“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” 2 Corinthians 12:15
I guess I’ve just been thinking, “What does it mean to be a real believer, Your way, Lord?” And the word that is coming to my mind today is “invest.” That the only way I can truly demonstrate that You are in my life and that I have a living relationship with You, is by investing myself in others. And the reason that has to be part of my life is because it shows my actual realization of how You have and are continually investing Your life in me. And I’m pretty sure that Paul really got that point. Because here he is, in 2 Corinthians 12:15, talking to a bunch of believers who didn’t quite get it yet, who were still learning. And even though he knew they weren’t getting it and that they were even negative to him, his heart was to spend himself for them and to be spent for them even if it meant they didn’t love him back. Sound like someone greater we know?
That word “spend” is “dapanao” in Greek. It seems like a pretty strong word to me. It means to expend oneself in this context, to be consumed. And here, it means to be expended or consumed for someone else’s sake, so that they would know the depths of the Lord’s love for them, so that they would know You more deeply and walk with You more intimately. Would I spend my life like that for someone else? If not, I’m missing my calling. Everyone of us has been called by the great commission to invest our lives in another, in others like this. The question is “Am I willing? Will I step forward and obey? Will I follow Your example?”
The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon defines this word for spending as “to exhaust by expending, to spend wholly, use up, to spend one’s self wholly.” Now that’s a big calling and none of us can do it on our own. But it’s what You, Lord, have called us to. And what You call us to, You equip us for in You. You not only set the example, but You empower Your disciples. So, am I really willing to follow You and to surrender to spending my life for someone else?
Can I honestly say like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”? This is what I must be able to say. And I must go farther than saying it. I must live out these words for myself. Why? Because You, Lord Jesus, spent Your life for me so that I could live in You. And living in You means learning to spend my life for others. Christianity is about reality. It’s not just a theology and a set of beliefs. It’s a living theology, actual life, because it’s all about living in the person of You.
You really committed Yourself to me, to every person. You “gave [Yourself] for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:4) Yes, You spent Yourself for us even when we weren’t loving You back. This is why husbands can learn to love their wives as You loved the church and gave Yourself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25) This is why I can learn to love and invest intimately in others, because You did first. Paul tells us to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This is our calling. This is God’s expectation for us. Is this my expectation for me? Are my expectations lined up with God’s? How deeply would I invest my life in others? And I’m not just talking family here. Jesus invested His life in people He met on the street. Does my life of investing look like His? Where is my heart, really?
I checked out what Desiring God had to say on this matter and I’d like to share some of it. Because what I’ve been meditating on, this whole concept of truly investing our lives in other people, well it’s actually got a name. It’s called discipleship. And there is this beauty in investing in others that the more we invest and it draws them deeper into intimacy with the Lord, the more it draws us deeper into intimacy with God. Oh, and I forgot to mention how deeply it binds us with fellow believers and how it lights the world up for those on the outside.
David Mathis shares, “We can only go so deep with Jesus until we start yearning to reach out. When our life in Him is healthy and vibrant, we not only ache to keep sinking our roots down deep in Him, but also to stretch our branches out and extend His goodness to others. But not only does going deep with Jesus soon lead us to reach out to others, but also reaching out sends us deeper with Him. In other words, getting on board with Jesus’s mission to disciple the nations may be the very thing He uses to push through your spiritual slump and jumpstart your stalled sanctification.” That is some powerful truth. I’ll be the first to say here, that’s exactly how it works. And I’m really excited about the areas David shares that disciplemaking will teach us or bring to pass in our life, because I’ve seen God use it to do each one continually!
David says that “disciplemaking shows us our smallness and God’s bigness.” It really does. I won’t have all the answers. I’m not the perfect example. But God is. “Think big, start small, go deep.” See, we get to put our sights on God. He’s called us to this great commission. He’s given this great responsibility, even to the nations. I’m a part of that. And what God calls us to, He WILL do. You, Lord, have big plans for Your people. I can trust them and expect them to come to pass. But I start small with me, where I am, with what’s available around me, with the little things in my everyday life. And I go deep in. I trust You to strengthen my relationships, to open opportunities, to give me what I need to see and meet the needs of those around me. I realize my dependence on You and my frailty and I really begin to rely on You and seek You more. It becomes all about You and sharing You and basking in You and not about me. I’m not doing a good work any more. I’m reveling in this wonderful God who has spent Himself for me and my good. Goodness flows out of me because You are filling me and it bubbles over to those You give me to invest in. But it’s all because You are increasingly becoming more and more and I am increasingly becoming less and less.
