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When we as Christians try to disciple a new believer, it can be very frustrating for us when that person persists in habitual sin that we have been trying to help steer them away from by the power of the Spirit. The apostle Paul can very much relate, as we read about the challenges he had with the Gentiles in today’s reading in Galatians 4:11-20.
“I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws. You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you.”
Galatians 4:11-12 NLT
Paul was as graceful as he possibly could be with the Gentiles, but one can clearly see that he was struggling to maintain his patience with these people. Paul reminded them that he himself had experienced the freedom that Jesus offers us, and one can only imagine how much the Gentiles could appreciate the transformation that happened in his life.
“Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News. But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible. Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?”
Galatians 4:13-16 NLT
Not to mention the transformation that was happening in the Gentiles. They had for a time been serving Paul after he won them over by helping him heal from sickness so he can be restored to full strength to move forward with his ministry, but it was clear that Satan was trying to turn them against Paul.
“Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. I wish I were with you right now so I could change my tone. But at this distance I don’t know how else to help you.”
Galatians 4:19-20 NLT
Paul describes here the struggles we often encounter when trying to lead a new disciple in the things of the Lord. He is in pain to see them falling away from the truth they had once been following.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient and kind. Many times, we have to extend that love to new Christians we disciple as we walk them through their transgressions. Like parents raising children, we should endure through the pain of seeing our disciples fail all the way through their maturation in Christ.
Can you relate with Paul in the hardships he dealt with as he helped shepherd the Gentiles? What steps do you need to take in your attitude toward discipleship? Are you willing to count the cost of shepherding a young believer?