I was in a bible study this week which focused on the book of Matthew. During the study, the following scripture in Matthew 9:14 was read, “Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”.
Then someone in the study session stated that they did not know that John the Baptist had disciples. Subsequently, I went on to say yes, he had disciples, but it also depends on what the meaning of disciple is. The same person went on to say, “the word disciple means a follower”. To which I replied, that the root meaning of the Greek word ( μανθάνω – manthanō) for disciple does not mean follower but learner. Yes my friend, the Greek word for disciple literally means to learn, understand, increase one’s knowledge, to hear, be informed, learn by use and practice, or be in the habit of.
This might come as a surprise to some who typically associate the word disciple with being a follower. Of course, following has a part to play, because how can you learn of someone or something without first following them.
This is why God said in Timothy that we must study His word to show ourselves approved. Yes, we must study and learn God’s word, so that we can show ourselves approved by God. When we engage in secular studies, there is usually some kind of test that validates and certifies that you have learnt what was taught. Someone can say that they are a doctor because they studied, then was tested academically and practically, and now have become certified in the profession. In the same way, God tests and tries us to examine if we have learned, so that He can give us the stamp of approval.
Given this, please allow me to ask you a question. What have you learnt from God recently? Stop now and reflect on your week and ask yourself this question. What have you deliberately done to turn yourself into a better disciple (learner) over the last 7 days? Ok, let me help you along a bit as a guide.
Learning will typically fall into two broad categories, and these are the theoretical and the practical. The theoretical part is usually handled by us. This is where we apply ourselves to studying God’s word daily and immerse ourselves in the knowledge of Him (people perish for lack of knowledge – Hosea 4:6) with the Holy Spirit guiding to give revelation.
Now, let’s revisit the question from before based on the theoretical aspect of you setting aside time to study God’s word. What have you learnt of God this week? Or was it all about the hustle and bustle of the grind, with little or no thought of learning to be a disciple? May I just say at this point, that “Learning to be a learner takes deliberate systematic action”.
Now let’s get to the practical part, this is the part that is designed by God. It is analogous to a teacher designing the case study or exam questions for the student to take. God sets up the people around us, and the scenarios and events in our lives to test what we have learnt or just simply to test us.
After I wrote the previous paragraph, I had an immediate flash back. I remembered a time when I read about being patient and I prayed to God to give me patience. Then that week, I had a horrid time with my customers at work. I remember venting and complaining at my desk, then God reminded me and said, “Didn’t you pray for patience; therefore, I am testing you now to show you where your level is at”? Then I just sunk in my chair, with the ‘Dane with shame face look on’. That was a life-changing lesson for me that day. I learnt that whatever we learn of, or ask God for, He tests us with. He is the great examiner of our heart and actions.
Seeing that we are talking about learning, it will be remiss of me not to ask another question. What have you learnt practically from God this week? I am sure there is someone reading this blog that God wanted to teach forgiveness, mercy, love, long-suffering, kindness, understanding, and the list can go on. God wanted to teach you it via practical examples and you were only resisting. You did not set yourself to be a disciple (learner). You were like the people of Israel in the wilderness – stiff-necked!. Do you want to know why that situation you are facing has not changed and it’s going on for so long? Well, it has not changed because you have not yet learnt. You have not surrendered yourself to become a disciple yet.
Do you know when Job got his breakthrough from this trials? Job 42:10 says this, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before”. The lesson for Job was not simply about holding unto God after all he had was lost. It was also about learning to pray and care for those closest to him, who abandoned and ridiculed him. When the learning was done, the trial was done. Hallelujah…!
My friend, what you perceive as the obstacle, is actually the way! The path God has designed for us is the path which leads us to our greatest victory and growth. It leads us to the best version of who we can be. Remember the designer of our life is God, and He knows what He is doing. What we must do is to let go and embrace the path. Step on it boldly and bravely, with a deep desire to learn because the path is littered with lessons. Open your eyes and embrace what God is teaching you on this journey. Set your soul to be a lifelong learner, learning in theory, learning in practice, learning all of what God wants to teach you, and learn it quickly. Set yourself to get close to God and be the disciple (LEARNER) he wants you to be. For in doing so, you will save yourself from heartache and headache.
In closing I say, apart from the root word disciple meaning learner, take a look midway down this link (μανθάνω) and see the many other places where God tells us to learn of Him. Keep on learning and growing my friend!
PS: Dane Miller was last seen walking into an exam room.
Your Brother in the Lord,
Dane Miller – “God is the Author, I am the Pen”
Authored Book – What is the Woman Saying – Lessons from Biblical Women.
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This was a perspective changing blog, as for many years, we have been taught that a disciple is a follower. As a learner, true learning can only take place when there is a change of behaviour. Therefore, if God sets up situations, persons and places to test us, the expectation is that these will result in a closer more committed walk with him. Let’s endeavour to learn and apply the knowledge gained to impact lives positively for the kingdom. Thank you Dane for another solid message 🙏
Many of us love to cheat, we love to leap frog process. Process being the follower stage. We may get to where we desire to be, but what next? We do not know where to go from here. Remember Jack and Jill? Its one thing to get up the hill, but it takes something extra to stay on the hill.
When we bypass the follower stage, we tend to learn the hard way.
The obstacle, is actually the way!
Well nothing else needs to be said. Thanks bro always a blessing.
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“The Obstacle is the Way” Yes indeed. That was taken from the following book –
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