Habits of the Heart: A Study of the Spiritual Disciplines – “Guidance”
By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
In this monthly series of articles, I have sought to introduce you to twelve spiritual disciplines (which I call “Habits of the Heart”). Wise and obedient followers of Jesus know and understand that we must pursue these spiritual disciplines in our faith journey to maturity in Christ. The final four disciplines are referred to as “corporate disciplines” (i.e., they are practiced within the Body of Christ, the Church). As I mentioned last month, these final four represent the crowning achievement of the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the believer’s life. Today, look with me at the spiritual habit of the heart that is called “guidance.”
God has given us His very own Spirit, who will be our constant companion as we walk through this evil, sinful world—who will guide us, comfort us, intercede for us, and constantly speak of God’s goodness, His love, and His plans and purposes for us. Filled with the Holy Spirit as our guide, each believer is both called and equipped to become a guide, counselor, and/or a leader in some capacity of others. If we fail to recognize our calling as guides, disciples, and witnesses, then we fail to realize and experience the deepest and greatest of God’s plans and purposes for our lives. But as we humbly and faithfully serve as a vital part of the Body of Christ, we join our fellow Christians on a powerful mission to honor and glorify our Master and King.
It has been my calling and privilege throughout forty years of Christian ministry and service to disciple and to offer pastoral counseling in both a mission setting as well as a church setting. I have been blessed to guide the lost and confused to a saving relationship with Christ. I have also been blessed to help struggling individuals, marriages, and families redeem, repair, and reconcile broken lives and relationships. I have taught and equipped believers to be lay-counselors and disciples. And what I have discovered through this wonderful journey is that all believers have a part to play in God’s plans and purposes. Whether you want to call this gifting teaching, helping, nurturing, disciplining, counseling or guidance, each one of us is called to guide others in this journey of life toward God.
There are three areas in which all of us have a part to play as spiritual guides:
- In leading and guiding those who do not know God toward an encounter and a decision to surrender their lives to Jesus and begin a saving relationship with God in Christ.
- In helping to grow and equip our fellow believers (the Saints). We play a fundamental part in leading and guiding fellow believers toward maturity in the faith.
- In coming alongside the hurting, wounded, and distraught—leading and guiding them toward healing and wholeness.
The first aspect of the spiritual discipline of “Guidance” is leading and guiding those who do not know God toward an encounter and a decision to surrender their lives to Christ. That’s called evangelism, which is the task of sharing the gospel message that offers the lost and separated from God the truth that sets them free from sin and death. Sharing the gospel is the task of the whole church. Everything that we do should be aimed at making Christ known. Paul declared (Romans 1:16), “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Each and every Christ-follower has been entrusted with the gospel message. We are guides! Remember, a guide is someone who knows what they are doing and has been employed to assist others to reach a destination (e.g., a white-water rafting guide). Christians are guides! We have no power to save—for only Jesus has the power to save. We have no power to decide for anyone—they must decide for themselves. We offer to them what we have already experienced—a testimony of saving faith in Christ Jesus.
A second aspect is to grow and equip fellow believers. Solid, spiritually-based, and trustworthy leadership is so important to the growth and function of the church. As the early church began to explode on the scene after Pentecost, growth was exponential. As Paul and others then took up the mantel of sharing the gospel, churches were planted throughout the known world (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and in the uttermost parts of the world). Godly leadership was needed to steer God’s people, to disciple them, and to manage the overflowing of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and His works both among them and beyond them. The early church called out and appointed elders and apostles, pastors, and teachers so that the gospel ministry and message would be delivered. And to deliver the message of love and salvation, God’s children had to be equipped and prepared for the work of service.
Those chosen by the fellowships of believers to lead them certainly didn’t begin with a lot of expertise or experience in spiritual leadership. They had to learn it the hard way—one step at a time, by trial and error, and by experiencing the painful results of failure. But as forgiven children of God, they could pick themselves up from failure, confess their sins and wrongdoing, refocus upon the Lord, and continue to lead His people. Remember, the body of Christ belongs to Him, not those chosen as under-shepherds or guides.
Paul wrote in Ephesian 4:11-13, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” To each and every person in the family of God, God assigns a job. Some are to lead out as preachers or teachers. Others are called to the roles of pastors, shepherds, or evangelists. Still, others are called to (in any way possible) to help equip their brothers and sisters for the work of service.
Ministry leaders are crucial to God’s plans and purposes. But Andy Stanley warns in a sermon at the Drive 2010 Conference, “Leaders won’t dream any bigger than what they think is possible! What all too often happens is that they dream about what they think is possible and then they reduce it down to what is manageable rather than what is impossible.” Whatever we think is possible and whatever we think is impossible is possible with God! Leaders, disciples, guides, counselors, helpers, and witnesses are called and set aside by God to move His people in a common direction—toward Christ! To do that, God’s people must rally around a common purpose. Our purpose is not to build our kingdom—but His! Our purpose is not to make ourselves or our buildings look good—but to make Jesus shine!
When a church is being led by men and women of spiritual character, who are competent and fit the purpose and culture of the church, then that church will succeed. Success is to be measured by vision, love, and unity. Are we mission-driven and people-oriented? That’s how Jesus approached His mission task as Son of God and fulfilled the eternal plan and purpose of God, the Father. I believe that there is one final measuring stick—“Everyone leads a few!” That is the method of the church.
The third aspect of the spiritual discipline of “Guidance” is the responsibility to come alongside the hurting, wounded, and distraught and lead and guide them toward healing and wholeness. God has placed within each believer a measure of faith. Paul declared that spiritual truth in Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” And I believe that God has also placed within each of us, as believers, a measure of compassion, which is to function to open our eyes to the needs around us (both perceived and voiced) and move us toward bringing healing and wholeness. Jesus looked upon those who were weary, downcast, heavy-laden, and lost and had compassion upon them.
We don’t have to look far to find pain and hurting in our world. Our churches and our communities are full of hurting people. Among them are: the fatherless; the depressed; those suffering from chronic anxiety and stress; those who are suffered physical or sexual abuse; and those entangled in marital trouble or have experienced a divorce. That’s only the beginning of the list. God’s answer to the hurts, wounds, and pain is found in the hope and love of Jesus. And when each of us is willing to reach out and channel God’s love and purposes, Jesus touches, soothes, heals, and restores. One of God’s greatest plans is to use each one of us to connect to the hurting and help them know and experience His great love and plans for their lives.
Our calling to help, guide, counsel, and lead the helpless and hopeless, the lost and the confused only occurs when:
- We see them
- We are willing to come alongside
- We respond to God’s prompting
- We are obedient to God’s discernment, leadership, and command
- We respond to their invitation to help
The work of “Guidance” in the midst of the corporate body of Christ is the spiritual work of discipleship and leadership. Dr. Ed Hinson describes this work simply as “Learning to be an instrument of God to help people understand who they really are, what they really need, and what they can do about it.” As God’s people answer the call to both seek and offer guidance, and we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and in those we seek to guide, then God’s mighty and wonderful plans are accomplished. How about you? Are you ready and willing to be a guide? I certainly hope so!
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary. You can read more good Christian news from Dr. Jack Hodges HERE.