Power to win
The 1995 Rugby World Cup was in my matric year, which meant it was a good year for high school rugby. I don’t know boys passed their exams during that season because all I can account for during that time was playing rugby with my friends, watching rugby highlights on the TV, listening to rugby commentary in the car and when there were no rugby broadcasts we’d play 1995 World Cup Rugby computer game. It was an exhilarating few months from the build-up to the final, and what a final it was! South Africa vs New Zealand, 80 minutes of extraordinary hard rugby turned to 100 minutes because by end of normal the teams were tied at 12 points each. It seemed as though the the Webb Ellis Cup trophy would be shared by these two teams for the next four years until Joel Stransky received the ball from a scrum, and under tremendous pressured kicked a perfect drop goal from just outside New Zealand’s 22m line. What a great victory he secured for South Africa! [see the video below]
But, oh! how this victory destroyed rugby in every school for the rest of the season… Every match looked like a kicking competition. I don’t think we even broke into a sweat in some games. It doesn’t matter what position a player was supposed to play – every boy who got hold of the ball would attempt at a drop-goal. Needless to say there were nearly no successful attempts. Why could I or my school friends not execute a successful drop kick under pressure like Joel Stransky? The answer is quite simple: we did not live the disciplined life he lived – on and off the rugby field. We did not devote our lives to the hours of practice and mental preparation he did. Those hours, amounting to years of preparation, paid off in those crucial seconds, because his gained power to perform when it was needed.
Power to break
On some Saturday mornings me and my brothers would watch a broadcast of Judo or Taekwon-Do championships where athletes scream and break bricks with their fists, kick through thick planks and smash concrete with their foreheads. [See example video below].
Carefully studying their methods and moves we’d get psyched and try it ourselves in our own back yard. We’d find some bricks and planks, stand exactly like them, remind one another to “focus our energy”, scream and … crack our fists, sprain our toes and bruise our foreheads. Although we copied their moves, screams and facial expressions as closely as possible we seemed to lack their power.
Why? Because we did not live their lives. We had their “form” but not their “power” – the power that stems from a disciplined, devoted life.
Power to survive
The best contemporary image for discipleship I have discovered is from the new movie Karate Kid . In the 2010 version the young Dre (Jaden Smith) runs from some mean boys who know Kung Fu but is saved by Mr. Han (Jackie Chang), a master at Kun Fu. [see the video below]
Afterwards Dre asks Mr. Han to teach him Kun Fu. Mr. Han reluctantly agrees but instructs Dre to do seemingly meaningless exercises that has nothing to do with self-defense. But seeing as the young Dre was only interested in learning to fight, he ignorantly rebels after hours of mundane exercises and starts walking out. Mr Han calls him back and gives him the lesson of his life, showing him how the “pointless activities” of “jacket on / jacket off” and “pick the jacket up” was preparation for self-defense. He concludes with the powerful life-lesson that “Kung Fu lives in everything you do… everything is Kung Fu.” [see the video below]
As a pastor I have had so many people over the years who come for counsel and prayer to gain power over something – smoking, pornography, anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts. Or to “fix a marriage”. I’ve been at conferences where some big ministers invited people to “sow money now” that they may prosper. Others invite people to come for impartation that they may gain a specific spiritual power. These people sound like the ignorant, young Dre who simply wanted to be shown how to fight and overcome his enemies without living the life his King Fu master lived. But like Mr. Hun I have come to understand that the power to reign in this life comes from the daily devotions and disciplined self-denial in everything we do, as we really live lives devoted to Jesus. Everything we do is discipleship.
A need for deliberate discipleship
Have you ever met old Christians – genuine believers – who practically grew up in church, yet when you spend some time with them quickly discover they are staunch racists, or stingy and greedy, or habitually rude, bitter, or anxious? And you think: how is it possible that a person can be a believer your whole life and after 60 years of going to church that person does not resemble the gracious, merciful, loving Jesus whom he or she follows?
Paul was referring to this hypocrisy when he wrote “In the last days there will be people… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1,5). In other words people who fake godliness – who act as though they are kind at heart when they are among believers, but in reality they are rude and demeaning, or act as though they are at peace with others but they harbor unforgiveness an bitterness in their hearts.
Spiritual growth does not happen automatically and does not stem from a “secret key” – it requires a deliberate intent (2 Peter 3:18) and disciplined effort (2 Peter 1:5-8) of spiritual practices through which we deny ourselves (1 Corinthians 9:27), transform our mind (Romans 12:2) and character as we come face-to-face with Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), exercising ourselves unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), into the image of Christ Himself (Romans 8:29).
We need to remind ourselves every so often that the word disciple is derived from the word discipline; a disciple lives in the power of his master to the degree that he imitates the disciplines of his master.
In the next posts we will look more into the goals and means of discipleship.