Learn to do right! (Isaiah 1:17)
If you are anything like us, you will often feel that you fail in your life of discipleship. It may be through some act of disobedience or fear; or perhaps through not being as radical as we should be; or perhaps through trying to ‘serve two masters’ (Matthew 6:24) and having seen – once again! – that it just doesn’t work. We all fail to hit the target at times. So when we do, it is encouraging to remember that we are in good company.
Consider those first disciples of Jesus. The Gospels show us that they didn’t always understand what Jesus said; they didn’t always use the power that was theirs - and even when they did, it wasn’t always in the right way or with the right attitude; they failed Jesus at the crucial moment, fleeing in Gethsemane; and to crown it all, Peter was even once told by Jesus that he was doing Satan’s work for him! Hardly a great portrait of success, is it?
But we need to remember that a discipleship is a process. The word ‘disciple’ means a learner or apprentice. An apprentice is someone who comes alongside someone with a particular skill to watch how they do it, then to ‘have a go’ themselves, to get tuition along the way, until eventually they can do it themselves. That’s how Jesus wanted his disciples to see their life with him. Of course he knew they wouldn’t get it right at first; of course he knew they would make mistakes – sometimes, big ones. But that’s what an apprentice does; that’s how an apprentice learns.
For all of us, learning as his disciples will mean failing at times, as well as succeeding. But every failure can be the seed-ground of the success of the next attempt. The fact that God tells us to ‘learn to do right’ means he knows that doing right does not always come instinctively to us, and that we will sometimes get it wrong as we seek to do so. He promises to ‘give us space’ today – space to fail, in order to train us to succeed.
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. (Luke 22:31-32)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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