Prepared And Ready!
Acts 2: 42
General Douglas MacArthur's father, Arthur MacArthur, was also a military officer.
Therefore, Douglas MacArthur's growing up years were spent at various military bases.
He did not have the opportunity of sustained schooling for his high school education.
When he got ready to take the competitive examinations for an appointment to West Point,
he went to Milwaukee and entered high school.
He established a rigid study schedule to prepare for the exams.
In his autobiography, Reminisces, he said, When the marks were counted, I led.
My careful preparation had repaid me.
It was a lesson I never forgot.
Preparedness is the key to success and victory.
This is a good lesson for each of us to learn.
Preparation is a key to success and victory in almost every area of life.
We expect our pastors to be prepared.
We expect our teachers to be prepared.
We would not consider a physician who had not been adequately prepared and experienced.
So, we must prepare ourselves to serve our great God.
Schooling is preparation.
In making decisions, we try to get the background, research the problem,
and understand as much about both the alternatives and the outcomes as possible.
This is preparation.
We must prepare for marriage and a family.
We prepare for family trips.
We prepare for our life's work.
We know that nothing happens simply by chance.
Preparation is essential in every area of life.
That, being true, why do we spend so little time and effort in preparation for discipleship?
Discipleship begins when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour.
Discipleship continues throughout our Christian life.
Discipleship is not one of our options as a Christian.
We cannot decide whether we will be a disciple.
We can only decide what kind of disciple we will be.
In the 17th century, a man named Thomas Hobson rented horses in Cambridge, England.
Hobson had a rule.
The rule was that anyone who rented one of his horses had to take the horse nearest the door.
It did not matter what a person's rank, status, or income was.
It did not matter what his personal choice for a horse might be.
If anyone rented a horse from Thomas Hobson, he had to take the horse nearest the door.
Soon that came to be known as "Hobson's Choice."
"Hobson's Choice"was no choice at all.
And that is the way it is with Christian discipleship.
We have no choice about whether we will be disciples when we become Christians.
Our only choice has to do with what kind of disciple we will be good or bad.
This makes the preparation for discipleship very important.
Let us look at the preparation we need to make for discipleship.
We can look at some of the very earliest disciples and get some guidance
to the answer to that question.
At the Day of Pentecost, Simon Peter preached with great power.
The results were amazing: 3,000 people became followers of Jesus Christ.
Some of these people probably knew some things about Jesus and His teachings.
It is logical to assume that a great number of them had no previous experience with Jesus.
The Book of Acts seems to indicate that many of these people were Jews who had come
from around the Mediterranean world for the observance of the Passover,
and then stayed for the major feast Day of Pentecost.
But at Pentecost, they got more than they had bargained for.
They had also received Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
If they were to follow to Christ in discipleship, they would need some preparation for discipleship.
In one of those summary statements, we see from time to time in the Book of Acts,
we are given some indication of this preparation.
First, we are told that they were made a part of the young church:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized;
and the same day that were added unto them about 3,000 souls. (Acts 2: 41)
Now notice what followed this:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship,
and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2: 42)
So, it is obvious that a part of their preparation for discipleship involved teaching and training,
fellowship, worship, and the opportunities for witnessing and ministry.
The same elements are present when we are prepared for discipleship.
If we want to have success and victory, growth and development, mission and ministry,
we must prepare for discipleship as we prepare for other areas of life.
Discipleship begins with a willing heart.
Implicit in the entire matter of discipleship is receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
This is the willingness to give ourselves to him in faith and commitment.
The heart must be willing before the road of discipleship can be traveled.
When Jesus began to gather the people around Him who would form the nucleus of His disciples,
those people are who we usually identify as the disciples,
and He said to them, Follow me! (Mark 1:17,RSV)
And they did follow Him.
They had willing hearts; they were willing to follow Christ.
The willing heart is where we always begin with God.
God wants your will.
That is where discipleship begins, and that is where the preparation for discipleship begins.
But this submission of the will to the Lord is not simply a onetime matter.
Jesus talked about taking up our cross daily to follow Him.
