Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Real-Life Discipleship

No, I'm not talking about the book "Real-Life Discipleship" (which I enjoyed and reviewed recently) - I'm talking about how the pressures of every day living can be a powerful environment for growing as a disciple.

A friend emailed me asking for prayer as things have gotten very hectic and stressful at work, right at the exact time there is another huge pressure hanging over his head outside of work. We've had other talks and been mentoring each other and wanting to be more faithful in Bible reading in prayer. Given that context, here's what I shared with him...

"The onslaught of stress from multiple sources can be a very conducive environment for growth. It may highlight what is important, what is not, or what should be; it displays or builds character in how we respond under stress; it makes it challenging to see and act on the needs of others when our own needs are so pressing and time is so short. Discipleship (following Christ more closely and loving Him and others) can happen in this real-life environment even more than while doing traditional 'spiritual' exercises. Two things will determine for you whether this hectic season of stress will be such a time of growth in Christ, or simply a growth in stress and anxiety - time in the word to gain God's perspective and let Him speak to you; and time in prayer asking to gain wisdom and strength before facing the day, and reflecting on the choices we made that day to gain perspective."

When I'm faced with more stress than it seems I can handle, I find myself moving in one of two directions. I either escape or embrace. I escape when I turn to video games or sports or a less productive (procrastinating) activities which provides very temporary relief from thinking about reality. That is so tempting, but never turns out well. On other occasions, I embrace what I'm facing as an opportunity to grow, and I embrace what God is doing in my life. I let go of distractions (instead of running to them), and ask God "what are you trying to teach me here?" I wish I could tell you I take the second choice all the time, but I don't. When I do though, it dramatically changes my perception of the situation, my ability to handle the stress, and it builds my character more in the likeness of Christ.

How do you handle an onslaught of stress and work? Do you find yourself turning away from God (and towards things of little value), or do you give thanks for an opportunity to grow in the likeness of His Son? Discipleship doesn't just happen in the church - it happens as we live out real-life.


GyrlPower said...

I typically turn to the little things and escape through reading or video games. I need to find a way that I'm comfortable with to try and find supporting scripture to help me get through what is stressing me. I need to try to turn more to scripture and less to fiction.

Larry Baxter said...

Well said GyrlPower :) Thanks for commenting. As with so many things, fun activities enjoyed in moderation with gratitude are not a problem. It's when they spin out of control, or become something we turn to instead of God where they become something else entirely - an idol.

Turning to Scripture happens two ways. Reflecting on our everyday Bible reading and asking God to reveal how it might speak to our lives; and intentional searching of the Scripture to see what it has to say about a specific topic weighing on our mind. Both are quite powerful when God has something to say.