Next, David offers that “disciplemaking challenges us to be holistic Christians.” Since discipleship is all about relationship in our ordinary lives, it effects every area of our life. It’s all about “seeking to intitiate and make the most of teachable moments (intentionality).” Every aspect of how I live matters. My speach matters, my thought matters, my relationship with my husband or wife or kids or neighbors matter, my health matters. It doesn’t just matter for my disciple. It matters for me. It makes me look at it all and You, Lord, use it to challenge me in every area to be more like You.
” Disciplemaking makes us more aware of our sin.” Yes, the more I invest my life in another, the more You, Lord, look deeper into my own heart and show me the depths of things that lie within. Sometimes I’m sharing the Truth with others. But it goes deeper. I must share my life. I must share my struggles, not just those of the past, but of the present. I must be honest. Paul shared “we were ready to share with you not only the Gospel but also our own selves.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) I’m not just sharing information. I’m really getting close. David says it means, “sharing life, sharing space. And the closer sinners get, the more sin comes out. To get more specific, disciplemaking requires that we die to selfishness–selfishness with our time and with our space…to much of our precious privacy.” I wasn’t designed to live the Christian life alone. You designed us to live it together. It’s part of the reason You said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. (Now that’s a whole other beautiful story!) My sanctification is dependent on their sanctification. I mean, as I invest in their sanctification, You, Lord, invest in mine. I need them and they need me. We are entering into life in You together. That’s what You want. We are dependent upon each other in You.
In Mark 3:14, You ordained the twelve “that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach…” Did I see that? The number one object of being Your disciple was to be with You. It’s only after we spend intimate time with You that we are equipped to speak and to exhibit Your power (verse 15) and to bring healing and freedom to others. This is Your example and I am to follow it. We all are. So I need to aim to “be with them.” Then others will see us and recognize that we’ve been with Jesus (Acts 4:13) You’ll not only lead us into Your wonderful ways and wonders, but expose sin in our lives, and bring us to a deeper knowledge of our dependency on You and Your grace. And all of that will effect the way I treat others.
“Disciplemaking teaches us to lean heavier on Jesus.” Can it be messy? Yes. Can it be tiring? Yes. Can it be frustrating? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Will I have to leave my comfort zone? Yes. Will I have to reach out to others beyond my shyness? Yes. Will I sometimes have to be quiet and learn to listen? Yes. Will I have to learn to be transparent? Yes. Will I learn that I can’t do it on my own? Yes. Will I learn that I am desperately in need of You, Jesus, every second of ever day? Yes. Will I learn that when everything else seems to be falling apart around me, that Your grace truly is sufficient for me? Yes. It will open my eyes up to so much, and open my heart to Your workmanship. I will see my “weaknesses and failures and inadequacies like never before, and with God’s help, it will teach [me] all the more to lean on Jesus.”
I’d like to end with sharing these quotes from David. I’m not too proud to share his words instead of mine. It’s the same thing that sings out in my heart. I suppose it’s God’s truth being worked out in both our lives anyway, so these words aren’t really ours, they’re His.
“Good disciplers must learn, in reliance on the Spirit, how to deal well with failure. And the Christian way to deal well with failure is take it to the cross…Disciplemaking hems us in, exposes our weaknesses, and teaches us to draw our daily strength not from ourselves, but from Jesus and the gospel, which are the essence of disciplemaking. The gospel is the baton to be passed, after all. This is the content, ‘the deposit’ (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14) passed from one spiritual generation to the next in disciplemaking. This is the treasure in us we work to build into other jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7).
But Jesus and his gospel are not only the main content of disciplemaking. He is also the flawed and failing discipler’s Great Comfort, who frees us from having to be the perfect discipler. There has already been one — and he was perfect all the way from the shores of Galilee to the cross of Calvary, where he took our sins and failures. We need not imitate his perfection in disciplemaking. We cannot…
But we can take great comfort that in him our failures are covered, and that the sovereign one who promises to build his church (Matthew 16:18) and be with us always as we carry out his Commission (Matthew 28:20) loves to sanctify half-baked, substandard disciplemaking and make himself look good by showing himself, not the underling discipler, to be the great power source behind it.”
Yes, Lord, this is what You do. This is Your desire in us and for us. This is what real living looks like. And I am so abundantly glad that this is what You love. I am so abundantly glad that You desire and love to take me, this “half-baked, substandard disciplemaker” and You sanctify me and You make Yourself look good in me and through me by showing Yourself. You show Yourself through me and in me. Wow! That’s GOOD. That’s REALLY GOOD! That’s beyond imagination! But it’s what You love to do. It’s how You glorify Yourself. I’m so grateful that it’s always all about You and that You are the Great Power Source behind me.