One of the things I have taught my students is that each one needs two mentors: one living and one who has passed on. I have had both. My living mentor was Avery Willis, a well-known name among Baptists worldwide. For some reason, Avery picked me to travel with him to teach MasterLife, a very popular discipleship process. He told me never to call it a “program,” because a program has a beginning and end; discipleship is a process, and it continues to grow. I have traveled overseas with Avery, watching how he walked out the faith under a microscope.
I couldn’t have had a better mentor. Avery went home to be with the Lord in 2010.
A dead mentor is someone whose whole life we can study and evaluate from beginning to end. From them, we can learn how to respond in different circumstances, learning from both their strengths and weaknesses. I encourage students to find a dead mentor such as Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon and Mary Slessor or my favorite, George Mueller.
The story of George Mueller touched me early in my Christian walk. He was an incredible man of faith. He never requested financial help but through prayer, took his needs to God instead of men. He believed God would lay that particular need on someone’s heart. During his lifetime, he cared for 10,024 orphans by faith, and he established 117 schools that offered Christian education to more than 120,000. If you have not read his story, I encourage you to do so.
The way Mueller lived the last years of his life is my roadmap. After 39 years of marriage, his wife passed on. A year later, at the age of 66, he remarried and began traveling the world as a missionary, teaching the Bible until his death at 92 years of age.
I tell you all of this because I have recently been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. The good news is that it hasn’t spread, and it is a treatable cancer. I will spend the next 18 months going through radiation and hormone therapy. So as I enter this season, I turn to my mentors to see how they would handle it:
1. They believed in the sovereignty of God. He is the supreme authority, and all things are under His control. God has not called an emergency meeting over my life. It is all part of His plan to work out His perfect will in me. “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
2. They knew the number of their days was in God’s hand. Cancer cannot cut my life short. I have never questioned how long I will live but how well I will live with the time He has given me. “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5).
3. It was never about how big a problem they had, but how much they trusted God. When George Mueller faced a situation he had never encountered before, he never referred to it as a new problem but welcomed it as a “fresh trust,” something new God had given him to trust Him for. So my cancer is not a new problem but a “fresh trust.” “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him” (Ps. 28:7).
4. They prayed for the glory of God. How do I pray during this time? I pray for whatever brings Him the greatest glory. If He receives glory for my healing, then I pray for my healing. If He gets a greater glory in taking me home, then I pray for my death. I leave it in His hands. Even Jesus prayed this way. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).
If you have not read the book “I Would Die for You,” I encourage you to get a copy. It tells the life story of B.J. Higgins who, at 15 years of age, was called home after contracting a disease on the mission field. On the way to the hospital, a critically ill B.J. told his father, “Dad, I know you’re scared. I believe the Lord will deliver me through this. But if He doesn’t, I’m going home to be with Him, and that’s OK with me.”
I’m with you, B.J. No matter what happens, my heavenly Father is in charge, and that’s OK with me.