If we want to truly live godly lives by being “partakers of divine nature,” one of the most helpful things we can do is to follow the godly examples of individuals, especially those who have walked with God for many more years than we have (2 Peter 1:4). The lives of people like Saint Anthony, Saint Benedict, desert fathers and desert mothers, Watchman Nee, A.W. Tozer and a host of such godly saints from the history of the Holy Church, can be a constant challenge for us of what it means to follow after the Lord.
I cannot express what a profound impact these people have had on my life even though I have obviously never met them in person. Personally, I also have a few people around the world that I can call and openly share my struggles with and ask them questions.
One of those people is George Verwer. I first met him when I was nearly 17 at a youth conference being held near my village. He is someone who can call me any time and ask me any question. My life continues to be deeply impacted by his. I know that having these mentors in my life will help me stay close to the Lord. Regardless of my position or experience, I still remain a disciple, a little boy on the inside. People sometimes think I’m very bold and know all the answers. But I don’t.
As we grow in the Lord, we can look at how much we know or how much we’ve already walked through and think, “What more do I need?” We think we have arrived and can now do something great for God. But this is a dangerous attitude to have. It’s so important to always leave room for others to speak into our lives. When I first started serving the Lord with the mission movement I was part of in North India, I was so young and naïve. By my age and experience, I wasn’t even qualified for the team, and it was only because they needed one more person at the last minute that I was even there. At the beginning, I couldn’t do much. I hardly spoke a word of Hindi, the local language, and my main role on the team was helping to cut vegetables and make chapatis.
During that season as I continued to serve with this mission community of over 800 people scattered across the subcontinent, my burden for the people I saw grew. I spent hours and hours studying and reading. I cannot tell you how many books I read during those days or how many times I read through my Bible consistently, preparing notes and studying.
Within a couple years, I was being called upon to be a Bible teacher on the different teams they had. I started receiving so many invitations to come and speak in different places—even in England—that I became proud and arrogant and stiff-necked. I was so sure of myself.
My elders were aware of my ability and potential, and they decided to deal with me so I would not be destroyed. It was during our conference in Rajasthan. At the end of the conference, each area coordinator selected the people they wanted on their teams for the upcoming season of ministry. But when the conference came to an end, I had not been chosen to be on anyone’s team.
Later, my leaders told me, “You are so gifted and so able, but you are proud and arrogant in the way you deal with people, and rebellion is so evident. It seems the attention you are getting and your ability are destroying you. We cannot have you on any of our teams. We love you and care about you and don’t want to see you make a shipwreck of your life. It is our decision that you stop teaching for a season and seek the Lord to know Him better.”
If I ever had a time that I felt I would never preach or teach again, it was that moment when all the teams had gone, and I was left behind. I didn’t want to do ministry. I hated the whole world. I felt these people didn’t appreciate me. They didn’t know what I had done for them or how important I was. That night, it was dark and the electric lights hardly worked. There was one bulb hanging down outside the door, barely giving any light. As I looked through the door screen, I could see pitch darkness out there. I was so depressed. I couldn’t eat and couldn’t drink. Nobody wanted me on their team, and I felt my future was totally destroyed.
The senior leader of the movement in that region called me and said, “I want to talk with you.” We walked out the door and found a place to sit down. He didn’t look at me or touch me or put his hand on my shoulder or anything. He spoke very coldly and said, “All the teams are gone. Only five or six individuals are left. You are one of them. Nobody wants you. No one can help you. Only God can help you.” Then he got up and walked back into the building. And I sat there weeping. There was no one to turn to. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like my life was so miserable.
After a few days of sitting on my pride and coming up with arguments, God in His mercy began to deal with my heart. He very simply said to me, “Unless you are broken, unless you give up, I cannot do anything with you.” From there, the Lord began to lead me on a journey of learning, brokenness and repentance. My leaders were willing to speak hard words to me, and eventually I listened. Experiences like this are not easy. But I can tell you, humanly speaking, if it was not for God’s grace and the things I learned from my leaders in that missions movement, I would not be doing what I am doing today. I cannot imagine where I would have ended up. They were not perfect people, and I had a difficult time with some of them, but they were the ones God used. It was God’s mercy that I listened to them.
I encourage you to make listening to those who have the courage to speak into your life a normal part of your walk with God. Take time to think: Who are those people God has placed in my life to lead me? What is my attitude towards them? What relationships can I choose to build with godly individuals around me so I can learn from their lives how to do spirituality and follow Christ?
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon