This past weekend my disciple Raul came over to our apartment, urgently wanting to talk to Lili and me after having just got back within the last hour from a 10 day trip into the jungles of Pucallpa.
When I got the call I leaned over to my wife and said “please God don’t let something bad have happened in the jungle…” due to the last time someone urgently wanted to talk to me after going on a trip and it was extremely bad news.
We sat down at our dining room table, put some Baby Einstein on our TV via Chromecast so Jemina, our toddler, would be distracted and entertained, and we listened to Raul share some incredibly awesome stuff God had done in his life while he was away.
Like angels. Dreams. Prophetic words. Visions. And miraculous timing of events like having a dream about praying for someone in one of the villages they were going to go to, and then meeting that person and praying for them.
Stuff like that.
Raul, 46, accepted Christ nearly 8 months ago over a coffee with me at a nearby bakery, and almost immediately began coming to our Monday night prayer meeting to join us as we prayed (as we still do to this day) for our neighbours. After all, he was evidence that praying for our neighbours and meeting with them and building relationships has an impact. He has excelled a lot, and sometimes when I talk to him I forget he’s new to the faith, and sometimes I learn a lot from him.
We Each Have As Much of God as We Want
But what was exciting to me was that after spending a few hours processing with him on Saturday night, I was compelled to fast yesterday after hearing him share that a book I lent him to read (the Spanish version of After God’s Own Heart, by Mike Bickle) before going on the trip had caused him to fast for 3 days of the trip. And when I use the word “fast”, I mean actually fasting, not drinking fruit smoothies or removing meat from one’s diet and naming it “fasting”.
In the hot sticky sweaty jungle, with no food and just water, Raul was on cloud nine with Jesus from the sounds of it and not eating. I don’t know if I could do the same in that climate.
I was bit jealous of his experiences.
I was convicted.
But I was also proud.
I was challenged about my commitment level in my spiritual life….
I was challenged about my level of spiritual hunger…
But I was also definitely impressed with Raul, forgetting that only 8 or 9 months ago, he was a pre-believer.
As it got late, Lili eventually took Jemina to our room to try going to sleep, and Raul and I talked further about angels, dreams, and how to interpret and know when God is showing us stuff versus when our mind is just mishmashing events of our lives in our subconscious.
Then he confessed something he felt that had actually entered my mind while I was talking to him.
He expressed that being around mostly younger people [than him], who had all been following Jesus for longer than he has been, that he felt some people don’t take him seriously or feel that he has anything to offer yet due to his spiritual youth.
I asked him if anybody had actually said anything to him to make him feel that way and he confessed he had not, but he was just “getting that vibe” from people.
I confessed to him that as we had been talking, part of me was resisting him. I had an inner monologue like “Steve, it will look bad if your disciple is more radical than you are“. I seriously was tempted for a moment to pour water on his fire so that he wouldn’t outpace me by too much.
Isn’t that stupid?
Give People Space to Develop and Grow
I compared it to going to a gym. If I had a membership with the gym for nearly 5 years, but only went once a week and didn’t lift any weights, and then along came Raul 6 months ago, working out for hours every day, it doesn’t matter who started going to the gym first! See my post about how discipline is not legalistic.
Besides, Paul tells us it’s not who started running the race first that matters, but how we finish our race. I told him keep your eyes on the goal, and run without worrying about what anybody else says to discourage you.
But I was also preaching to myself.
My friend Gregg once forwarded me an article about cases of parents who can’t let go of their grown adult children, and slowly poisoned them so they’d become sick and dependent on the continuing care of their parents.
It’s silly but I’ve heard of spiritual examples of the same thing. In fact, if your disciples or followers continue to be dependent on you for spiritual sustenance, I’d venture to say something is incredibly wrong. Some pastors want to keep the flock in the seats paying their tithes so the preacher can keep preaching, all the while many don’t grow spiritually.
I’ve known and watched some leaders and pastors who do this. I once heard the head of pastoral care at a Bible college mention that on a regular basis when going over applications for new students, he’d often find the two personal character references for a student would paint a glowing picture of an applicant, but then all of a sudden the pastoral recommendation would trash the student and basically try to discourage the seminary from accepting them.
It was believed that these pastors didn’t want to lose young leaders from their fold, and judging by the huge discrepancy between the pastoral recommendation and the personal references, it didn’t seem far-fetched.
Be encouraged when your disciples outpace you. If children are a reflection of their parents, then wouldn’t the same be said of spiritual children of their spiritual parents?