Discipleship is not something we merely stumble upon, accidentally… Or wake up one day to be happily surprised that we somehow – inexplicably – resemble Christ! No, it is exercise. It is constant practice that results – over time, and with the Spirit’s help – in mastery.
When we first meet Noah in Genesis, he is already well into the latter years of his life. So we know very little about the first 2/3 of Noah’s life… or do we?
It is not until the ark is finished in Genesis 7:6 that we learn that Noah was already 600 years old when we first met him back in chapter 6. At the end of Genesis 9, we learn that Noah lives on for another 350 years after the Flood, dying at the age of 950.
But what about those first 600 years of Noah’s life? Why doesn’t the Bible tell us more about those years?
Well, in just a few simple sentences, the Scriptures actually summarize the first 2/3 of Noah’s life quite excellently. The first mention of Noah is in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” In verse 9, it goes on to say, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” Then throughout Genesis chapters 6 and 7, as God instructs Noah about building the ark, the Bible repeatedly states, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”
The root word for “disciple” and “discipleship” is “discipline”. Following Christ requires discipline. It requires willful self-control and self-direction. Now, in all these “self-” prefixed words, I am definitely including the gracious ongoing help of Christ’s Spirit that comes to live within us at the time of our conversion.
Thank God it’s not all up to us! He helps us. One classical theologian put it this way: “If we take but one step in God’s direction, we find that He has taken 10,000 steps in our ours.” So, with the Spirit’s strength, encouragement, and guidance, we actively and consistently take steps to walk like Jesus.
Even though Noah did not know Jesus as the disciples of did – or even as we do today – Noah “walked faithfully with God”. And he did so for 600 years! Even though he was not one of Jesus’ literal disciples, Noah is an inspiration for me in my journey of discipleship. Oh! that into my 50s and 60s, I might be described as “a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries, who did everything just as God commanded him.”
Moment-by-moment, day-by-day, conversation-by-conversation, decision-by-decision, we willfully and actively submit the actions and activities of our lives to the Spirit of Christ at work within us. In this practice – with this constant, vigilant blend of self-discipline and Spirit-reliance – we learn from Him, and grow up in Him.
Noah is one of many Biblical examples who shows us that following Jesus is an active, present-tense, ongoing state of being. It is a willful lifelong decision that we must rekindle every day – and sometimes every moment – on a choice-by-choice and experience-by-experience basis.
We do not get to see the particulars of Noah’s first 600 years, and we can tell from the last 350 that Noah was far from perfect. Noah made mistakes – even some pretty shameful ones! But the sum total of his life was that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God”.
Like lifting weights, our faith muscles grow and strengthen with each set and repetition, and we learn to walk and love and live like Him. And so, like Noah, we see our growth as Christ’s followers as an intentional moment-by-moment pursuit of ever-increasing Christ-likeness through Spirit-reliance.
What is one intentional thing you are doing that is fueling your growth in Christ?