If I take the opportunity to listen, there are people who just may teach me something I’ve been missing.“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” - Proverbs 15:22
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” - Philippians 4:9
My son Walker and I made our second trip to the beautiful White River in Arkansas. We love to trout fish, and the White River is one of our favorite spots. The river is massive, clear, and cold, coming straight from the bottom of Bull Shoals Dam. Walker and I were introduced to fishing this river through a mentor and friend of mine, Curt, who has been making the trip from Georgia to Flippen, Arkansas, since 1996 (that’s right, Flippen!). Curt is a Renaissance man...he has done a little bit of everything from owning/operating a Chick-fil-A and Shane’s Rib Shacks to being a pilot to pastoral counseling. He has walked through personal struggles and hardships and found redemption and the good and perfect gift of God’s grace. Over the past decade, I’ve spent time with Curt, working through some of the biggest challenges and victories in my life. As far as fishing goes, Curt has almost 30 years of experience fishing the White River, but what’s interesting is Curt still hires a guide! Curt unfortunately could not come with us this year, and we didn’t hire a guide. Needless to say, we did not have the same success as the year prior.
On our last day, just before we drove back to Georgia, Walker and I went to the river bank to make a few more casts before we hit the road. As we were fishing, we heard a guy working on the fishing boats across one corner of the river say, “Hey! Hey! You two want to catch a trout that will make your friends back home jealous? Come over here, and I’ll get you set up!” There was that quick moment where I could have responded, “No, thank you! We appreciate it, though.” (You know that feeling you get when someone offers you advice, and you think, “Who is this guy? What does he know anyway?”) I responded in a way I might not have as a younger man. My response to the man was, “Oh yeah, we would! We’ll be right over.” It has taken some years for me to learn that if I take the opportunity to listen, there are people out there who just may teach me something I’ve been missing.
I have found the value in seeking guides in different areas of life like trips and vacations, work, personal fitness, and sharpening certain life skills. In life, there are men and women who have journeyed before us and can point out what to avoid and the best paths forward. I have discovered the blessing of mentors and leaders in my life who have been on a similar pursuit of Jesus and God’s will.
Pride may tell me I don’t need a guide and already know what I need. Pride will draw me into self-sufficiency. The need for a guide, mentor, or community was a difficult reality for me because I’ve always been prone to go it alone. Being satisfied in the presence of God alone is absolutely wonderful, and at the same time, Jesus never intended for us to journey alone. The vast majority of the New Testament was written to and for the Church, not just one person (at the end of the day, it is all written to the Church). There are no lone rangers in the kingdom of God.
The author and apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians church, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul said that he was the example! He’s just a guy, right? He said if the Philippians practiced and did what they heard and saw him do, the God of peace would be with them. Wait…what? I thought faith was personal.
God placed another guide in my life, my pastor, Darden. I remember a question I had for him early in my faith; I asked, “If faith is personal (between me and God), why do I need the church? Over the following years, Darden would introduce me to the beauty of the Church and how we, being a part of a body, need each other. It was in that season that I walked with those in the church for the first time. I opened my life up to mentors, leaders, and guides in the church who pointed me to Jesus. Personal faith is not private; it’s lived out corporately. As a result, my personal walk with Jesus grew like never before.
Oh yeah, to finish the fishing story, it just so happens that the guy yelling across the corner of the river had grown up fishing and been a guide himself for many years. He told us exactly where to fish on the river, what to fish with, and what to do. We listened to everything he said, following every piece of advice, and wouldn’t you know...My son caught his biggest brown trout yet.
Here are a few questions that I encourage you to think about:
- Do you have a mentor or leader in your life who encourages and guides you in your pursuit of Jesus? Do you believe you need a guide?
- Where will you open your life up to listen and be available for someone to lead, guide, and mentor you?
- Do you have a plan/strategy to lead, mentor, and guide someone who is a little newer on the journey of pursuing Jesus?