Discipleship is about wrestling with our struggles in the course of growing to love God and neighbour, and making “shifts” needed to walk with God. Three biblical persons provide mirrors for our own discipleship journey.
Demas began as a promising member without a known/significant portfolio on the Apostle Paul’s missionary team (Col. 4:10-16, esp. v.14). He probably saw a need, received a call, counted the cost, and exchanged a stable life for a travelling itinerary. However, his struggles won the course. The subtleties of a dissipating affection pulled him away from his calling. With growing heartstrings (entanglements of the heart), a defeated mind, and yoked soul-ties, he succumbed to the lures of “loving the world” (2 Tim 4:9-10). He caved in to the temptations of chasing superficial and material life, and hungering for success in a thriving city of Thessalonica. He became less accountable and detoured. From Demas, we learn to resist temptation and give no anchors to worldly desires and distractions. What “shifts” do you need to make to not end up like Demas?
Diotrephes too started out teachable and eventually became a church leader. But, Diotrephes’s unchecked ambition (to be first among other leaders) marred his character and redirected his path. On the course of loving God and neighbor, ambition that is not submitted to others opened a window for jealousy to fester. He became blinded to his desires, attitudes, and actions like a deadly poison that spreads through the heart, mind and soul. Imagining himself to be better than the others, he became abusive, contentious, un-teachable, uncooperative towards fellow pastors and leaders. He stirred dissensions, demeaned his team-leaders, and gossiped. From Diotrephes, we learn to give the Diotrephesian syndromes of selfish attitudes, ambitions and actions no advantage so that these poisons will not encroach into our discipleship. Is God inviting you to “shift” your course so that you will not become like Diotrephes?
Dorcas embodied a model for us to follow. She gave herself to love and hospitality (Acts 9:36-41) so much so that the village loved her. The village (and not just her immediate family) was upset when she was near death. The village mourned for her. Some got their hands dirty to prepare for her embalmment. Others travelled to bring Peter, who must have been known to have healed others, to the village to try to bring Dorcas back to life. From Dorcas we learn to practice love and hospitality from the heart assiduously. Is God asking you to take the step and “shift” your course to give assiduously like Dorcas? Or is your inward journey like Demas and Diotrephes even though outwardly you are esteemed like Dorcas? If so, maybe like Dorcas in a more metaphorical way, you need a resuscitation to God’s dreams and passions instead of living in an inwardly dying shell!
Dr. Timothy Lim