Discipleship Tip From Lee

When One of Your Disciples Pulls Away

What do you do if one of your disciples pulls away from you? He may be going through a wilderness of discouragement like David; he may feel guilty because he gave in to temptation like Peter; he might even be running from God like Jonah. Do you just wait until he contacts you? Or do you chase him down?

First, the most important thing you can do is pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to work in his situation. Second, let him know you are praying and that you are available to talk. He may not respond immediately, but he needs reassurance of your love. Even if he doesn’t answer the phone you can text or leave a message. Third, love him unconditionally. Don’t scold him, get offended or cut him off. Remember: “Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Keep loving, keep pursuing, keep encouraging even when your disciple is going through hard times.

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Don’t Be a Lone Ranger Christian

Many Christians have a “me and Jesus” attitude. They think Christianity is simply a vertical relationship. They pray, read the Bible and listen to popular podcasts or worship music, yet they aren’t involved in a local church. Or if they are, they don’t build close friendships. But Christianity is not just vertical. It’s horizontal!

Hebrews 10:25 warns us about being mavericks. It says we should not forsake “our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” The primary reason we gather at church is to strengthen each other. Paul told his friend Philemon: “Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ” (Phil. 20). God wants to use you to benefit and refresh others! Don’t close your heart to God’s family. Don’t be an isolated Lone Ranger. Form tight bonds of fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ”

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You Must Love Fervently

The apostle Paul loved people passionately. More than 40 times in his letters he refers to his disciples as “beloved.” He called Timothy his “beloved and faithful child” (1 Cor. 4:17); he described Epaphras as his “beloved fellow bondservant” (Col. 1:7); and he called Onesimus his “faithful and beloved brother” (Col. 4:9). The Greek word for “beloved” means “esteemed, dear or favorite.”

But how could more than one person be Paul’s favorite? This wouldn’t normally be possible. But when God’s supernatural love flows through you, you can love all your disciples like they are your favorites. God’s fervent love will stretch your heart and give you added capacity to demonstrate warm affection, sincere compassion and deep concern. This is the secret to effective mentoring. Love your disciples until they become “beloved” to you.

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Learn to Resist Temptation

Lots of guys ask me what’s the secret to overcoming porn or other forms of sexual temptation. Of course you can enlist an accountability partner, get a filter on your computer or take a course in purity. But those things won’t help until you make a powerful choice. You must DECIDE to RESIST.

Titus 2:12 says God’s grace has come, “instructing us to DENY ungodliness and worldly desires.” “Deny” means to “reject, refuse or veto.” It is a powerful NO. And it takes a real backbone to say no. If you are constantly giving in to temptation, your backbone is weak and your spiritual muscles are flabby. You must begin intense resistance training. Don’t let porn or other temptations turn you into a mushy, jellyfish Christian. Grow a spine. Put your foot down. Veto the devil and refuse the cravings of your flesh.

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Never Live in Isolation

Sometimes a guy I’m discipling will crawl in a shell and hide because of discouragement, failure or shame. He withdraws from people and turns inward. We are all tempted to do this, but isolation is not healthy. You need your Christian friends and mentors, especially when you are down.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 says of friends: “If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” The devil hates true fellowship, so he tries to divide us. He lies and says, “Your friend is too busy. Your mentor doesn’t care about you. No one understands you.” Don’t listen to that garbage! When you are down, reach out for help. Ask for prayer. Stay surrounded by caring friends. The Holy Spirit will minister to you through them.

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Who Is Your Timothy?

When Paul met young Timothy in Asia Minor, Acts 16:3 says Paul “wanted this man to go with him.” Why? The apostle must have seen potential in the half-Greek convert. Timothy was inexperienced, and he struggled with timidity. But after he traveled with Paul and received loving mentorship, he led the church in Ephesus. Paul later said Timothy was like a son to him and that there was no one else with his “proven worth” (Phil. 2:22).

Be on the lookout for your Timothy! God will put him in your path. Invest time in him. Take him under your wing. He will not be perfect, and he might come from a broken family or struggle with personal challenges. But if you look past his flaws, your love and encouragement can transform him into a mature leader who might even surpass you in spiritual impact.

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Strong Disciples Need Deep Roots

The apostle Paul knew that roots are vital. He prayed that the Ephesians would be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). A tall tree will not withstand a storm unless it has deep roots. The same is true for us. Jesus warned that if a person does not have a “firm root,” he will fall away when hard times come (Matt. 13:21). You must let your roots go deep!

The strength of a tree is not determined by the size of its trunk or branches or how beautiful its leaves are; strength is determined by the depth of the roots. The same is true for you spiritually. You must develop your hidden life with God. You need a life of prayer, study and private worship. Don’t be a shallow or surface Christian. Dig deep in prayer. Dig deep in the Bible. Develop intense hunger for God’s presence. Pray for deep roots in your life, and in the lives of your disciples.

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Learn to Be an Encourager

Your words have incredible power to change people’s lives. There have been times when God gave me a prophetic message for someone, some practical advice about a problem, or just a simple word of encouragement. My friends later told me that those words became significant signposts for them. They received supernatural strength from the conversation. Even years later they still treasure the words I shared.

Be an encourager! Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” And Proverbs 10:21 says, “The lips of the righteous feed many.” Don’t just look for encouragement for yourself. Learn to give it. People need to be affirmed, assured of God’s love, and reminded of God’s promises. Let Jesus use you to inject strength and hope into those around you.

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David Produced Mighty Men

After David became king he trained 37 men who became famous warriors. The Bible calls them “mighty men,” and their names are listed in 2 Samuel 23. It seems the same anointing that was on David came upon these men. They were exceptionally loyal, strong and brave. Among them were Adino, Eleazar and Shammah. They were called “the three” because their victories were legendary. They remind me that among Jesus’ disciples, He had three—Peter, James and John—who walked in exceptional power.

David’s mighty men remind me that God did not anoint me just for so I can have my own ministry. No, He wants me to share that anointing by discipling others. He wants me to reproduce. God can do this though you too! As you spend time with your disciples, encourage them, train them, advise them, pray for them and take them with you on ministry assignments, they will become legends. Let’s train up our mighty men!

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You Will Never Grow Without Discipline!

I know some guys who are very undisciplined in their habits. They can’t go to bed at a sensible hour, they sleep too late in the morning, they can’t manage their time and they can’t control their appetite or their lusts. As a result they rarely have time for daily Bible study and prayer. They are spiritual slackers!

But you can’t grow spiritually without practicing spiritual disciplines. Just as you cannot grow muscle without exercise and a proper diet, you need discipline to become a strong Christian. Part of your job as a mentor is to coach them to work hard and become disciplined so they will study the Bible regularly, develop a strong prayer life and learn to make wise use of their time. Don’t be afraid to set the bar high and motivate them to excel!

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