Updated: Aug 2, 2022
When it comes to our lives, and specifically disciple making, is our purpose for going forth God Himself and his glory or is it something else — people’s approval, our own sense of self-righteousness, the idea that God will make our lives comfortable and successful if we obey Him? This is a question we all need to ask ourselves.
In today’s blog, we’re going to look at the latest episode of the CDM Podcast — “Not For My Glory,” by Paul Watson — and think about why we follow Jesus and make disciples.
But If Not…
When threatened with a fiery death by King Nebuchadnezzar for not worshiping the golden image he had created, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
In the face of certain death, these three men had no doubt that the Lord could deliver them, but they accepted the very real possibility that He might not. Regardless of what God chose to do, their minds were made up. They would not bow down to the idol and sin against Him. God was their treasure, their purpose and they would live and die, if necessary, in a manner that reflected that.
Can we say the same?
In the podcast, Paul Watson shares a story about when he got a call from his dad, who told him that he had just been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. This was a man who had spent decades serving the lost, starting movements among unreached people groups and faithfully obeying Christ.
To Paul, it seemed like such a waste for God to do this, particularly to someone who should’ve had a good many years left to further His kingdom. And yet, there his father was, likely going to die from a very aggressive and painful form of cancer.
As Paul wrestled with this, he heard God clearly ask him, “If I choose to take your father home to be with me now, will you still love me?”
In that moment, Paul was reminded of his family’s motto, taken from the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It was the phrase, “But if not.”
It was then that he truly felt the weight of those words, of the reality that God had the power to heal his father but was asking Paul if his love was dependent upon his prayer being answered how he wanted.
“It’s not love and seeing God as my Lord if those things are dependent upon what He does in response to my requests. He is God no matter what, and that doesn’t change if He says no.” — Paul Watson
Paul’s father was eventually healed miraculously of his cancer and that’s an incredible story you can hear about on the podcast, but what I want to focus on here is what God showed Paul when the news came that his father was cancer-free.
Paul felt God saying to him, “Don’t you dare for a moment think that I did this for you or for your father. I did this because there are five hundred Africans currently on their knees who love your father and are asking me to preserve him, and I want them to know that I am their God who hears their voice and answers their prayers.”
In other words, God did it for His glory.
Not A Tame Lion
So many of us want safety, particularly from God, but safety is an illusion.
In C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children are surprised to learn from Mr. and Mrs. Beaver that Aslan, the true King of Narnia, is a lion. One of the children asks, “Is he quite safe?”
“Who said anything about ‘safe’? Course he isn’t safe,” replies Mr. Beaver, “but he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
The God we serve is the same way. He is good, but He is not safe or tame. He cannot be put into a box, explained by any formula, or manipulated by our so-called piety.
Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.”
There’s this subtle, sometimes unconscious lie that creeps into our hearts and minds that tells us, “You feel good and are comfortable because God is happy with you. Good things are blessings from God while bad things and sufferings are punishments because you have fallen afoul of what He wants.”
That’s legalism, that’s demonic and that’s our default setting. It’s the message of every man-made religion on the planet and it makes much of us and what we do instead of much of God, who He is and what He’s done.
It’s true that there are times when God may show us that a particular gift is the result of obedience, or a particular suffering is the result of disobedience, but quite often He is silent about such things. Trying to divine His ultimate meaning and providence about one single thing in our own wisdom and understanding whilst being completely oblivious to the billions and trillions of other variable He’s in control of at any given moment is a fool’s gambit.
God gives and takes away as He pleases.
Our faith and our our disciple making become so small, fragile and cowardly when we make them all about us, and especially when we believe these lies:
We have something to offer God that puts Him in our debt; so peace, comfort and prosperity are Him paying us back for how good we’ve been.
When we suffer, are rejected, mocked, ignored or persecuted, it’s always because we’ve done something wrong and God is displeased with us.
That is weak faith that breeds weak disciples.
We think, “Oh, I’ve prayed, fasted, done tons of good for my community, volunteered at church, and shared the gospel with my co-workers and neighbors like you asked, God. I’ve even helped many of them give their lives to you. So why isn’t my marriage happy? Why don’t people recognize my accomplishments and seek my advice? Why is my child sick and dying? Why am I going to lose my house still?”
We have forgotten that God’s highest priority is not our comfort and safety.
Suffering Is the Call of the Disciple
If we’ve gotten into Disciple Making Movement for personal gain, we’re in the wrong business.
If we think that following God and obeying His command to make disciples should ensure a safe, cushy life and an annual invitation to speak at the most prestigious conferences and churches, — or that such things are the definite marks of a true disciple — then we’ve entirely missed what God has to say to us in His Word.
John 16:33 — “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Matthew 10:25 — “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”
John 15:20 — “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
Acts 14:22 — “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
2 Timothy 3:12 — “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
1 Peter 4:12 — “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
James 1:2 — “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”
Jesus does not call us to an easy life where we only obey God when we feel at peace and things are going well for us.
The Bible is fraught with story after story of men and women who followed God faithfully right into great peril and early, excruciating deaths. John the Baptist and Paul were beheaded, Stephen was stoned, Peter was crucified upside down, James was murdered, his brother John was exiled, and countless Christians have been and are being persecuted around the world for the gospel. Our Lord and Master — Jesus Himself — was mocked, tortured and crucified.
If these only followed God so he would give them safe and prosperous lives, then they all failed spectacularly. And if that’s the mindset we have, we will be sorely disappointed.
Soli Deo Gloria
We get into movement for two reasons:
First, our God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and deserves to be glorified.
Second, there are people who are dying who will be separated from Christ for eternity because they don’t know who He is.
Those should be our motivations for doing DMM.
“If you’re doing DMM right, then it’s not about you.” — Paul Watson
As we get further and further down the generations of disciples and groups, people won’t even know who we are, and that is totally okay. Being a part of DMM is not about being invited to speak on a stage, receiving applause or getting pats on the back, it’s about exalting God and being an advocate for the lost before the throne of heaven, civic authorities and the body of Christ.
If you aren’t willing to have everything stripped from you, then you’re not going to be successful in DMM.
“Although we might lose this body, although we may be misunderstood, although we may be mistreated, we understand that we perform for an audience of One — the Creator of all things and the One who loves us each individually.” — Paul Watson
It is for His glory that we go forth, befriend the lost, suffer disgrace, endure trials, preach the gospel, die and be forgotten. It is in the service of our Great King who is not safe, but is good — who can rescue us from suffering, but if not, will turn that suffering for the joy of His people and the glory of His name.
For those reasons, it seems to me He’s also the safest place we can be.
Thanks so much for reading! If you’d like to learn more by listening to the full “Not For My Glory” episode of the CDM Podcast, you can find that here!