Updated: Aug 26, 2019
As a believer in Christ, picture yourself as a lifeguard and as a lifeguard, your job is to scan the open waters to see who may be in trouble. Once that person is spotted, you swim to their rescue and you bring them to safety. Depending on the severity of the event, you may need to perform CRP and bring them back to life, or it could be as simple as throwing them a lifeline to allow you to tow them back to the safety of the shoreline.
In either event, it does require an effort. One of the biggest efforts on behalf of the lifeguard is the training. I know this because as a teenager, I was a lifeguard. I was double certified by the American Red Cross and the YMCA. The training courses were intense and lasted for several weeks. I cannot tell you the amount of miles we swam during our training. Another thing it required was a commitment. The commitment was, if you saw someone in trouble you were going to go in after them. You had to develop a "Not on my watch" type of mindset. After all, this was life or death we are talking about. As a lifeguard, you tend to care about those you are looking after. You do not want anything to happen to them, which is why you are doing what you are doing.
Let us suppose you rescue someone. The person thanks you for saving their life and they are sincere about the life saving event but they go right back to the edge of the deep end of the pool and they jump head first. You now find yourself diving back in after them to rescue them once again. Picture this happening over and over. It happens so much that you find yourself contemplating even going in after them again, which is a place you never thought you would find yourself when you took the oath of "rescuer." Some of those feelings can become judgmental and you could even find yourself thinking things such as, "why do they keep going over there, they know they cannot swim and yet they keep doing it!" We can even find ourselves somewhat bitter, as we begin to think they are taking us for granted. Those thoughts could sound something like "I put my life at risk every time I get into the water to rescue them and this is the thanks I get. I do not think they even care about me at all." Those feelings can seem warranted for sure but is it all their fault?
Now that we have that picture in our minds, let us flip the script a little and tie the parallels to our faith walk. Lets suppose you are the Christian. You are saved and have become the lifeguard. You are scouring the waters for anyone who may be in trouble, who needs the Lord. You go to them and offer them the lifeline of Jesus and you tow them to safety. They are safe now and you have done your job. But have you? Because you then turn around and they are right back in the place of needing to be rescued once again. Can you see where this is heading yet?
I want to point out a portion of the Great Commission which is found in Matt 28:16-20. In verses 19 & 20 Jesus commissions His followers to "Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”, (NLT). It would seem we as believers and even by-and-large the Church, takes this to mean we are all lifeguards now that we are believers and it is time to get out there and rescue those who may be drowning in the world of sin. And we do that, but what the scripture is actually telling us is to "go and make disciples of all the nations," not just rescue them. Jesus even takes it a step further to ensure His followers know what He is telling them and then says, "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." It is as if Jesus wants them to understand, I am not just saying bring people to meet Me, they need to know Me, to understand Me, and who I am for them. But you need to be the one's to do it. So what does that mean?
Let's bring it back to the lifeguard scenario, that person you keep saving so many times, you are ready to now give up on them and let them drown. Let us suppose due to life circumstances they are unable to stay away from the deep end. Maybe due to financial status or even court order, they are unable to leave the environment of the "deep-end." What then do you do as a lifeguard? My challenge then is for you to changes hats. You take off the hat of life guard and put on the hat of life-coach. Now that you have a better understanding of the situation, I am not suggesting that it gives you the "extra grace" needed to keep diving in after them, no, you have to teach them how to swim! If life situations will not allow them to leave the deep-end, then it is up to you as a Christ follower to teach them how to swim in the deep-end. Help them build their muscles that will help them tread water without going under. Then over time, they will be strong enough to save those around them who fall into the deep-end, without the guilt and shame of "well, someone had to just keep rescuing me, how could God use me to rescue anyone else."
Accepting and acknowledging Jesus is the only way to heaven and do not misunderstand what is being said, Salvation is beautiful and the Heavens rejoice every time someone comes accepts Jesus as their Savior; "In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!", Luke 15:7 (NLT). However, discipleship is the thing which brings understanding and teaches people how not to drown in the deep-end. What do you suppose would have happened if Jesus would have just keep catching the fish for the disciples? I think they probably would have just gotten fat and would not have been much good to the Kingdom of God. But as the ultimate example, Jesus taught His own disciples how to make disciples and commissioned them to continue in this way. The same way He has commissioned all of us. Another way of putting discipleship could be explained much like the old proverb, Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."
Besides learning how to rescue someone, a huge part of learning how to be a lifeguard was ensuring you would be able to not only support the one you were saving but also be able to support yourself which required exercise. You have to ensure you are keeping yourself in tip-top shape in order to fulfill the Great Commission because it is challenging. To be honest, it can be exhausting at times. Here are three things you can do as a Believer to help you be able to switch your hats from lifeguard to life-coach. First, find a solid Bible teaching Church, one that is not afraid of the truth and a leadership who is humble enough to admit they too are on the same journey as you. Second, get in the Word of God. In a letter Paul wrote to Timothy, he said, "Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth," 2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT). And third, surround yourself with a strong community of Believers who are there to help strengthen you and your faith. The book of Hebrews encourages us with this scripture, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Hebrews 10:25, (NLT).
The hope of this message is to challenge the way you think about discipleship and help you have a better understanding of Jesus' Great Commission to us, and encourage you to not live for glory of the lifeguard job but get bought into the idea of becoming that life-coach and teaching people how to swim in this crazy ride we call life.