Lifelong Habit of Spiritual Responses

Originally published November 1999.

I've been living out a story that I thought I would never have to.  One of the boys I’ve been raising was arrested for murder.  It’s hard enough to fathom that he witnessed a murder, a violent shooting death over a drug deal gone bad.  But he was there, in the car along for a ride to the mall.  Suddenly his entire life is different.  And I’m feeling pain I never imagined bearing.

This Randy is one of my leaders, been on a mission trip and he’s been being discipled by me for nearly four years.  Yet this is not his first arrest but this one is murder.  He witnessed a murder and never told anyone. How do you not tell anyone?  How do you have friends that commit murder, much less everything else that led up to it?


We could blame his environment because Randy comes from a far from ideal home life and a bad neighborhood.  Because of where he lives, he is exposed to much more of this kind of lifestyle than most.  After all, he was just catching a ride to the mall.  So many of our youth do this every day.  God is truly alive in Randy’s life.  But when do the bad decisions stop and the straight and narrow becomes more clear?  Randy desires God’s way–but can’t seem to gain that “victory” (as Pentecostals would say).

One big problem for Randy is loyalty to bad friends.  He didn’t think these type of friends would harm him.  “”They do their own thing, it doesn’t affect me” I’ve heard often from him.  Insert sermon here, the one you have used numerous times.

“Why does God manifest His presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience?”  (The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer).  Don’t you identify with that struggling question?  You’ve got people who just can’t seem to “make it.”  They are so close and then they go back to this half-light of imperfect Christian experience.  And because we love them, we go along on this roller coaster ride.

We do know academically that God has no favorites.  But doesn’t it seem that some are more favorably disposed to the straight and narrow.  Parents, environment, culture aside.   As A.W. Tozer surmised, “The difference lies not with God, but with us.”

“They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing, they ‘did something about it.’  They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response.   They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision.”  (The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer).

The lifelong habit of spiritual response is the answer.  This is something I can do something about as well as it had better be in my job description.  I am to teach my Randys and Amandas how to respond in the spiritual realm to situations that include everything from friends to murder.

This probably won’t happen in a Bible study.  That would be quick, neat, clean, and convenient to our schedule but not applicable when they are living “out there” day in and day out facing decisions every moment.

Jesus’ teaching of this took years with the disciples.  They saw 5,000 to be fed and responded by sending them away.  The spiritual response was a bag lunch.  Who would have ever thought of that.  That had to be taught.  It had to be taught out of a daily situation that gave itself opportunity.

When Jesus was arrested the response was to attack, even cutting off the ear of one of the guards.  This despite Jesus’ incessant teaching to the contrary.

Eventually the disciples got it.  That’s the good news.  Then they had to pass it on to the growing church.

Every opportunity with Randy needs to be teaching a spiritual response.  What is the spiritual response to skipping that homework lesson?  What is the spiritual response to a friend smoking dope in front of you?  What is the spiritual response to your inept manager at work?

Maybe, just maybe, the day will come when Randy and the teens that you love will respond with a spiritual response and live in that victory.  In the meantime, your responsibility is to teach along the way.