The Blessing of a Spiritual Father

Many Christians understand the importance of having a relationship with God as a loving Heavenly Father. However, not as many realize the incredible blessing and necessity of having godly spiritual fathers in our lives here on earth. As Christians, it’s vital that we seek out and surround ourselves with mature spiritual mentors who can provide wisdom, guidance, correction, and fatherly care for our souls.

Key Takeaways:

  • Having spiritual fathers is a biblical model that goes back to the Old Testament
  • Jesus demonstrated the blessing of spiritual fathers through his relationship with his disciples
  • Spiritual fathers help nurture our faith and walk with God
  • They provide wisdom, encouragement, correction, and pastoral care
  • We must be intentional about seeking them out and submitting to their spiritual authority
  • The blessing of a spiritual father has the power to dramatically shape our lives and faith
The Blessing of a Spiritual Father

The Biblical Basis for Spiritual Fathers

The concept of having spiritual fathers is not just some modern notion or ministry trend. It has deep biblical roots going all the way back to the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Eli took on a spiritual fatherly role with Samuel and trained him to hear God’s voice (1 Samuel 3:1-10). Elijah also had a spiritual fatherly relationship with his disciple Elisha, who walked closely with him and received a double portion of his spirit before taking up his mantle (2 Kings 2).

Paul regularly referred to Timothy as his spiritual “son” and instructed him in the ways of ministry (1 Timothy 1:2, 18). He commanded the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitated Christ, demonstrating a spiritual fatherly role of discipleship (1 Corinthians 4:15-17, 11:1).

But perhaps the greatest model of spiritual fatherhood is our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus poured deeply into his twelve disciples. He taught them, corrected them, encouraged them, rebuked them, and modeled servant leadership for them. The disciples received Jesus’ spiritual fathering and then turned to father others, just as Paul went on to father Timothy.

The Blessing of Jesus’ Spiritual Fatherhood

Jesus demonstrated what an incredible blessing it is to submit to the spiritual fatherhood and authority of another.

As the Son of God, Jesus had all authority, wisdom and power. Yet he still placed himself under the spiritual headship of others to fulfill God’s purposes. At age 12, Jesus submitted to his earthly parents and obeyed their authority (Luke 2:51-52). As an adult, Jesus submitted to the teaching authority of the rabbis, engaging them in the temple (Luke 2:46). And most importantly, Jesus lived in perfect submission to God the Father as his spiritual authority while on earth (John 6:38).

If even Jesus saw the blessing of living under spiritual authority, how much more do we need that covering and fatherly care?

Another key way Jesus spiritually fathered his disciples was by having an intensely relational, day-to-day ministry with them. Jesus didn’t simply preach sermons to big crowds; he intentionally poured his life into Peter, James, John and the others. The disciples got to witness Jesus’ integrity up close. They saw how he prayed, how he handled pressure, how he treated people. Through this deeply personal training, the disciples internalized Christ’s heart and were transformed by his example.

Many people think maturity is figuring life out on their own. But God’s model is spiritual fathers and mothers teaching and mentoring younger believers on their journey. We can’t journey alone and expect to grow. We need those fatherly voices speaking into our lives.

The Vital Role of Spiritual Fathers Today

Spiritual fathers and mothers play a vital role in the kingdom of God today. Their fatherly influence in our lives can be the difference between thriving spiritually or languishing in immaturity. Here are some key blessings that spiritual fathers bring.

1. They nurture our faith

A good spiritual father desires to nurture the faith of those he fathers. He takes interest in where we are spiritually. He asks good questions to help us take steps of growth. He encourages us to draw close to Christ, spend time in the Word, and cultivate a vibrant prayer life. A spiritual father reminds us of God’s great love and mercy toward us. He stirs hunger in us for deeper intimacy with God.

Paul described this kind of spiritual nurturing when he told the Thessalonians “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).

How precious it is to have mature believers who care deeply about our spiritual growth and walk intimately with us! Spiritual fathers want to see us become mighty men and women of God.

2. They provide wisdom and direction

A spiritual father can provide much-needed godly wisdom and direction for the perplexing questions and decisions we face. They have already walked farther down the road of life than we have. A spiritual father can help give clarity to the next steps God is calling us into. They can help confirm our giftings and steer us toward fruitful ministry roles. They can warn us about potential pitfalls to avoid.

The book of Proverbs tells us “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). A spiritual father is one of those vital “counselors” God provides. Whenever we face major life decisions, it helps tremendously to bounce our thoughts off a fatherly mentor with seasoned spiritual discernment. They help us interpret what the Lord might be saying and align our plans with his purposes.

3. They provide encouragement

One thing that means the world from a spiritual father is encouragement. The Christian life is a marathon filled with highs and lows. We all battle discouragement at times. A spiritual father who consistently speaks hope and life into our spirits is invaluable. Barnabas in the early church was known as the “son of encouragement” for the way he persistently encouraged those around him (Acts 4:36-37). We need Barnabases!

