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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: Path of Discipleship, part 3/4 of Lesson #1 Establishing Hope, shows and explains The Flow, three discipleship levels as one progresses into spiritual maturity.
Although many Christians might feel stuck in one of the two earlier stages, God intends to help them grow into a mature adult. Let me use an outline to diagram what perhaps should happen at each of these spiritual stages of growth.
At each stage God is helping the believer to develop in some major way. This development is necessary before moving on into the next stage of spiritual development. Others might assume our spiritual growth because of the number of years that we have been a Christian. This unfortunately is not always true.
Each discipleship level's most significant development needs are pointed out in the chart below. This major area of work is highlighted by its theme. For example, God's major work in the new believer is to reveal His great love. God develops a strong bonding with the believer so that he or she can trust the Lord. This trust must be developed before moving onto the second level. God is doing many things at each stage. As disciples, we must learn and practice these things. As mentors (and hopefully we all are in various ways), then we will emphasize these particular aspects and focus on the different ways to develop this love for the believer in the first stage. Practically, we always need to protect this process through our persistence prayer.
While discipleship level 1 speaks about love and security in the infant level, once gained, the child is quick to move to the stage where they begin to do things themselves. This is the stage we are speaking about in this series and where we will focus. In Discipleship Level 3 we will learn how to draw closer to God in our intimacy and from that relationship bear fruit in our lives, those good works that He has ordained for us to full (Ephesians 2:10).
God wants us to strengthen us at this second stage. He wants to develop us and help us see the tools that He has given us to overcome the evil one. The armor that He has given to us, including the sword, serve as great images for us to remember what God wants to do in our lives at this stage (Ephesians 6:10-20). If we are going to be those overcomers, we will need to master each piece of armor as well as better understand how to win spiritual battles.
In this second level we are to take that hope that we have and mature it into a strong confidence. This comes about by learning how to battle and win. Once we have won one battle, then we have confidence to again win. If we are discouraged, even though we have been provided the armor of God, we will not be able to use it. Like David, we will think it is for someone else. God wants us to win. And like Jesus, we are to learn how through the Spirit of God and His Word we are to win battles. The Book of Joshua in the Old Testament gives us a number of pictures of what characterize a victory.
When we win a victory over sin, temptation or some difficult situation, we gain a little hope. When it happens again, we gain more hope. When it happens again and again, we begin to be strong. We now know how to battle and win in this and that situation. We understand how God works in our lives.
When we have begun to gain confidence in one area, the Lord soon moves us on to a new arena for training. This is the training for spiritual warfare. Since we are not trained in a certain area, we need to learn a few new things (which of course seem like gigantic obstacles). If we fall, we need to learn how to get up again, be encouraged and go on in Christ's Name. When we fail in any event, it means that we have not fully learned how to depend upon God in those areas. Perhaps you can identify some of those areas in your life.
Once we have seen how God has worked in several circumstances, we more quickly adapt our skills to enter a new challenging situation. Our confidence is not in ourselves but in what God is doing through our lives. This is the Flow, observing the way our spiritual lives grow. By spiritual, I do not mean to exclude the impact on our physical lives. Many problems we face might have to do with our complexion, our friends or even our lusts. They might have to do with not having enough money, losing our job, or controlling our temper.
The key, however, is to properly handle, and this has everything to do with having Christ live in and through our lives. When we have learned to overcome difficult situations through God's Word, then we have moved into the Discipleship Level 3. It is there that our strong confidence in what God does in our live enables us to help others as they face difficult or puzzling situations. Our real help for others is not some great wisdom that we have in and of itself but it is all the accumulated love, hope and faith we have gained by going through those training sessions.
While going through the second level, we are focused more on getting through different difficult situations. The third level is largely occupied with growing closer to the Lord, serving Him more effectively. It is not that each stage is exclusive of one another. Spiritual growth is the development of faith. We will be learning more of God's love even in the third level of discipleship. Our hope will grow stronger. The difference is that we are not learning about His love as a foundation of our relationship which produces a strong trust. At each level, we will see that there is a main concentration of learning experiences. It is hard to see these things unless someone draws your attention to it.
We started by mentioning a number of questions. These are questions that largely arise from those facing problems in the Discipleship Level 2 stage. These are common questions. We have mastered some techniques but still have much to learn! God is waiting to teach us. Jesus is our Master and though the Spirit carefully leads us through our lives.
In each battle we need to learn to trust the Lord to help us. He knows what frustrates us, encourages us, areas we have confidence in and areas we do not. Do you remember how Jesus cautioned Peter about his willingness to die with Jesus? God knows more than we know of ourselves. Once, however, we find that Jesus is closely involved in our Christian growth, then we can eagerly work with Him as He shows us what and how to overcome personal and relational problems.
This second stage is temporary. One is a young adult only so long. We are to quickly master our lessons because of His larger design. Again, it is not that He will not help us bear fruit early on. He will but it will not be our main focus. There is a law in the Old Testament that the people were not to eat the fruit from a new fruit tree for the first years (Leviticus 19:23-25). God's people will bear fruit but are not to focus on it. Maturity is important to preserve fruit, otherwise those that are helped by your life are also discouraged by your failures!
Through this series on Discipleship Level 2, we hope to help you quickly move through this stage. Like a teen, it should not last forever. Although there will be those dramatic failures, you can learn from these mistakes and how to rightly get through them.
If you have been 'stuck' in your Christian growth, you should be aware that this is not normal but be eager to overcome and grow. Once you see God help you get through one problem, you will burst aloud with thanks to the Lord and share you testimony with others. God is glorified through the process and end result. Victory rests in knowing and using what God has given us. Each victory testifies that Jesus words are true, "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). We are humbled that He works so hard and close to us in this training.
Do remember that the Holy Spirit wants to make us holy. This is a process. Most of the spiritual battles have to do with learning how to avoid temptation and overcome different kinds of sin in our lives.
Discipleship at the 2nd level
by Paul J. Bucknell
God's Word comes alive as you learn how to use it to overcome personal struggles like anxiety, depression, pride, lust and anger. God has made you strong! Many worksheets! (300+ pages). This is the full resource with all the complete and updated pages included!
Directory of Discipleship Articles
Basic Discipleship Stage
Basic discipleship stage and BFF materials.
Intermediate Discipleship Stage
intermediate discipleship stage and BFF materials.
Advanced Discipleship Stage
Advanced discipleship stage and BFF materials.
The Imperative of Discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2)
The Heart of True Discipleship (Isaiah 50:4-7)
Diagram of integrated Discipleship
7 principles on excellent teaching.
Designing discipleship curriculum
Stages and goals of discipleship
Integrates Church Growth with discipleship
Slides with explanation.
Growing the Church through Biblical Training
Explains 'The Flow'.
Learning how Christians grow
Understanding the Cycle of Decline and Revival (Judges 2)
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988