The pastor, author, and broadcaster entered his eternal home a few days ago.
Perhaps you supported In Touch Ministries or worshiped at First Baptist Church Atlanta or considered him your spiritual shepherd. It makes sense if his passing affects you.
I can relate. While I wasn’t familiar with Dr. Stanley or his ministry, my own spiritual mentor also transitioned to heaven earlier this year. Dr. Jack Hayford—founder of the King’s University and the Church on the Way, as well as a prolific author who also composed 500 songs, including Majesty—died in January.
The death of Pastor Jack Hayford and now Dr. Stanley prompted a timely question. What do we do after the death of someone we’ve fed from spiritually?
Whether you’re grieving the loss of these godly men or another spiritual giant, here are a few thoughts for your consideration.
1. Live Their Legacy
Of all the messages your late spiritual mentor taught, is there a topic or theme that grips your heart the most? Has his or her life exemplified a notable aspect of the Word that transformed you? Then live that message out.
I’ll give you an example. The bulk of my foundational Christian beliefs came straight from Pastor Jack. But one of the most impactful lessons I caught from him had to do with his regular prayer campaigns for Los Angeles. He taught, “It’s impossible to hate those you pray for.”
Hearing this on repeat—and cutting my intercessory teeth on prayer circles, what we used to do during Sunday services—induced in me a love for prayer and LA.
The fact that I still intercede for my city, nation, and the world on a daily basis is a testament to
Pastor Jack’s ministry and his persistent emphasis on prayer.
2. Godly Jealousy
Paul utilized this phrase in his second letter to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 11:2) to describe his longing for them to remain faithful to Christ. I’m using the term differently here, so I hope he’ll forgive me for repurposing his phrase.
Whenever a saint—that is, a believer in Christ—dies, I find myself feeling godly jealousy. I wish I could be in heaven too.
Right now, Dr. Stanley and Pastor Jack are reveling in the presence of the Lord, no doubt hearing Him announce, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). I wonder if angels are ushering them into their due rewards as we speak. After all, rewards await the faithful (Isaiah 40:10, Matthew 10:41-42, Mark 9:41, Revelation 22:12).
Enjoying God’s glory forever, interacting directly with the Lover of our soul, is far more attractive than puttering around in this sin-encrusted world (Philippians 1:21). Even earth’s top vacation spots can’t compete with the joys of heaven.
However, let’s be clear. I do not long to be in heaven because I’m suicidal. By God’s grace, I intend to complete His assignments for me rather than exit the earth prematurely.
If you resonate with this intention but also feel the twinge—however slightly—of wanting to move into heaven, there’s a way to capitalize on it.
We can use this godly jealousy to motivate ourselves to run a faithful race.
All the way to the finish line.
Unfortunately, not everyone who started out as a Christian continues with their journey. I can recite names of famous Christians who, midway in their faith walk, ditched the path and, as far as I know, are still detached from the one true God.
This isn’t to mention scores of other individuals whose stories might be unknown to us but whose faith, likewise, dissolved.
Let’s not fix our eyes on them. Let’s instead focus on successful finishers like Drs. Stanley and Hayford and also, apostle Paul.
Toward the conclusion of his earthly shift, the latter remarked the following: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to declare “ditto” when our race is officially over?
3. Leftover Grief
Perhaps your spiritual mentor’s passing left you feeling drained. You’ve shed more tears than anticipated. Maybe your appetite—or digestive system—has been off. Or perhaps you’re experiencing other signs of depression.
If any of the above fits, check if perhaps you’ve neglected to grieve a prior loss. Death leaves a cumulative effect on the mourner, stirring up similar emotions and memories of an earlier loss.
But a recent death will impact you more if you haven’t fully grieved that prior loss or if you’ve sustained a significant number of losses in recent history—including not just physical death or divorce, but also the loss of income or house.
So, if your spiritual mentor’s death hits you hard, consider it a 911 call from your soul. Find a trained professional to consult with.
I recommend someone who is trained in the psychology of grief and mourning.
4. Holding the Torch
One of the characteristics of my church that I cherish the most is its multigenerational nature. Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, as well as the youngest one, Gen Alpha, attend our services.
There may even be a smattering of representatives from the Silent Generation.
You’ll see me nod at one of our pastors’ frequent exhortations. He insists that every generation in the church needs to mentor someone younger than them.
This is relevant to our topic because the body of Christ lost two respected generals this year. Pastor Jack died at 88, and Charles Stanley, 90.
Now that they’re no longer here, the torch—of leading the next generations, spreading the Good News, and holding each other accountable to keep maturing into Christlikeness—is in our hands.
We may never be called to found a global ministry, but that torch is still in our hands.
God may appoint us to affect areas of society our mentors hadn’t, but the torch is—you guessed it—still in our hands.
What better way to honor the passing of your spiritual mentor than to continue cultivating Kingdom values the way he or she did?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/max-kegfire
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist and IFSI approved clinical consultant, as well as author of Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. Visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com
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