What an amazing 24 hours! From Sunday evening, when the church gathered in Troas, to Monday evening, when Paul reached Assos, he didnt stop ministering the entire time. He lectured and dialogued all night, eating very little, and then at morning light, having had no sleep, he began a 30 mile walk which required at least 10-12 hours of strenuous walking over hilly terrain. This is almost 30 years after he was converted. Paul has to be in his late 50s or early 60s. Hes not a young man. And I think his eyesight was poor and he needed assistance when he traveled (Gal 4:15; 6:11).
These few verses show us the depth to which Paul freely gave of himself, as well as any passage in Acts. He virtually denied his own physical needs for 24 hours in order to give everything he possibly could to these believers. And he hadnt even planted this church. Most of them werent his converts, but they belonged to Jesus and they needed to be discipled. They hungrily listened and asked him questions all night. Then when it came time for his team to leave in order to board the ship, someone must have come up to him and said they desperately needed to talk with him, possibly a leader or a group of leaders, who were struggling with a situation in their church. But there was simply no more time. Or was there? What if the team went ahead and got on board the ship and told the captain that Paul would walk instead of sail to the next port? He could catch up to the ship in Assos. That would buy him an extra day so he could talk with these believers while they walked. So, of course he would. He would gladly forgo his own need of sleep to carve out a chunk of time from a hopelessly busy schedule
and give it to others who needed him. He said, Walk with me! Will we do the same?
24 hours (Ac 20:7-14)
Its not enough to convert someone, they must be discipled which means taught to love and understand the Word of God, taught how to pray, how to live clean, pure lives free from the control of the flesh, how to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then how to do this same thing for others.
Each of us is a link in a chain, so that our faith is passed on from generation to generation. Someone invested time and care in us, and then we, in turn, invest time and care in others. Yes, I know, some of us were given very little care and had to discover how to walk with God by trial and error. But God was faithful, wasnt He? Yet such neglect is a symptom of a dysfunctional church, not a model to be continued. Jesus carefully showed us how He wants this done. He discipled His followers and told us to do the same (Mt 28:19, 20). He taught and dialogued and coached. He encouraged, scolded, prayed for, fed and forgave them. He didnt convert them and then abandon them, in fact, He promised He never would.
The problem is, discipling takes precious time, and none of us has enough time as it is. There are questions that need to be asked, confusion clarified, insights given, practical matters explained. Choosing to follow Jesus Christ is just a beginning. People need to be taught survival skills right away. Temptations, demonic attacks, human nature, and character flaws confront every new believer, and every new leader. Without someone to coach, model, explain, encourage and correct, many will become overwhelmed, make poor decisions or stop growing altogether. No one should be left to learn everything the hard way, but the problem is there are so many who need to be discipled and so few who are able, or willing, to do it. And it isnt done well in large gatherings. Truth can be taught by lecturing, but when its time to teach someone how to obey that truth, they must have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss what theyve heard, repeatedly
until it clicks.
You cant disciple anyone to a higher spiritual level than you practice yourself. You can only teach people to pray like you pray, to read the Word like you read the Word, to serve like you serve, to forgive like you forgive
etc. Otherwise its only theory, hollow, empty, powerless truth. Youre pointing at something you dont really understand. But when you are actually living out that truth, what you say makes wonderful sense. And the way you say it is full of faith. Theres a sparkle in your eyes, and enthusiasm in your voice. You obviously believe what youre saying, and you can give specific examples about how that truth has affected your own life. You dont have to know a lot of truth to be a good discipler, but you do have to be living out the truth you know. Its simply a matter of turning around and teaching what youve learned to those who come behind you.
Becoming a discipler
To disciple many people there must be many disciplers. Basically, every believer needs to grow in their own faith and begin to disciple others. The task is simply impossible for a pastor or a few staff. Here are some basic decisions each of us must make if we are to become a discipler:
1) I must become a disciple. I will make myself a guinea pig, a lab-rat in living out my faith. I intend to learn all I can from others, as well as by trial and error, and then turn around and coach others to do what Ive learned.
2) I will become interruptible. I realize discipling often happens at inconvenient times. People open up and ask questions as a result of a crisis, a personal failure, or a spiritual assault. I will let the Lord use me in those critical times.
Its like quality time with children. They decide when that will happen.
3) I accept my responsibility to invest in people as a part of the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). My faith must be passed on from generation to generation.
4) Like Paul, I will look for creative ways to make time in my busy schedule for discipling.
Multitasking: I have to drive to Seattle, why dont you ride along.
Carefully-bounded gifts of time: Im working two part-time jobs, but I could give three hours on Wednesday evening (AWANA, Youth, Womens Ministry, Marriage and Family
I could give a week of my vacation to _______ (RFKC, Summer Mission, VBS
). I need the rest, but Ill trust God to make it up to me.
John 4:32 I have food to eat that you do not know about. Jesus skipped lunch and stayed in Samaria for two more days (v40).
Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming (going into the marketplace and buying it back) the time
I could add an hour after service and meet with someone to dialogue about the sermon over a meal in the gym.
5) I will make more time for discipling by choosing to do what it takes to live a long, healthy life.
Sleep, vitamins, exercise, healthy food.
Care for yourself like an athlete in training (1Co 9:24-27; 2Ti 2:3-6).
Choose life, stay healthy so you can serve God as long as possible.
Remember, there is ministry potential for every season of life, even when we are bedridden.
If you commute, use a speaker phone and regularly schedule a call with someone (LTG,
mentoring, I just called to see how youre doing).
Conference call with a regular group.
Meet for lunch in person or by phone (better than texting).
Stephen Ministry: 1hr/wk + training and coaching.
Prayer Ministry: Healing & Deliverance, Intercessors (Wednesday evening), prayer
requests (40), Table Project (type a response).
Life Group host or leader.
Childrens Ministry volunteer.
Lets review the basic points weve heard today:
We watched Paul create space in a situation where it appeared he had no time, in order
to disciple people.
We said people need someone to listen to them and thoughtfully, Biblically, discuss how
to live out our faith.
This cannot be done well in a large group. Discipleship is best done with a few people over an extended season of time.
We recognized that when many come to Christ there needs to be many disciplers. We will be able to reach many, if many will help.
Busy people might feel their schedule prevents them, but Pauls example challenges us to think creatively and sacrificially about what might be possible. Can I find time that could be redeemed, made available for discipling? God can accomplish a lot in a little bit of time, if we give it to Him by faith.
1) Have you had people invest time to disciple you? Tell us who and how they did it.
2) Has God used you to help someone else grow stronger in their faith? What did you do?
3) As you listened to this sermon, did God show you any chunks of time you could use to help others? Dont feel you are committing yourself by sharing what youve heard, but share the possibilities you saw.