Today, when you think about disciples, the image we tend to get in our mind is someone who has studied or is studying the life of Christ carefully and trying to know Him. Some of that comes from the command Christ gave in Matthew 28:19 to
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost...
That command has a definite teaching element that comes first, followed with baptism. But is a well studied person really all it takes to be a disciple?
As I think of the current state of the church, I really feel that the Christian church as a whole has far too few disciples in it. As I studied the Sunday School lessons about the miracles of Christ, I was struck again by how He worked. You don't ever see Him saying write your prayer request down on the back of a card and we'll pray for it in our weekly prayer group. He also didn't go around saying, "I'm so sorry X happened in your life, I'll pray about it for you." He acted with boldness. When He heard about a need He acted right then and there. His statement was more likely to be,
Matthew 8:6-7,13 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
I will come and do this right now. When was the last time you heard someone in your church with faith and an intimate knowledge of God's will to have them make a statement like that?
I added the statement about knowing God's will because clearly everyone living in Israel at the time Jesus lived wasn't healed just because He was there. But over and over it is said Jesus
Matthew 8:16 healed all that were sick
for example. He never failed. And He declared two things that are just as important today as they were then...
John 5:19-20 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
John 14:12-14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. He knew the Father's works and He did His part to bring each and every one of them about. He also promised that those who followed Him would do greater things, because He would be with the Father. He didn't seek to bring glory to Himself and frequently told people not to tell what had happened to them. He sought to bring glory to God.
I don't want you to think I'm against intercessory prayer. It too has a Biblical place in everyone's life. But I am struck by how absolutely certain Christ was of God's will, of the fact that He always did whatever miracle or healing the situation required right then, and never pushed anything off to another day. He was always on call while on Earth and always obedient to the Father. The disciples weren't always successful in the things that they tried to do, but at least they were out trying to do the things Christ was doing. Once they received the Spirit baptism, they were even more on fire for God, preaching in spite of the Pharisee's commands, healing people who didn't even ask to be healed, and the like.
People wonder why the church in America and Europe and other places is in decline. We need more disciples! We need more pastors and elders and teachers and individuals with the same connection to God that Christ and the disciples had who will say "I will come and heal" and then give God the glory for what He has done instead of taking credit for themselves since they are just the conduit. If they know that something is not in God's will to do, then having the confidence to say "I'm sorry, but God has said to not heal you because of X" is the equally courageous stance to take if God makes it clear that a healing isn't in the cards.
Disciples in the Bible were never wishy-washy. I'll pray about that wasn't something that crossed their lips according to the written record. They prayed a lot - don't get what I'm saying wrong. But they had confidence of watching Christ work and then working themselves to spread Christianity. Their faith was complete in Him. Let all the gifts of the Spirit be active. Let the fruit of the Spirit grow. Let the ministry gifts of the Spirit do their job. Church growth will take care of itself in spite of whatever programs and worship service formats and teaching and preaching we have. Have faith in God, walk in His will, and He will do the rest.