The willing heart is always willing to follow Christ, to understand more about Him,
and to seek His will.
When you become a disciple of Jesus Christ, you transfer your allegiance from yourself to Jesus.
Perhaps, your allegiance had been based on yourself, your own desires, your own ambitions,
your own self sufficiency, or your own goals.
But when you receive Christ as your Lord, you also transfer your allegiance to Him.
Now you have a willingness to die to self, and to live for Him.
The preparation for discipleship also involves a willing head.
Whenever you become a Christian, you do not park your mind at the door of the church building.
We are commanded to Love the Lord thy God
with thy mind. (Matthew 22: 37)
So, our minds must be put to work in loving and serving God.
Those earliest disciples devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching. (Acts 2:42, RSV)
They were taught the meaning for discipleship with Jesus.
They were taught the application of the teachings of Jesus.
Growth is a condition of discipleship.
Growth and being a learner is implied in the very definition of the word, "disciples.".
The saddest situations are those in which growth never occurs.
Growth is expected of every disciple of Jesus Christ.
When one has been a Christian for many years, and still has not given or developed
beyond those opening stages, we will suspect that something is wrong.
And we would be right!
There are some means of growth.
There are some things that any Christian can do to help himself grow.
It starts with a willing head.
The Christian who is willing to use his head and to apply himself can and will grow in grace.
Some of these means of growth may seem a bit elementary, but we never outgrow them.
Occasionally, we go off on some tangent of development, only to realize that we're off the beam
and are called back to basics.
Like the compass needle that always swings to the north, we constantly swing back
to the same basic means of Christian growth.
They are mentioned in the experience of those early believers.
One is Bible study.
We cannot grow as Christians without studying the Bible.
Many have said that the Bible is a roadmap to life.
If it is going to guide us into life, we have to read it, study it, and let it guide us.
Even the best map cannot guide us, if we ignore it.
In our churches the Sunday school has a basic responsibility of teaching the Bible.
Sunday school is usually set up for all ages so that every age group can understand
the Bible as it is taught.
We never out grow our need to study the Bible.
Our church has some outstanding teachers with years of experience and dedication.
In addition to the Sunday school, and other planned Bible courses in our churches,
every Christian ought to have a special time each day to study his or her Bible.
The study may be a systematic reading of the Bible starting with Genesis
and reading through Revelations.
The study may be a topical study of various topics in the Bible.
Some may want to master a Bible book in their study.
Whatever method is used an individual a study of the Bible is absolutely essential
for the growing Christian.
The apostles' teaching also included the study of doctrine.
We are in dire need of a greater doctrinal understanding of the great doctrines in God's Word.
It is so true that the person who does not stand for something will fall for anything.
One basic reason that so many sincere Christians are caught up into far-out beliefs, cults,
and other non-Christian movements is that they simply do not have a doctrinal foundation.
In the construction of a new building, it is always important that proper preparation
and planning is taken with the foundation.
The foundation is essential.
Without a good foundation, the building will crumble.
The outside might look very appealing.
The interior may be tastefully and beautifully decorated.
But with no adequate foundation, there is no lasting building ,and in time, it will all crumble.
Because there is little foundation of Christian doctrine, many Christian's commitment to God
also begins to crumble.
Another means of Christian growth is church involvement.
They also continued in the apostles' fellowship.
We do not live alone.
Someone has said that there is no such thing as a solitary religion.
We need the fellowship of one another.
We need the strength that we can derive from one another.
We need the witness of one another.
Jesus attended the worship services as it was His custom.
If Jesus Himself needed that kind of fellowship with believers, we need it even more.
Another means of Christian growth is prayer.
You will notice that prayer was a part of the pattern of these new believers.
We never outgrow the need for prayer.
Prayer must be a consistent part of our lives as we express our praise, our needs, and our pleas to God.
But prayer is also a part of the listening process as God speaks to us.
In this way we have communion with our heavenly Father.
Prayer is not simply the last refuge when we only turn to God when all else has failed.
Prayer must be a daily communion of the believer with his or her heavenly Father.
