A Discipler's Guide to Spiritual Conversations (7/7): Trust

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

We’re wrapping up our Discipleship blog series with an often neglected aspect of the discipleship process: trust.

We all know God has graciously invited us to join him on mission as he makes all things new, but sometimes we can spend so much time talking about our involvement and forget whose mission it is and who invited us in the first place.

As Christopher Wright said in his book The Mission of God, “it is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission - God's mission.”

It’s easy to forget who we are and our place in this mission. It’s also easy to forget God’s mission has a guaranteed good ending. For these, and a few more reasons, let’s look at how important trust is to the mission to disciple.

Trust Implies Our Inability

We all love the books and conferences chock-full with stories of what worked “in our context” and all the missional geometry you can handle. Stories of others successes and different paradigms and approaches can often bring clarity and encouragement, but all too often we approach them as the thing that is going to finally raise my neighbors from the dead.   

And while we, here at Table Network, have been influenced and encouraged by a good number of books, conferences, and trainings, we steadily remind ourselves and the leaders we get to walk with that all the triangles, circles, arrows, and alliterated three word formulas in the world can’t raise our neighbors from the dead. The good news is we know Someone in the resurrection business.

In the words of the conflicted prophet Jonah: “Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

The sooner we come to realize that those we love will never declare Jesus as Lord except by a gracious work of God in their hearts (1 Cor. 12:3) and embrace this often frustrating reality, the sooner we will begin to shift our trust from missional whiteboard art over to “...God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).

Trust Implies Someone Else’s Ability

By no means should we jump to the conclusion that there is no need for intentionality and effort in our presence, listening, sharing, inviting, and teaching in light of our ultimate inability. To the contrary, it ought to empower it.

It is such a joy and hopeful reminder to acknowledge the one true missional community in this world possessing the power needed to transform the people around us: The Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit.

It was Jesus who told us:

"My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17)

“I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18)

“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking; do not be silent. For I am with you and no one will lay a hand on you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)

What an encouragement to know the one true missional community is constantly working. In us? Yes. Through us? Yes. Without us? For sure. In spite of us? Believe it.

He is able and He is working even when we can’t see. He is building his church, though it might not be your number He’s adding to. He has many in your city, so don’t be afraid and keep on making connections, sharing meals, and sharing good news. Trust this.

Trust Allows Us to Rest

There are a number of unhealthy emotions, motivators, and methods we can carry with us into conversations with our neighbors and I’ve experienced and acted out of all of them.

I know what it’s like to have self-righteousness and anger operating in my heart as truth is shared.

I’ve been in conversations where winning the argument and being right far outweighed love for the person sitting across from you.

The scariest and most unhealthy of them all, for me, is I know what it’s like to carry plenty of unhealthy anxiety into relationships and conversations thinking I need to “make something happen”.

This kind of anxiety shouldn’t be confused with intentionality. No, what I’m talking about is a kind of approach to discipling that places Kingdom advancement solely and squarely on my shoulders. Somehow thinking Tony has a mission, instead of God’s mission has a Tony.

Trust allows us to play the long game. Knowing God is at work allows us to be okay with moving at His speed, according His timetable, not ours.

Trust allows us to not put so much weight on our discipling performance, but instead to trust He is at work, oftentimes, without us and in spite of us.

This kind of trust allows us to have an ease and lightness about us around those we’re reaching out to. A kind of ease and chill Jesus displayed when he was hanging out at the party at Matthew’s house (Matthew 9:10).

Referring to discipleship relationships, a friend to our network once said: “We trip into the mystery of a certain Someone (Jesus) in someone else’s life and play along”

Trusting allows us to move at the speed of Jesus in other’s lives. There’s really no other speed at which to move if you think about it.

Trust Declares War On Cynical and Jaded Hearts

Since the Christian life, as Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 13, ought to be a life of faith, hope, and love, I’ve found a good deal of my disciple-making journey deals in the realm of hopefulness and trust.

If you’re like me, you’re an all too-often jaded yet hopeful cynic. This just means you’re a neurotic, broken mess. One minute I can find myself wondering if God is still at work in my little part of the world and the next being the most excited and trust-filled person I know. One minute I’m motivated to train and equip and the next I’m wondering “what’s the point?”

The truth is I often get discouraged with the lack of movement in and around my life and the life of my community.

I’ve had it out with God before. “You can raise the dead in an instant. Why are you taking your sweet time in these people’s lives?!”

When I get like this, God has a loving way of reminding me of everything I’ve written to this point. While I am in no way condemning those who find themselves in similar places, I can tell you God faithfully has a way of calling us out of this doubt and discouragement and back into trusting him.

On top of this,I see the fruit of his movement and work in the lives around me. And it’s oftentimes not what I thought should be happening and in whom it would be happening.

Honestly, a commitment to discipling others and being discipled is a constant reminder to trust God. Trusting him to complete the work he began in me and the people around me (Phil. 1:9). Trusting he loves and is on mission in my neighbor’s lives in a far more effective way than I can ever be. Trusting in the unseen Jesus and his perfect timing even when I don’t see things happen according to my timetable. Trusting he loves me regardless of my missional performance, and a myriad of other things He’s doing and taking care of unbeknownst to me.

There is a reason, friends, why He told us to trust in Him with all our hearts, and not to lean on our own abilities or understandings.  

So, as we wrap-up this 7-part blog series, our hope is for you to be encouraged in the timeless functions of disciple-making relationships. We hoped you’d be encouraged to practice presence, listen, and love well, share your own story and the good news of Jesus, graciously and steadily invite, and to teach others to wait, watch, and walk. This last post was just a reminder of the One who has invited us into this mission and the reminder you can trust him every step of the way.

Tony Sorci