“Be who you needed when you were younger.”
That quote has been bouncing around my mind for about a week now and I think it’s such a lovely idea…to come alongside someone younger than you (either in age or in faith), to teach them what you know, and to pray with them about the things you don’t know…to take their hand and say, “Sanctification is hard sometimes, but we’re in this together.”
Currently, I have the opportunity to do this. I’ve gotten to know a sibling in Christ whose struggles very nearly match mine from three and a half years ago. Because of that, I feel uniquely equipped to pour into them, knowing firsthand the weariness that so often accompanies anxiety and being acutely aware of the anger that can flow from fear. That is by no means to say that I’m the only one who can help this dear friend of mine. Of course, there are many others who could do a comparable and better job than I am doing, but our friendship has taught me anew that the Lord does indeed have a purpose for all things. Three and a half years ago, I saw no reason for my hardship and would have been hard-pressed to tell you something good that could ever come from it. Now, I will tell you with confidence that the Lord worked abundantly in me during that time. Now, I will tell you that if the only reason for that pain of mine was to equip me to pour into struggling Christians, that would have been reason enough.
PAYING IT FORWARD
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Notice the apostle’s use of the phrase, “so that” (NIV). With it, he is implying that the reason God gives us comfort is so we can comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a beautiful thought! As Christians, we are not supposed to bottle up the goodness of the Gospel and hide it for ourselves or stow the riches of Jesus Christ away in storehouses. We are called to share the good news (Matthew 28:19-20) and to offer others comfort, counsel, and hope (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 1 Peter 3:15).
So, dear friend in Christ, be who you needed when you were younger.
THE LIFELONG JOURNEY
Sanctification, or the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian to make them more and more like Christ, is a lifelong process. It is the process by which we put off sin, put on righteousness, and bear the image of our Creator with increasing clarity. It is 2 Corinthians 3:18 lived out, with all its victories and defeats.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
I think it’s safe to say that no matter where you’re at in your spiritual journey, there is always someone who is more sanctified than you as well as someone who is less sanctified than you. Learn from those ahead of you on this lifelong journey. Older, wiser Christians have much to offer. And pour into those who are less mature than you in faith. You, too, have much to offer.
And please remember that this side of heaven, we never “arrive.” Our journey of sanctification, powered by the Holy Spirit, continues to our last day, and we might just be able to help another Christian in theirs. So, dear friend in Christ, be who you needed when you were younger.
Be the one who comforts, the one who encourages, the one who calls out sin when they see it.
Be the one who listens, the one who cares, the one who reaches out first.
Be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and thank someone who has done so for you.