him, the ultimate example of endurance.
Jesus doesn’t simply teach his disciples “life hacks” to make their lives easier, but he calls us to imitate him. He doesn’t call us to do anything he didn’t do.
He is transforming us into his own likeness and image. So keep following him. Keep imitating him. Keep reading his Word, meditating on it, obeying it. Keep reading the gospels to see how Jesus lived. And don’t forget you are a disciple and will always be a disciple of Jesus. And even as you follow him, and do the hard work of a disciple, it is Jesus who changes you and makes you into his likeness.