A Discipleship of Presumption

by Stephen Rhoda

We have been enjoying some great springtime weather, which makes me want to get outside, and for whatever reason, spending time outdoors makes me think again of being a disciple of Christ.  I can picture the disciples in fair weather plodding along after Jesus, sun on their faces, wind in their hair, going from town to town, where He preached and performed miracles to confirm His authority and identity as the divine Son of God.  Wouldn’t you love to have been there?

But there’s really no reason why only good weather should remind us of this image.  Surely there was bad weather to endure.  We see as much in Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples are in a boat battling to survive a severe storm on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus slept in the stern.  They woke Him, asking, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  It was then that Jesus did what may have been his greatest miracle, perhaps second only to His resurrection.  He rebuked the wind and commanded the sea, saying, “Peace!  Be still!”  And the disciples went from fear to fear.   Instead of being afraid of dying, they were suddenly afraid of living, living, that is, in the presence of this man who “even the wind and sea obey.”

The point is to realize and remember that faith is a matter of following Christ, and by the example of the disciples in the Gospels, that in following Christ, there is no promise of avoiding storms nor even of a roof over our heads at night.  The disciples entrusted themselves completely to Christ, which is what discipleship was and is, a full and utter dependence upon Christ.  They left everything to follow Him, and He was faithful in feeding and sheltering them to keep them alive.  In the end, Jesus spoke this word to His Father- “Of those whom you have given me, I have lost not one.” (John 18:9)

So is it not the case in our own day that those who claim to be Christians often presume much more than Christ has actually promised?  American Christianity is guilty of great presumption, presuming, for example, that we must have a roof over our heads.  But who says?  In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said to a man who offered to follow Him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  In other words, Jesus was essentially homeless, sleeping outdoors or staying in the homes of those who supported Him.

American Christianity presumes that we must have three meals a day.  But who says?  In Matthew 12:1 the disciples of Jesus were hungry enough to eat raw grain right out of the field.  Had Jesus failed them?  No, they had grain to eat. Think about that tomorrow night while eating your four-course supper as the third meal of the day.

And American Christianity presumes upon the freedoms we have enjoyed in this country for several hundred years now, but such a state of blessing and comfort is hardly the norm over the course of two thousand years of church history.  And again, what did Jesus actually promise?  Did He promise freedom and protection from severest persecution?  Hardly.  In fact, Christ promised the opposite.  “The hour is coming,” said Jesus, “when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2)  And in the book of Hebrews, we are told of those who “joyfully accepted the plundering of their property” (10:34) and of others who “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.” (11:36-37)  Of these, the Holy Spirit says, “The world was not worthy.” (11:38)

So we can thump our Bibles and cry foul when the church or the world violates and contradicts the Scriptures, but what about us?  Do we know our Bibles to know what faith is as defined by God’s Word?  Do we know the teachings of Christ and of the apostles?  Do we know the real promises of the Gospel?  Or are we guilty of syncretism, merging the Christian faith with the American dream?

So why be a Christian?  If there’s no promise of a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, why follow Christ?  For the only reason that true faith has, because we need Him desperately to escape the wrath to come and because we love Him deeply as the One who endured our punishment for sin and delivered us from all condemnation now and forever.  Do you have such faith?  Seek it in prayer today and study the Word to receive true faith as a disciple of Christ.