In my thinking recently, I’ve been encouraged to reflect on leaders that I have known or seen in the past, who evidenced Spiritual Authority. (This is part of the Leadership mandate – Hebrews 13:7-8).
What did these leaders have in common:
1) Intimacy with Jesus. Probably first and foremost, what attracted me to each of the mentors and spiritual leaders/directors that I have encountered was their intimacy and close walks with God.
I will not ever forget being in South Sudan with one of these great men, sharing a bedroom with him, as we ran a worship leader training conference for the new church leaders following their (at the time) recent independence from the North. This is a man I had looked up to for I think around 5 years.
He had spent the day teaching from the front, leading prayer sessions and even doing some street evangelism. And here he was late at night after the evening meeting. Huddled over in his small mosquito tent, with a flashlight on, reading from his Bible. Each and every night we were there he did this.
Then first thing in the morning I’d wake and find him there praying and spending time with God.
Another retired-missionary that I know, told me of his 5am morning time with God. Each day. If we want to know where Spiritual Authority comes from we ought to recognise the importance of intimacy with Jesus.
2) Prioritising Jesus. Again, this is closely linked. If we don’t prioritise Jesus, we will not have the intimacy with Him. It must be more important to us than a holiday, than our work ,than our family. Remember Jesus who said that if anyone loved his parents more than Him, they were unqualified to be His disciples. This is a tall order. But it is one that makes a difference. There will be times in our lives, when Jesus asks us to sacrifice that which is most important to us to Him. Be it our exercise, our family, our jobs or our locations.
3) Obeying Jesus. Obedience is key. Not that obedience earns us spiritual authority, in all of these things we do not earn spiritual authority. It is first and foremost a gift from God, for we are all sinners deserving of death.
And yet, without obedience we will not find ourselves in positions or circumstances where we will need Spiritual Authority. If we never take off our sandals before the walls of Jericho, it is unlikely God will ask us to march around it many times (Joshua 5:13+). Likewise, if we are unwilling to speak to the wind, it is unlikely we will command a vast army (Ezekiel 37). Finally, if we disobey Jesus’ words to put down our nets on the other side, we will never be invited to become fisher’s of men (Luke 5:5).
Spiritual authority is birthed through our obedient entrance into the arena’s which require us to seek God for such authority.
4) Finally, faith in Jesus. Trusting Jesus. The truth is, that we will not obey Jesus unless we trust Him.
In many ways, trust is like a muscle we must exercise it in order to grow it. I did not wake up one morning and decide to trust my wife. It came over time, it built over years and years. I am sure it will grow even more as we grow together.
Likewise our trust in Jesus needs to grow. God understands this. That is why He promises that even a small amount of faith is enough to get the ball rolling. Remember the famous promise: faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains?
I meet too many people who say that they would like to be a Christian but that they can’t force themselves to believe in God. I understand that is a BIG ask. Especially when there is so much science and suffering in the world which seems to point in the other direction completely. Nevertheless, I think God wants us to start with our mustard seed faith. A tiny, fragile trust that He is who He says He is. Let us see what happens.
Perhaps today, you can ask God to help you trust Him more. And in that one request, you are exercising a little tid-bit of trust that God might answer your prayer…and then, you are on the pathway to spiritual authority.