“Too many people have been ‘babied’ in their discipleship, to the point that they have become nearly disabled spiritually. As a result, they accept without question a faith that promises freedom and abundance in Jesus, and yet they never seem to notice how they remain imprisoned, especially in unbiblical ways of relating to themselves and others. They shrug their shoulders as if to say, ‘It’s useless. I can’t do anything about that. It’s just the way I am.’ – Emotionally Healthy Discipleship by Peter Scazzero
Today we jump into scripture and that quote and talk about what real discipleship looks like.
This summer we are jumping into the parables of Jesus. What is a parable? Very simply, it’s a story that has a spiritual principle you can learn. Why stories? Remember what Jesus said? He told stories because not everyone has a ready heart. Not everyone is able to see or understand spiritual things. That’s why Sam last week stopped and prayed. I’d like to do the same today. Let’s stop and pray and ask God to open our spiritual eyes.
Last week, Sam opened our series with the parable about the Good Samaritan. Remember the spiritual point? Serving and caring for your neighbor is an act of worship. Sam explained how the religious leader wanted to label and define who his neighbor was. Then Jesus told the story and asked who is your neighbor? The religious scholar said, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Back to the quote we started with today.
“Too many people have been ‘babied’ in their discipleship, to the point that they have become nearly disabled spirituality.”
What is that all about? That basically means we as Christians have learned how to do life without God and the local church has enabled this. How? The church has babied people. The church doesn’t challenge, it doesn’t confront, spiritual and emotional immaturity. Why? People will just leave to go to another church. So, in hopes that people will attend and stay, the local church leadership tends to move to more of entertainment than discipleship and stays away from addressing immaturity. Entertainment means, the church tries to keep people happy. Discipleship means, the church invites people into surrendering their lives to Christ and live it out.
The church tends to promote doing a lot for God but at the same time, it doesn’t expect or teach how to rearrange your life to be in a relationship with God. The church tends to define success as the world defines success; as bigger, better, more. Success according to scripture is becoming who God calls you to be and that may not look like success as seen in our world. The church tends to be seen as the place where the leaders do the work while people come and go as consumers, they create ideas for what others should do and point out what is wrong.
As a result of Churches babying Christians, we have learned how to do a lot of things, good Christian activity, but have not learned how to surrender their lives to Jesus and how to walk with Jesus every day. We have learned how to look good to others while at the same time we don’t deal with what matters the most, our true heart condition. We have learned how to walk through the day without prayer, without scripture, without worship claiming, ‘We are too busy.’ And the most immature conclude things that are not found in scripture. For example, “I am so mature, I don’t need community, I’m above that.”
Being a Christian simply means we give our lives to Jesus. He is our Savior. He is our Lord. I surrender my life to Him. I trust Him as I live every day. I give Jesus my life today. I learn a completely new way of living. I pray. I read scripture. I give God access to my heart. I engage the local church because the church is God’s body for the community to see.
When we are unwilling to surrender our lives to Christ, when our churches baby it’s members, we walk through life tend to ask this one question, ‘What can Jesus do for me?’ Notice, the question isn’t, ‘How can I give my life to Christ?’ We wonder, ‘How can Jesus make me more successful, more comfortable, more famous?’ We hear preaches talk about what we are supposed to do to live out our faith and it sounds like a struggle. We grit our teeth and try to muscle through religious requirements so that we can get back to living the way we want to really live. And if we have to face any kind of suffering, we get mad at God and tell others why we can’t follow God because He allows bad things to happen.
Today I want to talk about surrender. How to surrender your life to Christ. Let’s start with this. Without the practice of intentional silence with God, it is almost impossible to grow up into spiritual maturity. Why? Because we are so filled with our sin, our failures, our shame, our insecurities, and our fears we can’t see life correctly. We tend to push ourselves through life and not deal with those issues. Not dealing with those issues means we can’t see life correctly, can’t see God correctly, can’t see others correctly, and ourselves correctly. Not slowing down to deal with those issues basically means we never spiritually grow up. We never enter into healthy relationships. The only way we can grow up into spiritual maturity is to slow down and be with God to give God time and space to heal us, forgive us, and validate us.
But most don’t do this. Why? We have learned how to do life without God. We have learned how to skim our way through life with no depth. No prayer. No scripture. No worship. No connection to Jesus. We have, however, learned how to do a lot of things like, good Christian activity. We have learned how to look good to others. We have learned how to go from one event to another without dealing with our hearts. But, the one thing that matters, we have struggled to learn. That is, how to surrender our lives to Jesus and how to walk with Jesus every day.
Let’s read what Jesus taught.
NLT 1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
KJV 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
NLT 5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this – though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “You fathers – if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11:1-13
What is Jesus saying through this parable? Remember, parable is a story with a spiritual point. Jesus is saying, pray and keep praying. Why? Is it because we need to treat God like a bad neighbor and nag Him and wear Him down to get what we want? No.
Jesus is teaching about prayer. Prayer is like oxygen for your body. It’s spiritual oxygen for your spiritual life. Like your body’s constant need of oxygen, your spiritual soul needs constant prayer to connect with God. You know how you have thoughts that jump into your head throughout the day? That’s how we should be praying each day, all day. Those little prayers all day long. That means we should be connected to God. Walking with God. Talking to God. This isn’t a religious requirement for you to try to live up to. It’s not something that you hear about and think, ugh, I guess I will try that. No, it’s a way of living. It’s oxygen for your soul. And if we don’t pray, it cuts off our spiritual oxygen to our souls leaving us disconnected from God.