Paul talks about the blessing of encouragement in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Encouragement from a spiritual father inspires us to press on faithfully in our calling from the Lord.

4. They provide correction

Another blessing of a spiritual father is they provide necessary course-corrections when we veer off track. Every believer at times walks in carnal thinking or behavior. We need spiritual fathers who will lovingly confront our sin so we can repent and return to righteousness.

Paul said, “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16 NIV). Paul was willing to assert his spiritual fatherhood at times to directly correct the Corinthians’ sinful ways. Correction from a trusted mentor helps put us back on the narrow path.

5. They provide pastoral care

A final blessing of a spiritual father is they care for the overall welfare of those they father. True spiritual fathers are pastoral at heart. They handle their spiritual children gently. When we face sickness, financial need, marital struggles, depression or other hardships, a spiritual father is there to listen, pray, and remind us of God’s promises. He continues strengthening our faith through trials. He may even help connect us with practical help and resources.

The apostle John embodied this pastoral care in one of his letters: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). Like a loving parent, a spiritual father experiences deep joy in seeing his spiritual children thrive in Christ. As Hebrews 13:17 says, spiritual leaders “keep watch over your souls.” They take seriously their calling to shepherd our spiritual well-being.

The Necessity of Submission

As we’ve seen, godly spiritual fathers provide irreplaceable blessings. But we only experience these blessings to the degree that we place ourselves in humble submission under their mentoring. Just being around an anointed Christian leader doesn’t automatically impart spiritual growth. There must be honor, trust and receptive ears on our part.

Jesus only had the boldness to cleanse the temple and overturn the tables because he lived under the authority of the Father. The disciples could only walk in the supernatural power of God because they submitted to Jesus’ headship. Timothy could only guide the Ephesian church because he had submitted to years of input from Paul. This principle remains the same today. It is only by placing ourselves under trusted spiritual leaders that we unlock the fullness of what God wants to give us.

That humble posture of submission to spiritual authority counters everything in fleshly human nature. Our pride recoils at the thought of allowing another person to influence our decision-making. Our flesh wants to be independent and determine our own path. But isolating ourselves only leads to spiritual poverty. God designed the kingdom so that the right spiritual covering is essential for growing into maturity in Christ. We shouldn’t see submission as threatening but as liberating.

When we orient our hearts to truly receive from a spiritual father, our lives are built upon a much more secure foundation. We have a trusted confidant to protect us from veering off into foolish decisions. We have a battle-tested veteran to call us to a higher plane. Instead of being tossed about by waves of shifting cultural values, our anchor is the timeless wisdom of God spoken through a spiritual mentor.

As we humble ourselves and embrace spiritual fathers, God releases all the blessings prepared for us in that place of submission. There is safety, nourishment, stability and growth. We unlock greater empowerment for fruitful ministry. We receive armor and weaponry to walk in new authority against the powers of darkness. The right spiritual covering positions us to encounter the “hundredfold blessing” Jesus promises his obedient disciples (Mark 10:29-30).

Finding a Spiritual Father

If you find yourself lacking strong spiritual fathers in your life right now, don’t fret! Begin asking the Lord to lead you to the right mentors and fathers. Here are some things to keep in mind as you seek:

1. Look for maturity and godliness – Does this person exhibit the fruit of the spirit in their interactions? Do they reflect humility and authenticity in their walk with God? Since our goal is Christlikeness, we want spiritual fathers who know Christ intimately and live in surrendered obedience.

2. Consider anointing and calling – Not everyone flowing in the gift of teaching or pastoring is necessarily called to father you specifically. Seek out fathers who carry an anointing for nurturing and guiding younger in the faith. Look for those with a clear pastoral calling and gravitation toward discipleship.

3. Seek peace and connection – There should be a supernatural “click” between your spirit and the spirit of a true spiritual father/son relationship. You will find an unusual trust, delight, and peace in their presence. If a potential mentor relationship feels coerced or emotionless, it may not be the right fit.

4. Consider longevity – Spiritual fathers are not those we meet at a conference once. Look for relationships that can go the distance through years of walking together. Seek fathers who are committed to pouring into you for the long haul.

As we seek spiritual fathers, the most important quality is hunger. Our level of hunger largely determines the level of blessing we’ll receive. Christ always responds with great compassion and provision for hungry hearts pursuing him. When we position ourselves in desperation for the blessing, guidance, and empowerment of godly spiritual fathers, the Lord ushers us into new realms of authority, impact, and intimacy with him.

The journey of walking with spiritual fathers will transform your life forever. There is no greater human investment than intentionally surrounding yourself with mentors and fathers further down the path whose words, wisdom, and spiritual covering enable you to flourish. May the Lord connect you to strong spiritual fathers who will unleash your destiny and highest Kingdom impact for Christ.

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