Discipleship to Jesus changes how we live. We gain a new perspective and new resources — a new life takes over our life. We learn to do whatever we’re doing from within God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). This changes our life and our work.
What does this look like? Dallas Willard says it’s like becoming an apprentice to Jesus. It’s not about being religious — it’s about being with Jesus to become like him, holding his hand and learning from him continually.
Learning from Jesus, the Master, changes everything about our lives because it changes us on the inside. What difference does apprenticeship to Jesus make in our daily lives? It’s huge!
A Plumber’s Story
I love the way Dallas Willard, my personal mentor, explains the practical life transformation that takes place when we apprentice ourselves to Jesus:
Let’s say I’m a plumber and I’m going to clean out someone’s sewer. How will I do this as Jesus would do it? If you encounter difficulties with the people you’re serving or with the pipe or the machinery, you never fight that battle alone. You invoke the presence of God. You expect to see something happen that is not the result of you.
If you train yourself to thank God when those ‘coincidences’ happen, you’ll see them as patterns in your life. The crucial thing is to be attentive to God’s hand, not to get locked into one-on-one thinking: It’s me and this pipe! Never do that. A person has to train himself to think, Now is the time to rely on God and to praise him for the solution that will come to me. That’s called ‘life in God.’ Training brings you to the point where you don’t have to say, “I have to pay attention!” You routinely think, This is an occasion when God is present. This is a time to pray, to praise. (Quoted in When the Soul Listens by Jan Johnson, p. 145.)
It’s Not Just Me and this Pipe!
What has happened for this plumber? God has a solved his problem with the pipe. Yes, but what is far more important is that the plumber has become the kind of person who prays and praises God as he works on broken pipes. That is a miracle because plumbing problems can lead even an expert plumber to become grumpy and irritable! In all the circumstances of his life he knows that the living Christ is with him and so he remains at peace and he is more effective in whatever he is doing because he relies on God’s wisdom and power to help him.
Imagine being a person like that plumber. Imagine doing your job as Jesus’ apprentice. Instead of getting locked into the fixed mindset of “It’s me and this pipe!” imagine doing whatever you’re doing in Jesus’ easy yoke: leading a meeting, cooking, caring for your kids, going through your e-mail, or listening to someone who is angry with you. You’re doing your work with a smile because Jesus is with you and the two of you are in partnership.
Spiritual Work or Good Work?
“This sounds spiritual Bill, but…” a CEO challenged me as I taught this in our Soul Shepherding Apprenticeship program. “If I have a disease and need surgery from a doctor I’d rather have an expert physician than one who prays.”
That’s true, but it’s a false dichotomy. The best doctor is one who is highly trained in medicine AND in discipleship to Christ. Ideally, your doctor has learned while doing surgery to rely on more than his or her personal knowledge and ability and also to look to Dr. Jesus for insight, compassion, strength, and special assistance.
“Our sufficiency is from God,” Paul insisted (2 Corinthians 3:5). That relates to pastoring, tent-making, and every other job we do.
Imagine a doctor or plumber who studies and trains with discipline and love for God and neighbor. Imagine they have the habit of beginning their work by singing a Psalm and praying, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:7, 10) That’s the kind of workers we want to be and to get help from!
More from Dallas Willard
Here are my “Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Ministry to Me.”
Devoting your whole life to Jesus is the best life and the easiest life! I my book Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-stress and Live Empowered I show you how living as Jesus’ apprentice can give you peace and power in the stressors and opportunities of your daily life.