We give a lot of press to spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, confession, and solitude. As we should. But how often have you heard someone encourage you to practice the discipline of imitation? The book of Hebrews lays this out pretty clearly:
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb. 6:11,12)
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).
Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul goes as far as to say, “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (I Cor. 4:15-17).
The command is clear: Look for people who’s lives match their words, who’s faith is working, and imitate them. Imitate their faith. The implication is, “Imitate people who have inherited what God promised them so that you can inherit what God has promised you.” Not practicing the discipline of imitation is even linked to spiritual laziness!
Paul’s bit about Timothy is even more inspiring, at least to me. He’s saying, “When you meet Timothy, you’re gonna think, “Wow, I totally see Paul in him.” Timothy, in other words, is Paul’s example of what can happen through the discipline of imitation. He’s a walking success story.
Is your prayer life stagnant? Find someone who’s prayers are passionate and effective and pray like they do. If Elijah were here, how would he pray? Try it. If I were Steven Furtick (Elevation church) how would I pray right now?
Is your faith stagnant? Find someone who’s stepping it up, someone God is using to do amazing things, and imitate that faith in your own life.
Imitation accomplishes something important for faith formation: It helps us visualize what we’re aiming at. Is this a form of pretending? Yes. But remember what pretending is: trying something on for size. And the very act of thinking, “What if I were like this? How would I speak? How would I act?” will begin changing us. Imagining yourself living out a successful, fruitful faith is the first step toward actually doing it.
This fall I’ve been putting this into practice. I’ve been listening to Steven Furtick preach. I’ve been reading Reinhard Bonnke’s posts on Facebook. I’ve been “pretending” to be a guy who’s faith is shaking the world more than it currently is. Because for my faith to shake the world, I’m going to have to start believing it can. That its already begun.
Not because I want to BE Steven Furtick or Reinhard Bonnke or the Apostle Paul. But because I want to be like them. I want their faith. I want their fruit, and more looking at the guy in the mirror isn’t going to change me. Not everything about people is worth imitating, and discernment is required, but that’s no excuse to ignore the command to begin the discipline. If I’m not imitating anyone’s faith, I’m probably stagnating within my insular vision of the possible.
Question: Are you imitating anyone’s faith right now? Who is it, and why are you trying them on for size? If you aren’t, it’s time to start.