David explained how he prayed.
Seven times each day I stop and shout praises for the way you keep everything running right. MSG Palms 119:164
Why pray all the time? Because your spiritual soul needs God like your body needs oxygen. Now I want you to stop and be honest. Do you connect with this? Do you hear this and think, ‘Ugh, praying all the time, really? I don’t need to do that.’ Think about this. The reason you may be comfortable walking through the day with no prayer is because you may have learned how to do life without God.
Secondly, we pray because it keeps us focused on God. Isn’t this what Paul said in our Philippians series?
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. NIV Philippians 4:6-8
Prayer keeps us focused on God. What happens when we pray like we need oxygen for our bodies? Scripture says that God gives us a kind of peace that doesn’t make sense to us. What happens when we give up on God and life? We stop praying. We get depressed. We feel alone. We become defeated and discouraged.
Here is a very important understanding of prayer. You are either praying and engaging God or you are feeling discouraged or defeated. It’s one or the other. Anytime you feel discouraged and defeated you should stop and ask yourself, ‘Have I prayed like I need oxygen?’
Can you be a person who prays a lot and feels of discouraged or defeated? Sure. We are all human and we will always face those real emotions. However, those emotions don’t have to define us.
Prayer keeps me focused on God. Your whole attitude, your whole understanding of life depends on your focus on God. Now I want you to stop and be honest. Do you connect with this? Do you hear this and think, ‘Ugh, focus on God, really? I don’t need to do that.’ Think about this. The reason you may not connect with the need of focusing on God is because you may have learned how to do life without God.
Prayer is entering the mystery of God. That means, prayer forces me to wait on God. And let’s be honest, if we are walking through hard times, this can feel like it will crush you. Why? Because everything in our life screams, we want control and we want quick solutions. We want happiness… now. We want comfort… now. We want success… now. We want, we want, we want. We want the problem resolved… now. That’s not prayer. It can be a part of prayer, but prayer is us surrendering to God. Surrendering what we want for what God wants.
The problem with entering the mystery of God is, it may not feel good in the moment, and we hate that. We want prayer to be like our request to our genie with immediate results. That’s not prayer. That is us trying to be God and telling God what He needs to do to get on our page. We don’t get what we want, when we want it, how we want it, so we stop praying. We miss the mystery of God. We miss God walking with us through our suffering. We miss what He wants to do in our souls as we walk through suffering.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. NIV Romans 5:3-5
How do we spiritually grow up? How do we become people who live with hope and courage? We must face suffering. That produces perseverance. That produces character. That produces hope. Prayer is entering the mystery of God. It may not feel good in the moment, at all. It’s trusting God as He is trying to help us grow up. Primarily through suffering.
Now stop and think about this. Most churches don’t tell you that, do they? They don’t prepare you for that, do they? Did you grow up learning that walking through struggle and suffering is primarily how you grow up?
When MRC started, we started with a bang. Lots of people, lots of kids, lots of momentum. Three years in, we had to move from a Sunday morning format to Saturday night format. Do you know what we discovered? People, in general, don’t want to go to church on Saturday nights. Our attendance dropped by 65%.
In the middle of this shock, I would drive to Pinchot Park and pray. I prayed. I journaled. I was angry. I was defeated. I felt like the worst leader ever. Do you know what I heard from God for over two years? Nothing. Zip. Nada. No great voice assuring me that I would be a success. All I felt was, keep preaching God is with you.
Do you know what I learned over those two years? Every time I showed up at the park, everything was just the way God wanted it. The water was where God placed it. The trees were where God wanted them. The weather was what God wanted. The animals were right where God wanted them. I learned that God had MRC right where He wanted us.
Do you know what I learned about myself? I cared too much about what people thought of me. Here is the deal. I would have never learned that if God answered my prayers the way I wanted. And you know how I felt for two years? Awful. I wish I could tell you how mature I was, but I can’t. Those two years were awful because I struggled to surrender.
Now I want you to stop and be honest. Do you connect with this? Do you hear this and think, ‘Ugh, entering the mystery of God, really? I don’t need to do that.’ Think about this. The reason you may not enter prayer and relax about your life is because you may have learned how to do life without God.
Let’s close with this question, how does God answer prayer? Sometimes God says no. Sometimes God says you need to walk through struggle to grow up. Sometimes what you want now is coming, just not now. Sometimes the answer is yes, I’m on it.
Here is what we can trust.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. NLT Romans 8:28
The parable of persistent prayer, what is the spiritual point? Pray all the time. Why? Prayer gives my spiritual soul oxygen. Prayer keeps me focused on God. Prayer is me entering the mystery of God. Remember what we said earlier: Without the practice of intentional silence with God, it is almost impossible to grow up into spiritual maturity. It’s true.
Last question I challenge you to think through. Have you learned how to live life without God? That way of living where you don’t pray to God, you aren’t focused on God, and you don’t walk through struggle with God?
Prayer changes everything.