In his book Habitudes for Communicators: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes, author Dr. Tim Elmore cites three reasons people change: They know enough that they’re able to; care enough that they want to; hurt enough that they have to. Unfortunately, the latter of the three inspired my change while attending junior high.
For no other reason than I was simply being cruel for cheap laughs, I continually taunted a fellow swimmer who I’ll refer to as Heather. One evening as Heather exited the pool (and I’m still mortified by my words), I looked right at her, crinkled my nose while making a sniffing sound, and asked, “What’s that smell? Smells like a wet dog.”
Simultaneously, there was both hurt and anger in her eyes. She clinched her fist and barreled toward me. I froze. I was both a jerk and a moron, for I had poked the proverbial hornets’ nest by picking on someone who chose to workout in the mornings and swim for two hours every day after school. With full vigor she wielded her fists — still tightly clinched — like a wrecking ball against my body. Probably due to blunt-force-trauma, I can’t remember exactly what she said, but I do remember the moment her strength weakened from the anger-induced adrenaline.
Heather’s arms fell to her side, now almost too exhausted to wipe away the tears as she slunk away, leaving me standing alone wrestling with my thoughts; I was bruised internally as much as externally. And because I literally hurt, I wanted to change, so I immediately prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to be funny if it means hurting others.”
Last week, I wrote about God’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). This week, it seems fitting to clarify what it means to be a disciple.
Jim Putman, in his book Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples, defines a disciple as someone who is following Christ and being changed by Him, saying,“[We] must recognize and accept who Jesus is, and we must place ourselves under His authority,”caring about what He cares about … people, like Heather. As Matt Walsh expresses, we cannot claim to have faith in a Lord if we aren’t willing to follow Him in a way that changes us. “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14).
Having the knowledge that I hurt Heather was only a fragment of the solution. It wasn’t enough to tell her that I would change, rather restoration of the relationship required actual changed behavior — as in discipleship — by allowing “God [to] transform [me] into a new person by changing the way [I] think [and behave]…” (Romans 12:2). See Matthew 7:17-20 where Jesus taught that we would know a tree by its fruit.
How do we either know enough, care enough or hurt enough to change? Three components must be present in our life. First, we must recognize our brokenness — enough to want to change. Though Western culture tends to idolize self-sufficiency, it’s only in our brokenness that our need for a savior becomes visible and we see the depth of His grace that draws us to Him. Secondly, we must be available. If we are too busy — even with good things like family and work — this hurried life will prevent us from being rooted in a foundational understanding of God’s nature and character, diluting the recognition that He is worthy to be our King. Third, we must be teachable. We must be willing to fight for a faith that is deep like river versus shallow like a flood. Think Acts 2:42-47: devoted.
As I mentioned last week, start small like I did with a simple, yet powerful prayer that forever changed the trajectory of my life. You can borrow this one from my playbook: “Lord, help me want to love You, to know You, and to serve You.” A caveat: Get ready because if you’re truly accepting and repentant, the Spirit will begin to fill you with the knowledge of the Father and change you into a fully devoted follower of Christ — a disciple.
C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at email@example.com.