Think about a past transition in your life such as a move, a new job or position, or a major change in your family. Who helped you most through those changes? How did that person help you?
The fact is, our lives are always changing. Part of the reason you’re reading this, hopefully, is to discover ways to make the shift from being simply a disciple of Jesus to becoming a discipler of others. You’re probably facing other transitions in life as well.
The good news is: You don’t have to face those challenges alone. And you’re not meant to. God has been growing and equipping us to share our lives in Jesus with others all along. And that cuts both ways: God still wants us to seek support from others—to share our lives in Jesus with those we trust, so they can help us move forward even as we help others.
Let’s take one more “big picture” view of the kinds of relationships every Christian needs to grow. Look at the stages of growth described in the following passage, and what good things John has to say about each of them. Where are you at right now, and how do John’s words speak to that?
“I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, that you have conquered the evil one. I have written to you, children, that you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young people, that you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one.”—1 John 2:12-14 (NET)
We need all kinds of people to help us grow. More mature Christians show us how to live out the things we still struggle with. They know Jesus and model Him to us. They show us, “You can do this.” Those wrestling with similar issues of faith and life help us gain new perspective and to know we’ve won the biggest battle of all even as we continue fighting the little battles together. Even those who are younger in their faith can teach us incredible things. They help us see God through fresh eyes. They remind us of things in our faith we need to never forget. And they remind us that how we help them in Jesus… matters.
I’m going to spend the rest of this post focusing on our relationships with those more mature Christians who are willing and available to help us move forward. One of the best-known examples of this would be Paul and Timothy. In Philippians 2:22, Paul takes pride in being a “father” to Timothy. So here are a few things to consider:
• Who’s been a “father” or “mother” to you—someone whose faith examples have helped you to grow?
• How do you see his or her faith reflected in you today?
• How have you been able to pass on what that person taught you to others? And if you haven’t, who could benefit from that person’s wisdom?
I’m going to ask you to do something a bit unusual now. For the next few minutes, forget everything you know about Paul and Timothy. You’ve never read anything about them. For that matter, pretend you know nothing at all about Paul except for what you’re about to read.
Ready? Let’s do this:
“I am grateful to the one who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me faithful in putting me into ministry, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and our Lord’s grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ — and I am the worst of them! But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst,Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. Now to the eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.”—1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NET)
So: If you were to meet Paul in person right now—based solely on what you know from the passage above—what one thing would you ask him for advice about? Why that?
Now: Who do you know, or would like to, that you’d ask those questions to in person? What can you do to connect with that person?
Here’s another idea: It might require a bit of humility, but consider this: Which of your friends could really help you right now with the season you’re in? Begin setting a regular time to get with him or her. Don’t do this just as a social time. Confess that there’s a growth area you’re struggling with, that you’ve seen how God has worked in his or her life, and you desire his or her input to help you move forward. As tough as that admission might be, it’ll take your relationship to a whole new level if you let it.
So that’s the challenge. Open up, and prepare to be transformed. And may God’s blessings be upon you as you step out and take the risk of relationship.