In the last few years especially, the topic of discipleship has been widely discussed. As a body of believers, we know we are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) and many of us believe this to our core. But when it comes to putting it into action, we can struggle a bit. In this blog post and the two that follow, we’ll explore some of the key components to life as a disciple, which in turn, empowers us to make disciples. To do this, we’re going to dive into the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the very first disciple.
If you can, take a moment to read Luke 1:26-38. If you have been walking with the Lord for even a little amount of time, you may be quite familiar with this story. The angel Gabriel has already visited Zechariah and informed him that his wife Elizabeth, well beyond child-bearing years, will become pregnant and give birth to a baby boy (whom we know will be John the Baptist).
In the specific passage mentioned above, the same angel has come to visit Mary and tell her that she is about to play a critical role in the plan for the long-awaited Messiah.
After a short dialogue with the angel Gabriel, the text tells us that Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant … May your word to me be fulfilled” (v38, NIV).
How could Mary be so curious to the point of obedience and not terrified to the point of the abandonment?
I think the explanation for her faith-filled response has to do with her life before this very moment.
“I am the Lord’s servant.”
You see, while it has been 400 years since God last spoke to His people through a prophet, they never stopped remembering Him. They faithfully celebrated all the feasts, practiced Shabbat weekly, and recited daily prayers.
The seven major feasts found in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), all pointed back to parts of the Exodus story—the faithful God who miraculously rescued them from Egypt, brought them through the desert providing for them and feeding them daily, and then into the promised land.
Aside from the major festivals, there were daily rhythms—prayers recited in the home and at the synagogue—something expected of girls even if they weren’t receiving the same formal training that boys were. As a people, all God had done and the faith that He would do more was intertwined in their day-to-day life.
Mary would have grown up with these rhythms, which means it is safe to say that she was very familiar with her God and His character. So when the Angel of the Lord appeared to her, although she may have been frightened—the text says “greatly troubled”—I would venture to say she didn’t run away in fear because she knew her God.
In verses 36-37, the text reads, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Every Shabbat dinner Mary had a prayer prayed over. And the prayer included Sarah’s name. It is quite probable that when Mary heard the Angel say, “For no word from God will ever fail” (v37), her mind went straight to the story of Sarah and Isaac—straight to the impossible being made possible by the one true God.
Genesis 18:13-14a says, “The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Emphasis added).
Mary knew her God, the God of the Scriptures. She knew of His faithfulness, and I think that played a significant role in her ability to respond to the angel with great faith.
There is no substitute for consistency with God.
How often do we see an opportunity to be the servant God calls us to be, but we dismiss it because of our own perceived weaknesses or inabilities?
“Lead this small group,” God says.
We say, “Me? I’m not a leader.”
“The time has come to take care of your aging relative,” God says.
We say, “How will we ever pay for this or manifest the energy to do so?”
“I want you to step back from this role for this season,” God says.
We say, “But I put everything into this, how can I let it go?”
The truth is, we cannot answer with “I am the Lord’s servant … may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38, NIV) if we aren’t consistently seeking Him. We cannot walk forward into what appears impossible to us if we don’t know the character of our God. Because when we know Him and His character, we also know He will not lead us into something in which He is not also there.
Friends, there is no substitute for consistency with God. To be a true disciple we must have rhythms in our lives that draw us closer to Jesus, into fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and grow our understanding of God’s character.
These rhythms don’t have to all look the same. For me, I prefer the early morning hours before anyone in my house is awake—a hot cup of coffee, a devotional, and my Bible is my jam. For a dear friend of mine, she will never, ever get up early—it’s not even worth considering and maybe you can relate—so for her, it’s an afternoon break to escape to her studio and read the Word and let it flow through her into a painting or drawing. The method might be different for each of us, but the goal is the same: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8, NIV).
We can’t be obedient to God’s call on our life if we don’t know Him and His voice. Knowing Him gives us the confidence to trust Him and the ability to do what He calls us to.
What are some helpful rhythms?
Do you have a steady rhythm for seeking God and spending time with Him? The following ideas are not meant to serve as a prescription, but rather ideas to help you consider what might fit in with your personality type and schedule.
Are you an early bird like me? Fantastic! Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and spend that time in the Word. Pick a book to start with—perhaps one of the Gospels—grab your favorite morning beverage and nestle into a comfortable chair. Invite the Holy Spirit into your time and read with expectation. God will meet you there.
Are you more like my friend who will never wake up before it’s necessary? Wonderful! Consider your schedule and pick a time of day that you know you can break away from work. Try to be consistent with that time and do the same—find a place you can be alone with your Bible and invite the Holy Spirit to be near.
Do you already have a daily rhythm? Great! Maybe it’s time for you to go even deeper with your time with the Lord. Try adding five more minutes dedicated to listening to the Lord and praying. After a week try adding five more minutes. Consider placing Scripture in strategic parts of your home, office, or even in your car. Maybe listening to an audio version of the Bible during your next workout?
The possibilities are endless!
In our house, I have used our little letter board to display Scripture. Much to my surprise, my children have memorized what’s on there simply by it being in front of their little faces every time they eat a meal (it’s in our kitchen).
Whatever your daily rhythm looks like doesn’t matter, there is no perfect formula. But making sure you have one will help transform your faith, enabling you to say with utter confidence in your God, “I am the Lord’s servant.”