The second stage of the CHRIST model in Journey of the Soul is the H Stage: Help in Discipleship. Here our faith in Jesus is growing through studying God’s Word, getting involved in church, and learning to practice spiritual disciplines.
Commonly at the H Stage, our faith runs into a roadblock of misinterpreting Scripture. We need help in the form of good Bible teaching and a caring small group.
We see four common, crazy beliefs that harm well-intentioned Christians. The H Stage is a prime time to scrub these untrue and unhealthy feeling-thought patterns.
1. Be perfect
Jesus’ words to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48) are easily misinterpreted by eager disciples at the H Stage. The greatest Rabbi is not endorsing religious perfectionism. Rather, he warns against this, saying we’ll end up straining a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matt. 23:24).
Human willpower for doing disciplines and moral muscle for keeping rules have the appearance of wisdom, but they’re not enough to sustain loving attitudes and behaviors (Col. 2:23). It’s a self-help project of relying on our own abilities and energies rather than on the Spirit of Jesus. This can lead to being prideful, dogmatic, legalistic, pharisaical, and judgmental.
Instead of straining to be perfect, we can rest in our Father’s loving hands to be shaped, like a potter sculpting soft clay (Isa. 64:6,8).
2. Do not feel anxious
Christopher was taught in his family and church that it was a sin to be anxious. He explained, “I repressed my negative emotions by reciting Bible verses and trying to stay positive all the time. As an adult, I bought a Christian book on anxiety that reinforced this thinking. My wife, kids, and friends kept telling me they felt controlled and criticized, but I didn’t listen. I was always trying to get them to look and act right, like me. I was living in my head—my faith never touched my feelings.”
In our Soul Shepherding Institute, Christopher learned about empathy and he experienced it. He was surprised to discover that when Paul says, “Do not be anxious” in Philippians 4, he is not saying do not feel anxious. He’s saying in effect:
“Whenever you feel stressed or worried, talk to God about how you feel, sharing your emotions openly. Don’t pretend to be strong—be vulnerable. Ask for the grace you need and be sure to receive it by being thankful. Then God’s sweet and powerful peace will nourish and protect you in the way of Christ” (Phil. 4:6–7 paraphrased).
3. Just have faith
Some excited followers of Christ Jesus latch onto his promises to answer prayer, believing if they just “have faith” or “pray in Jesus’ name” then they’ll get whatever they ask for (Matt. 21:22). Unconsciously, they’re projecting their desires and linear mindset into the Bible, treating it like a contract where if they do something good then God has to bless them.
To genuinely put faith in God or pray in Jesus’ name is to follow Jesus’ way of submission to God and compassion for people. We practice the faith of persevering in our trust that God is a loving Father who will provide good things for us (Luke 11:5–13).
4. Hate yourself
When she was in the H Stage, Shannon believed the Bible taught her to hate herself. Her difficult upbringing and subsequent choices caused Shannon to loathe herself, her body, and her emotional needs.
But the Master Teacher’s point is that our devotion to God needs to be so singular and intense that in comparison it’s as if we hate our self (John 12:25–26). He says that to deny yourself does not mean to negate yourself but to replace inferior worldly desires with heavenly desires that will bless you and others (Luke 9:23–25).
For Shannon, releasing feelings and thoughts of shame helped her to appreciate and absorb the healing grace that God and her church friends were giving her.
With each crazy belief, we need to renew our minds in God’s word with the help of teachers and friends (Rom. 12:1-5).
You and the people you care for can flourish in the stage of Help in Discipleship by contributing to a healthy church community that carefully studies God’s Word, attends to deeper emotions and attitudes, and confesses sins and struggles to rely on the grace of Christ day-by-day.
©️ Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, Journey of the Soul, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021. Used by permission.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Bill and Kristi dig into the second stage in Journey of the Soul, the “Help in Discipleship” stage. Putting language to feelings and faith in each stage is important for us and for those we lead. Kristi shares how the language of the “H” stage helped her help someone else respond to God and break free from unhealthy interpretations of Scripture.