Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.
This is a portrait of spiritual authority. They recognized them as companions of Jesus. When researching the many different life stories of Christian leaders, J. Robert Clinton discovered that as a person gained a deeper knowledge and personal trust of God, their spiritual authority developed and matured. But this authority was not the sought end or the goal, an intimate relationship with God was.
In the 2nd century Clement of Alexandria described prayer as “keeping company with God.” In this sense, spiritual authority develops from a prayer-ful life. There is a fellowship with God that must be cultivated as followers of Jesus. We would encourage you to pay particular attention to three practices in order to know God more deeply and serve God more faithfully:
- Regular Reading of the Bible: Cultivating a life of reading the Scriptures is an essential practice. By reading and meditating upon what we have read we get to know God. We continue to understand more of who God is and how God works in the world. We also continue to understand more of who we are as people and what God wants to accomplish in and through us. Consistently exposing ourselves to the Scriptures and allowing them to influence our beliefs, our intentions, and our actions, gives ongoing opportunity for the Holy Spirit to shape us more and more into Christ-likeness.
- Making Prayerful Space for God: In order to listen and obey God, we must intentionally make space in our lives for fellowship with God. A personal retreat or an extended time of solitude and silence for prayer and reflection create a setting in which we can focus on listening to God. This practice is particularly important today because so many of us live noisy, busy, and distracted lives. By pulling away from the mainstream of life from time to time, we separate ourselves from the many demands of our lives in order to hear God through the Scriptures and prayer. Jesus often modeled this practice himself. We read of Jesus pulling away from the crowds in search of solitary places to pray (Luke 4:1; 5:16; 6:12; 22:39-41). These times alone with God the Father provided Jesus with direction, inspiration, and power. They can do the same for our own development as Christian leaders.
- Opening Ourselves to the Guidance and Mentoring of Others: A person’s willingness to submit to the guidance of others is essential in their maturing. Entering into mentoring relationships with whose lives are characterized by spiritual authority exposes a person to valuable, practical models of godly leadership. By closely observing and listening to other leaders who value spiritual authority, we can learn about the many decisions and choices they make along the way. These sorts of relationships can also become places where we can acknowledge, confess, and prayerfully “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1). There are often “shadow-sides” to our lives, which can come to dominate if they are not addressed. The challenges and tendencies of sin unique to our lives can easily drive us to do the wrong things for the wrong reasons or do the right things for the wrong reason. We will not be able to discover these things alone. It will require the trusting input and presence of other wise mentors.
There are many spiritual practices or disciplines that can help deepen our awareness and responsiveness to God.These particular practices will provide conditions today for developing a companionship with Jesus. And it is in this companionship with Jesus that we are prepared to serve like Jesus.