All of these means of Christian growth are significant.
And they are things of which we need in our lives.
It is the matter of doing it, or getting with it.
We can never grow in these ways and through these means, unless we start practicing them.
When I was growing up, many soft drink bottles contained the words:
No deposit. No return.
How true this is.
Without any deposit, there cannot be any return.
Many Christians are not receiving any returns because they are not making any deposits.
We started this message by saying that a willing heart is a part of the preparation for discipleship.
We can also say that a willing hand is also essential.
Service is always a part of Christian discipleship.
Service meant to those new believers in the second chapter of Acts was to have all things in common.
Each one of them was willing to participate in the life and needs of the others
so that they did not consider their possessions their own.
They willingly sold things, personal and real property, in order to help the others.
This was not established as a permanent form for Christians.
Deception and discrimination entered, and soon that particular form was abandoned.
What was not abandoned was the need of Christian service and ministry.
What was not abandoned was the need of sharing in ways that we can
with both our lives and our material goods with others.
We can think of it in several terms.
One constant thought should be that of missions.
As Christians, we are always on mission.
There is never a time when a Christian is off duty.
Our duty is always to be on mission for our Saviour.
This demands that we have a sensitivity to others and to their needs.
It will mean that we will be observant about the ways that we can help each other.
It was this attitude that led the late Frank Laubach, a literary of missionary, to write:
It would be better for us to throw away 99% of our learning
and of our new dangled philosophy and stick to just one simple thing in our daily life,
and that is to keep asking God, 'Who needs me next, Father?'
We must also think in terms of ministry.
The ministry that we provide to others is also giving to Jesus according to His parable in Matthew 25.
Ministry is not always spectacular.
But it does need to be done in the name of Christ and for the good of others.
It can be as unspectacular as many needful ministries are performed by many in our church.
The willing hand that serves in Christian discipleship is willing to turn its hand in such ministries.
Witness is a part of our Christian service.
Having been forgiven of our sins by Jesus, we have a compulsion to witness to others.
we should witness about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, and what He can do for them.
The witness can be incidental, as well as planned and structured.
In his book, Angels: God's Secret Agents, Billy Graham told a story of John Harper's last convert.
John Harper was a passenger on the Titanic.
Weighing 46,000 tons, that great ship was considered unsinkable.
On the night of April 14, 1912, while cruising through the ocean at 22 knots, it struck an iceberg.
It did not carry enough life preservers or lifeboats, therefore, 1,513 people drowned when it sank.
John Harper was on his way to Chicago to preach at the Moody Church.
Trying to stay afloat in the ocean, he drifted toward a young man holding onto a plank.
Harper called to the young man, Young man, are you saved?
The young man answered, No.
At that moment a wave separated them.
After a few minutes, they drifted with and speaking distance of each other.
Again Harper called to him, Have you made your peace with God?
The young man said, Not yet.
A wave overwhelmed John Harper, and he was never seen again, but the words,
Are you saved? kept ringing in that young man's ears.
Two weeks later, a young man stood up in a Christian Endeavour meeting in New York,
and told his story: I am John Harper's last convert.
That kind of witnessing the willingness to witness for Christ even while losing one's life,
is the witness of a faithful disciple.
It means being faithful even to the end.
Preparation is essential for discipleship.
While we willingly prepare for so many other things, we often leave the development
of our Christian discipleship clearly to chance.
This must not be!
We must always be prepared!
We must always be ready!
Ready to suffer grief or pain,
Ready to stand the test,
Ready to stay at home and send
Others if He sees best.
Ready to go, ready to bear,
Ready to watch and pray,
Ready to stand aside and give,
Till He shall clear the way.
Ready to speak, ready to think,
Ready with heart and brain,
Ready to stand where He sees fit,
Ready to bear the strain.
Ready to speak, ready to warn,
Ready o'er souls to yearn,
Ready in life, ready in death,
Ready for His return.
Ready to go, ready to stay,
Ready my place to fill,
Ready for service, lowly or great,
Ready to do His will.
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White