Discipleship takes time, so allow yourself the grace of letting it be a lifelong process. Nobody can learn everything all at once. But be sure to schedule your week to allow time for study, reflection, and prayer, or else as the years go by they will only be lost opportunities.
Discipleship takes two kinds of of time. This is true for discipleship of the mind as much as it is for discipleship in worship, in prayer, in service, in caring, or in sharing. It takes time day by day, week by week, year by year, to develop a Christian mind. It takes set aside regularly, intentional time, focusing on this area of growth.
I hope if you’ve been following this series you’ve caught a taste of why this investment is worthwhile. (If you haven’t been following, it’s not too late to catch up.) But time is so hard to find! I have a bookshelf I call, half-jokingly, my “guilt shelf:” all the books I know I should read but haven’t found time for yet. There are family priorities, chores around the house, and church and work responsibilities, and all the other disciplines of Christian growth filling my schedule. That “guilt shelf” is a microcosm of a whole “guilt life,” things I know I should do, but haven’t done yet. Or it could be if I viewed it that way.
I know, though, that it was God who put 24 hours in a day. If he had wanted to make the day 28 or 30 hours long he could have, but he didn’t. I know, too, that he has planned us for good works that he prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). He doesn’t have an arithmetic problem. He didn’t plan for us to need 28-hour days to accomplish his intended work. We have time to do what he has called us to do.
Do we have time to do more than that? We all test God in that. We procrastinate, we waste time in front of the TV or with computer games, and in many other ways we give up opportunities to do what he intended. God is gracious and redeems our errors, but when we do that we live less than the best life he offers, and we contribute less than we could for the needs of others. We don’t do as much good as we could, and we don’t experience as much good as we could.
God calls us to grow in knowledge and understanding. That takes intentional time devoted to reading, studying together, praying, sometimes even disputing (as on a blog, for example). Other articles in this series suggest specific ways we can invest our time in discipling our minds; the point I’m making here is that it won’t happen without that investment. Such regular, week-by-week concentrated time is the first kind of time it takes to grow in discipleship of the mind.
It also requires the passage of years. As a young Christian I read a lot of apologetics, especially Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, and Josh McDowell. I was really naive. It’s embarrassing now. I thought, “this is all it takes! If everyone understood this stuff, everyone would believe!” Boy, was I wrong. I had some growing up to do. Since then I’ve noticed a pattern. Repeatedly in my life I’ve looked back at myself five years earlier and thought, “I had a lot of growing up to do then; I’ve learned a lot since.” Some things take years to learn.
I’m sitting here at this moment with ice on my shoulder and a brace on my knee, both the result of having gone through more than a few of those five-year stages. My body isn’t what it used to be. I wouldn’t dream of going back to those younger years of lesser understanding, though. The passage of time has been rough on my body, but good for my mind and soul. Still, I know that if I’m alive five years from now, I’ll look back on today and think, “I had a lot of growing up to do then; I’ve learned a lot since.”
God has a curriculum for each of us. It’s not a crash course. It takes concentrated study along the way, and the more we do of that (and the better quality), the better our outcomes will be, all else being equal. But there’s no hurrying the completion of this degree.
I hope this sounds more like an encouragement than a disappointment. We have freedom not to have arrived, and that’s a good thing. It’s best we pay attention, though, to how we’re making progress on the journey.
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