The title says it all.
Over the last while, i have been reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What a powerful book. The man truly was blessed by God.
In a chapter titled The Call to Discipleship, Bonhoeffer lays out the basic principle of what following Jesus entails. About the call Jesus gave to Levi, Bonhoeffer writes, “What happens? At the call, Levi leaves all that he has–but not because he thinks that he might be doing something worthwhile, but simply for the sake of the call. Otherwise he cannot follow in the steps of Jesus.” Bonhoeffer then goes on to elaborate this concept using the phrase found in the title.
However, that is not the real reason for this post. A few pages later we read:
Are you worried because you find it so hard to believe? No one should be surprised at the difficulty of faith, if there is some part of his/her life where he/she is consciously resisting or disobeying the commandment of Jesus. Is there some part of your life which you are refusing to surrender at his behest, some sinful passion, maybe, or some animosity, some hope, perhaps your ambition or your reason? If so, you must not be surprised that you have not received the Holy Spirit, that prayer is difficult, or that your request for faith remains unanswered. Go rather and be reconciled with your brother/sister, renounce the sin which holds you fast — and then you will recover your faith! If you dismiss the word of God’s command, you will not receive his word of grace. How can you hope to enter into communion with him when at some point in your life you are running away from him? The man/woman who disobeys cannot believe, for only he/she who obeys can believe.
Wow! Maybe you should read that again, just to make sure you read it right. I did. Multiple times. And had a check in my Spirit. I had to put the book down and do some business with God.
Bonhoeffer then writes:
The gracious call of Jesus now becomes a stern command: Do this! Give up that! Leave the ship and come to me (referring to Peter walking on water)! When a man/woman says he/she cannot obey the call of Jesus because he/she believes, or because he/she does not believe, Jesus says: “First obey, perform the external work, renounce your attachments, give up the obstacles which separate you from the will of God. Do not say you have not got faith. You will not have it so long as you persist in disobedience and refuse to take the first steop. Neither must you say that you have faith, and therefore there is no need for you to take the first step. You have not got faith so long as and because you will not take the first step but become hardened in your unbelief under the guise of humble faith.” It is a malicious subterfuge to argue like this, a sure sign of lack of faith. Which leads in its turn to a lack of obedience. This is the disobedience of the “believers”; when they are asked to obey, they simply confess their unbelief and leave it at that (Mark 9:24). You are trifling with the subject. If you belive, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it. No one wants to know about your faith or unbelief, your orders are to perform the act of obedience on the spot. Then you will find yourself in the situation where faith becomes possible and where faith exists in the true sense of the word.
Are you struggling in your faith? Are you finding it difficult to follow Jesus in your daily life? Regardless of what you might be dealing with right now, Jesus call is to follow him. “If you believe, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it.”
Wise words of encouragement from a wise man.