Christians today are blessed with a ton of resources. We have several translations of the Bible, many godly leaders that can guide us, our own Christian genre of music and fiction, and numerous web sites that encourage spiritual growth. All of these resources are awesome and can be used by God to build our character; however, if they are not divinely used, they can also distract us from God’s purpose.
The story of the man of God (a prophet) who told King Jeraboam (an evil king of Israel) to tear down all the idol shrines always reminds me of the importance of listening to God first. This prophet confronted a very powerful king with God’s message. He even performed several miracles in front of the king and the Israelites. King Jeraboam asked if the prophet would join him for dinner because the king wanted to give him a gift. But the prophet said, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the LORD : ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came’ ” (1 Kings 13:8b-9 NIV).
The prophet left the king, but on the way back home, he was encountered by “an old prophet.” The old prophet told the younger one that an angel had told him that the young prophet was suppose to come home and eat with him. The young prophet allowed this other prophet’s words to usurp God’s command, and he ate with the older prophet. While they ate, the older prophet cried out, “You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers” (1 Kings 13:21b-22 NIV).
I do not think the old prophet was trying to be mean or deceitful; I think he just made a mistake. Since the young prophet listened to the older man and not God, a lion killed him. The older prophet gathered the young man’s body and buried it in his own tomb. The old prophet cried out in mourning, “Oh, my brother!” (1 Kings 13:30 NIV). The older man was clearly upset that the young man of God had died. He even told his sons that he wanted his body to be buried by the young prophet’s body.
I’m sure the old prophet was thinking, “I wish the young man had listened to God instead of me!”
This is the heart of any Christian who is in spiritual leadership. We obediently write, say and do what God asks us to do; but our readers, listeners and observers must always listen to the Holy Spirit first. Whenever I give advice (which I’m very cautious about giving), I make an effort to say, “Do not write my words with gold on your heart! Always, always, always pray about it first!”
John Piper writes in his book, Life as a Vapor, “I am vigilant, as far as it depends on me, to be less than Christ to others.” We are spiritual leaders for Christ, yet we are also spiritual disciples (learners) of Christ. We must be vigilant to make our words and our actions subservient to God’s Words and His Will. He is the authority. We are merely God’s tool to accomplish His divine purpose.
Therefore, the point of the story about the young and old prophet is twofold: First, Christian resources are merely additions to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can and does use others to accomplish His will; however, we need to be consistent about seeking His guidance first. A well-meaning bit of advice can be the exact opposite of what God wants to accomplish. Second, spiritual leaders have to make exerted efforts to become less than Christ. Most Christians would be devastated to find out that their advice led someone astray. That is why whenever someone seeks my advice, I always ask, “What does God have to say?”
The Spirit of God resides in each of us. It is an amazing gift! He wants to guide us, teach us and love us. He will hand pick outside resources to shed some light on issues, but He enjoys teaching us directly. My desire is that I do not put people’s words on a pedestal, and people do not put my words on a pedestal. In the scheme of things, we know nothing of the multi-faceted mysteries of God. I believe that if all Christians were desperately clinging to God, we wouldn’t have all the hurt feelings and disappointments we have today. Christians are human, and God can use our imperfections to achieve His divine plan; however, we need to always put Him first.
John the Baptist said it best when his disciples were worried when Jesus started gaining more acclaim. John said about Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV). That should be the heart’s desire for all Christians.