Discipleship is a journey of growth in faith and learning to follow Jesus. The Bible provides us with inspiring stories of people who walked this path and gives us valuable insights into what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
In this article, we will explore ten real-life examples of discipleship that highlight the challenges, joys, and rewards of following Jesus. From the calling of the first disciples to Paul’s encounter with Ananias, we will gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a disciple and how we can grow in our own journey of faith.
The Calling of the First Disciples
Jesus’ calling of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John marks the beginning of their journey as disciples. According to Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus invites Simon and Andrew, who are fishermen, to become fishers of men. Similarly, He calls James and John to follow Him while they are attending to their nets (Mark 1:16-20). In Luke 5:1-11, the account portrays Jesus asking to use Simon’s boat to preach and then urging him to let down his nets for a catch. The miraculous abundance of fish leads Simon to recognize Jesus’ divine authority and commit to following Him.
This initial encounter sets a precedent for discipleship, emphasizing the need for a personal, transformative experience with Jesus. It highlights the importance of hearing and responding to His call, even if it means leaving behind one’s current way of life. Furthermore, the imagery of fishing and catching emphasizes the relational aspect of discipleship, inviting others to become followers and learners of Jesus Christ.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
– Matthew 4:19 (NIV)
The Great Commission
After His resurrection, Jesus meets with his disciples and commissions them to spread the Gospel to all nations. This command, known as the Great Commission, is found in the book of Matthew, chapter 28, verses 18-20:
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission is more than just evangelism. It entails making disciples by sharing the message of salvation, baptizing new believers, and teaching them to obey Christ’s commands. This process involves a deep level of relational investment and spiritual mentorship, which is essential for spiritual growth.
The Great Commission remains an essential aspect of Christian discipleship today, as we continue to spread the Gospel and make disciples in obedience to Christ’s command.
The Cost of Discipleship
When Jesus called His followers, he didn’t mince words: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, NIV). This statement underscores the true cost of discipleship – a total surrender to follow Jesus that may require forsaking one’s own life and family.
Jesus continues, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27, NIV). Following Jesus requires not just a willingness to suffer but an active choice to embrace the cross, a symbol of sacrifice and self-denial.
Jesus then gives a metaphorical example of counting the cost before committing to a project or journey: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28, NIV). Being a disciple is a lifelong journey that requires careful consideration and intentionality.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, NIV).
Jesus also warns of the consequences of not counting the cost: “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31, NIV). Ignoring the cost of discipleship can lead to disaster.
Examples of the Cost of Discipleship
Throughout history, countless men and women have paid a high price to follow Jesus, including martyrdom, imprisonment, and persecution. The cost of discipleship is not a hypothetical scenario but a reality for many Christians around the world.
|Cost of Discipleship
|Martyred while trying to share the gospel with the Auca tribe in Ecuador
|Imprisoned and ultimately executed by the Nazis for his opposition to the regime and commitment to Christ
|Perpetua and Felicity
|Martyred in 203 A.D. for refusing to renounce their faith
These examples remind us that following Jesus may involve sacrifice and suffering, but the rewards of eternal life and a depth of relationship with Christ are worth every cost.
Mary and Martha
The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 exemplifies the importance of prioritizing time with Jesus. In this account, Martha was busy “with all the preparations that had to be made” while Mary was seated at Jesus’ feet, listening to His teaching.
Martha complained to Jesus about her sister’s inactivity, but Jesus affirmed that Mary had “chosen what is better” and that it would not be taken away from her. This story teaches us that the better choice is to seek Jesus first.
|Busy with preparations
|Seated at Jesus’ feet
|Complained to Jesus
|Chose what is better
|Needed Jesus to tell her what was important
|Already knew what was important
Just as Mary prioritized listening to Jesus, we should also make time to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. By doing this, we can grow in our discipleship and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to follow Him.
The Rich Young Ruler
The story of the rich young ruler, as recounted in Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23, is a poignant example of the challenges and demands of discipleship. In this encounter, a young, wealthy ruler approaches Jesus with a question about how to inherit eternal life.
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
Jesus responds by instructing the young man to follow the commandments, to which the ruler claims that he has done so from his youth. Jesus then challenges him to go beyond obedience to the law and to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and come follow Him.
“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
Sadly, the ruler is unable to comply, and the encounter ends with him walking away dejected. This story reveals the difficulty of letting go of worldly possessions to devote oneself fully to following Jesus, as well as the potential consequences of prioritizing wealth over faith.
As we reflect on this story, we can learn valuable lessons about what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ. We are called to surrender everything to Him, trusting in His goodness and provision rather than our own material wealth or status. This story challenges us to consider the cost of discipleship and to make the necessary sacrifices to follow Him wholeheartedly.
Peter’s Denial and Restoration
Even Peter, the illustrious disciple, struggled on his path to discipleship. In fact, in Luke 22:54-62, we see Peter’s denial of Jesus three times, betraying the Lord in his time of greatest need. However, the story doesn’t end there.
In John 21:15-19, after Jesus’ resurrection, He asks Peter three times if he loves Him, providing Peter with the opportunity to repent and reconcile with the Lord. This act of forgiveness and restoration transforms Peter’s life, showing the tremendous power of forgiveness in our own journey of growth as disciples.
“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” – Luke 22:61-62
The Road to Emmaus
After Jesus’ resurrection, two of his disciples were walking to Emmaus, discussing the recent events when Jesus appeared to them, but they did not recognize Him at first. Jesus walked with them, explaining the scriptures that referred to Him. The disciples were awe-struck as Jesus revealed the significance of all that had happened to them.
This story serves as a reminder of the importance of ongoing instruction in discipleship. We can learn from Jesus himself as he continues to teach and guide us even after his physical departure. As we journey through life, may we remember to keep our ears open and our hearts receptive to His voice.
Timothy as Paul’s Disciple
Timothy’s journey as a disciple of Christ under Paul’s mentorship serves as a prime example of how relational teaching and guidance significantly contribute to a disciple’s growth and development. In 2 Timothy 1:2, we see Paul’s deep affection for Timothy, calling him his “beloved son.” Paul’s investment in Timothy began during his travels, as told in Acts 16:1-2, where Paul encounters Timothy and recognizes his potential as a disciple. From that moment on, Paul begins to pour into him, shaping him into a leader in the early church.
In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul instructs Timothy to follow his example, encouraging him to take the mantle of leadership and disciple others as Paul had done with him. Paul’s investment in Timothy’s growth demonstrates the importance of mentorship and the transfer of knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to the next.
As we follow Paul and Timothy’s journey, we also learn valuable lessons about the relational aspects of discipleship. Through their encounters and experiences, we see how personal relationships can transform lives and support the growth and development of individuals in their journey as disciples of Christ.
Can you provide examples of discipleship in the Bible that can also be considered as biblical breakthroughs?
Ananias Discipling Saul (Paul)
Acts 9:10-19 recounts the story of Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, who played a crucial role in Saul’s initial steps as a disciple. Despite Saul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians, Ananias received instruction from God to go to Saul and lay his hands on him so that he could regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
This encounter was significant in Saul’s journey of faith and learning. Ananias helped Saul understand the gospel message, and Saul was baptized shortly after.
The story of Ananias and Saul highlights the transformative power of discipleship in changing lives. Ananias acted as a mentor, guiding Saul in his early steps as a disciple of Christ. Through Ananias’ teaching and Saul’s response, we see the importance of obedience, humility, and trust in the discipleship process.
As a disciple of Jesus, you can learn from Ananias’ example by being attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and obedient to His leading. Remember, discipleship is a relational process, and God often uses others to guide and instruct us in our spiritual journey.