If you are leading a group, you have answered the call of Jesus to make disciples. He said to you, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” and you said. “yes.” At times, it feels like a pleasure. Others times, it feels like a punishment. Sometimes, it is ministry. Sometimes, it is miserable.
Sometimes, it’s both.
That means, of course, that some people quit. Some people fail.
Yes. Some do. But, some people serve with joy until the end of their lives.
We know the kind of disciple makers we want to be—the happy, enduring, forever kind. But, how? How does a disciple maker keep answering the call with joy instead of quitting or crying or caving?
Look to your Caller more than your calling
Consider Peter in Matthew 4.
Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” Jesus called Peter to something outside of himself, a mission that was not focused on himself. He said to Peter, “Stop what you are doing, follow Me and give your life to My kingdom.” Immediately, Peter left his net and followed. Peter was made for that calling. Peter wanted that calling. Peter responded to that calling.
Peter even tried for years to walk in that calling. But he could not; he wasn’t strong enough.
In Matthew 26, we learn that Peter failed in his calling. The night Jesus was taken away to be crucified, Peter was afraid to be associated with Jesus. Fearing that he too would be killed, finally realizing that Jesus’ calling was hard, Peter quit—he denied and he ran away to hide.
Until he didn’t…
Now consider Peter in John 21.
Jesus said again to Peter in John 21, “Follow me.” He said to Peter the Failure, “Follow me.” He said to Peter the Broken, “Shepherd my sheep.” Then, he told Peter that one day he would be dressed by another and carried where he did not want to go. The Bible says, “This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God” (cf. John 21:19).
Jesus told Peter the Denier, who had already proven he was not strong enough to continue in his calling, that he would feed His lambs until the end. The disciple who was scared to die as one of the sheep, shepherded the sheep until he was killed for God’s glory.
So Peter was a failure. But then, he was a church father. Peter was a quitter. Then, he was a martyr. Peter was a scared disciple who denied, denied, denied. Then he was a shepherd of sheep who served Jesus until he died.
What changed? What happened?
What happened between Matthew 26 and John 21? What happened between Peter’s denial and Peter’s death that changed the way he lived his calling? What happened that made Peter able to serve from his brokenness instead of surrender to his brokenness?
The cross happened.
There is a cross between Matthew 26 and John 21. There is a Savior between Peter’s failure and his victory. For Peter, in John 21, Jesus was no longer just the man who had called him to something bigger than his life; he was the One who loved him so much he gave up His life to give Him forgiveness. Peter saw the love and power of Jesus and it changed him.
Looking to Jesus is the key to continuing in the calling.
Being called to something bigger than our life is not enough. We must be called by Someone stronger than our brokenness. We aren’t strong enough to serve. We aren’t brave enough persevere for the sake of the calling alone. We need the joy of the Caller.
Jesus said to Peter, “Do you love me?” He says to us, “Do you love me?”
Yes, but we love because He first loved us. We serve because He first served us. We run after our calling because He ran after His. He was called to us. He was called to death. He was called to resurrection.
We are called to something great. But, we are called by Someone greater. We discover something to give our life to when we discover the One who gave His life for us.
Continuing in His call is a joy.
Brandon Hiltibidal is a former church planter and multi-site pastor, and he is now part of the Groups Ministry team at LifeWay Christian Resources. He and his wife have three little girls and lead a community group at The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, TN.