Discipling anyone is tough stuff. To put it in skiing terminology, if evangelism is a blue square, discipleship is a double black diamond. Discipleship requires a plan, skill, determination, and much patience. However, even more than those necessary qualities, discipleship requires a vision. Many people begin discipleship with the wrong vision. Their goal is to communicate mere information to the other person. The result is, quite frankly, boredom. One tiring lesson after another bores the disciple to tears while the discipler gets frustrated by his lack of interest. The whole effort is shortsighted and bound for failure before it ever begins.
True, effective discipleship must begin with a vision. The discipler must have a vision for himself and for his disciple. A vision is a God-given, bird’s eye perspective on where we are going, how we are getting there, and why we are going there in the discipleship process. This vision will provide the inspiration and motivation necessary for both the discipler and disciple to carry the process through to its completion. This series will study Peter in His pilgrimage from disciple to discipler and the vision he acquired to accomplish so great a task.
So then, if vision is required for successful discipleship, how do we get this vision?
God has a vision for everyone. Countless times throughout the Bible, God steps on the scene of someone’s life and says, “I have an incredible plan for your life.” God cast His gracious vision before Noah so he could avoid judgment and repopulate the earth. God cast His gigantic vision before Abraham and told him that his descendants would touch everyone on the face of the earth. God cast a revolutionary vision before Moses that he would deliver God’s people from the most powerful nations in the world. God cast a conquering vision before Joshua that he would lead Israel’s armies in unmixed victory over Canaan’s inhabitants. God cast a delivering vision to Gideon that he would defeat the oppressive Midianites using a small band of choice warriors. God cast a vision before Jeremiah that he would proclaim embarrassing judgment upon His rebellious people. God specializes in taking ordinary people and calling them to complete extraordinary tasks.
God’s vision is made specifically for us. God’s vision for our lives is not limited by our background, race, wealth, or intelligence. In fact, the peculiarities of our life qualify us for His incredible plan. To Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Here we find that God had formulated His plan before Jeremiah’s birth, and yet He knew everything about Jeremiah. He knew where he would live. He knew what his personality would be like. He knew his mental abilities, his natural gifts, abilities, and his weaknesses. God used all of that to fit Jeremiah perfectly for the task He was calling Him to. God perfectly fits every one of us to fulfill His vision for our lives.
God’s vision is completed supernaturally by Him. Jeremiah responded to God’s vision by saying, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6). Jeremiah knew that he did not have the natural ability to fulfill God’s vision. Yet, God did not reply and say, “Oops, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll find someone else.” No, instead He said, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). Where physical abilities are lacking, God will make up with His own supernatural strength and presence to accomplish His vision through our lives.
God’s vision is constant despite weakness and failure. Thus it was with Peter, the object of our series. Throughout Peter’s training, Jesus was constantly casting His vision before Peter. After Peter’s confession of Christ as Messiah, Jesus praised Him and spoke of wonderful leadership potential for Peter. Yet Peter missed it and within a short time ended up rebuking Jesus for wanting to go to the cross. Later in his life, after he had experienced humiliating failure, Peter felt that God was done with Him. Yet even there, Jesus appeared to Him by the sea and affirmed His intense desire for Peter to feed God’s sheep. Despite weakness, denseness, and failures, God’s vision remains constant for our lives.
So we see that God has a vision for everyone. It is perfectly suited to us. It will be completed by God himself through us. It doesn’t change when we mess things up. Wow. So then, what does it mean to “catch” this vision?
One of the reasons why it took Peter so long to catch God’s vision for his life is because he didn’t get it. Peter was pretty fast at catching on to certain things, but there were other things that went completely over his head. For instance, Peter caught on to the fact that Jesus was not only the Messiah, but that He was God. Yet, when it came to Christ offering himself as an atonement for the sins of the world, he didn’t get it. On the eve of Christ’s arrest, Peter was still trying save Israel from its oppressors by cutting off the servant’s ear. Peter could not reconcile the Conquering King with the Suffering Servant. It was not until after the resurrection that the pieces started to fit together in his brain. Before Jesus ascended up to heaven, He had to spell things out for Peter and the other disciples to get it.
Likewise with us, many times we do not catch Christ’s vision because we are hung up on some other truth or thought pattern. Sometimes we spend our efforts in the wrong direction because of misunderstanding and just need clarification before we can catch on to God’s vision for our lives.
Another reason perhaps why Peter took time to catch Christ’s vision for His life is because of pride. Peter was a very impetuous, self-motivated individual. He would frequently jump into situations half-cocked and make a mess. I’m sure that the very thought of Jesus’ predictions that he would be arrested, falsely accused, and crucified was utterly repulsive to the proud, self-starter Peter. In fact, it was so repulsive to Peter’s pride that he actually rebuked the one whom he confessed to be God. The truth is, Peter needed to be broken so that he would submit to God’s plan regardless of how much better he thought his own plans were.
Likewise, one of the reasons why we do not catch God’s vision for our lives is because we are too set on our own vision for our lives. We actually think that we know better than God! What we really need is to be broken of our own self-will and to submit to God’s will.
There came a point in Peter’s ministry where he no longer sat around, waiting for step-by-step instructions to accomplish God’s vision for his life. There came a point where Peter was so passionate about God’s plan, so interested in its accomplishment, and so enthusiastic about communicating it to others, that one would find great difficulty in differentiating between God’s vision for Peter and Peter’s own vision for himself. You see, there came a point in Peter’s ministry where he so caught the spirit of His Father in heaven and internalized it that it was his vision, too!
Likewise, if we are going to catch the vision God has for us, we need to wholeheartedly take on God’s vision as our own, not out of constraint or external pressure, but because we want it, too!
Peter, the author of 2 Peter, was discipled by Jesus. The aim of Jesus’ discipleship was to make Peter a discipler. Multiple times throughout his ministry, Jesus cast a vision before Peter. However, because of setbacks, misunderstandings, and failures, Peter did not fully catch the vision until later on in his ministry. Yet, at some point in Peter’s ministry, he finally caught Jesus’ full intent of his vision for him and for this age. Having caught the vision himself, Peter began to cast that very vision before those whom he was leading. Here recorded in this passage, Peter casts this vision before a select audience in faith-filled, swelling words, which will also be the text for the remainder of this series:
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.Simon Peter, 2 Peter 1:1-10
Just as Peter first had to catch the vision that God had for him before he could ever communicate it to others, even so, before you can ever cast a vision before a disciple, first you must catch the vision for yourself. Once you have caught the vision for yourself and your disciple, you must cast it before that disciple. It is only as you catch God’s vision for your life and cast it before another that you will have successful, effective discipleship taking place.
Please look for the next installment of this series as we begin to clarify the vision that God has for us.