Five Practical Lessons to Become a Better Disciple

discipleship-and-the-cross-featured-w740x493There is a section of Luke’s Gospel known as the Travel Narrative. In this section, Jesus and his disciples journey to Jerusalem where redemption will occur and the Church will be born. St. Luke uses nearly 10 chapters (9:51-19:27) to record this journey to Jerusalem.

Along the way, Jesus prepares his disciples for the work to which he has called them.  These lessons for discipleship offer each of us practical help for living the faith day in and day out. St. Luke packs important principles of discipleship in the opening eleven verses of the narrative.

1. Be resolute and intentional in your commitment to Jesus.

“When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him” (Luke 9:51-52).

How many times do we experience what we might call false starts? Maybe it seems you have even spent a life-time of making false starts. We mean well.  We mean to do what we say. But, somehow we always find ourselves needing to start over. Has this ever happened to you? It sure has to me.

So what is wrong?

First, let’s be sure we distinguish between the faults we are certain to commit and a more serious failure to even begin. We will fail at times. There will be bumps and falls along the way. The grace of the sacraments, the practice of the virtues and a commitment to prayer will help us persevere.

But, be sure that you have truly begun. Have you surrendered intentionally and completely to Christ? Jesus began his journey to Jerusalem with deliberate resolution… he “turned” towards Jerusalem. Jesus had no need for conversion, but we do. While conversion is a life-long endeavor, we must begin. We need to deliberately and resolutely “turn” from our prior life and take up the new life in Christ.

2. In all things be charitable, especially in zealotry.

“On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village” (Luke 9:52-55).

Not everyone will approve of and be accepting of your commitment to Jesus. Some will ridicule you, some will politely ignore you and some will resent you. How is the disciple to respond? The Apostles James and John asked to strike down the Samaritans with fire from Heaven! Have you ever felt that way? Okay, maybe not that extreme, but it is not unusual for a parent’s disappointment with their children’s or sibling’s decisions about the faith to become so personal that the relationship is strained to the breaking point. We must admit that there are times when Christians, maybe even ourselves, have actually struck out in hatred and vengeance against those who have rejected the faith.

Jesus teaches that we are to be patient with those who do not share in our beliefs or the depths of our passion. Pray for them, be an example for them, but let go and move on to others who God may be placing in our lives. Our only enemy is the devil and his minions. Christ died for everyone else and we are to love them as he loves them.

3. Disciples must be willing to lose everything for the Lord.

“As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head’” (Luke 9:57-58).

Our resolute decision to surrender to Jesus must recognize that there may be a material cost. Are we prepared to accept this? We must live our faith throughout all aspects of our lives, including our careers. Are we prepared to risk our livelihood to avoid sin? Are we prepared to suffer discrimination in the work- and market-place because of our beliefs?

We may even be shunned by family and friends.

For our spiritual lives to progress, we must be willing to lose everything for the Lord.

4. The demand of discipleship outweighs all other priorities.

“And to another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘(Lord,) let me go first and bury my father.’  But he answered him, ‘Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59-60).

By this example, Jesus drives home the supreme importance of discipleship. Nothing in this life is more important. This is not to say that we neglect the responsibilities of our particular state in life. But, anything that obstructs our commitment to Christ must be shunned.

5. Discipleship requires that we let go of the past and live in the present according to the Will of God.

“And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’ (To him) Jesus said, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59-62).

How many times have you found the concerns of the world holding you back from life of faith? Putting off prayer until you are not so busy… neglecting the spiritual education and formation of your children because everyone is just so busy… ignoring your desire to help those in need until you have more time and money… these are easy habits to fall into and reflect a holding onto the old way of life before Christ. When we commit to Christ, we need to give him our best efforts and our prime time, not just what is left over after a hard day’s work.

The key is not to ignore life’s demands, but simply to integrate them into your life of faith. That is why Jesus teaches that we are to seek the Kingdom first and then all else will be provided (cf. Luke 12:31).

Into the Deep…


Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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About the Author

Deacon Michael Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center’s Business Conference; and Chaplain of the St. Peter Chanel Faith at Work Business Association and co-founder and Chaplain of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

He and his wife have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.

NB: The views I express on this site are my own. I am not an official spokesman for either my parish or diocese.

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4 Comments

  1. I struggle with mortal sins, whenever I have a day or string if days where I have not committed mortal sin there is always part of me that says “well that’s only because you did it last week” or yesterday or whatever. I feel myself uninterested in reading on things spiritual, and I feel my prayer is worthless because of my sins. I’m always having to start over and it gets harder and harder to keep doing it. Will you please pray for me.

    1. We all have our struggles, don’t give up! Cause God won’t give up on us. God’s mercy and love surpasses all the sin that we can commit. Will keep you in prayers, and please, keep me in prayers too.

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