Are you a spiritual orphan or a spiritual son/daughter?
Last week we looked at spiritual strongholds and we defined them as “a mindset impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept as unchangeable situations that we know are contrary to the will of God.” Almost every week I meet believers in churches who live and think as spiritual orphans. It’s a terrible stronghold that keeps us believing that we’re never good enough, that we never quite measure up, or that we haven’t been blessed like everyone else. Jesus told His followers, “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18). One expositor defined the word orphan (orphanos) as “obscure” and “darkness,” because when one is neglected and abandoned they feel like they are walking through obscurity and darkness. An orphan can feel alone and stranded. Apparently Jesus realized the tendency His disciples had of developing that mindset in His absence—before He sent the Holy Spirit. So He reassured them that He was coming soon to abide with them and to be in them (see John 14:17). Regardless of the fact that Jesus has sent His Spirit to cleanse and fill our hearts, there are many people bound by an orphan mindset who fail to recognize their full inheritance in Christ.
A story that identifies this mindset is Luke 15:11-32. A father had two sons, and the younger son came to the father and asked for his share of the estate. The father granted it to him and within a few weeks, the younger son left the father’s home for a distant country. Eventually, there was a severe famine that occurred and this young boy was in trouble because he had spent his share of the estate on loose living. He was so poor that he took a job feeding pigs, but to add insult, because of his hunger he desired to eat the pods that he fed to the pigs. As he stood in the midst of this miserable mess he came to his senses. The veil was removed from his eyes and he realized that he had been very foolish. Repentance filled his heart and he went back home in humility not demanding sonship; rather, he would have been satisfied for a position of a servant. His father wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he placed his best robe on his son, a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet. The father elevated him from poverty to royalty in a matter of minutes and a party was thrown in his honor. As people danced and celebrated, the older son came in from the field. He refused to enter the celebration; he had an orphan mindset. In reality, he was as lost as the younger son had been even though he never left the father’s side. Many spiritual orphans are in the Church and are even near the presence of God, yet they are unable to experience the joy of being a son/daughter.
I want to identify five characteristics of an orphan mindset from this passage in Luke. First, spiritual orphans are often angry when others receive honor. The older son was angry and refused to join the party because he didn’t think his brother was worthy of such honor (see Luke 15:28). Spiritual orphans are unable to rejoice in the breakthrough that others receive for reasons such as: jealousy, bitterness, or envy. In this story, the older brother was angry and didn’t believe his brother deserved such esteem. Second, spiritual orphans find little joy in their ministry. The older brother said to his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you” (Luke 15:29). The word serving (douleuo) is a present tense verb meaning to “continue slaving” for someone. The older son did not serve out of love; his service was a duty and not a delight. There is no lasting joy in the hearts of spiritual orphans when they are in the ministry. Third, a spiritual orphan’s attachment to the Father is usually based on “what they do.” The older son said, “I have never neglected a command of yours” (Luke 15:29). He was calling attention to his works, his activities, his goodness, and his service. He thought that the father would have been impressed by his activities; he thought that his goodness deserved to be blessed. The only attachment a spiritual orphan has to the Father is based on what they “do” rather than who they are in Him. Fourth, spiritual orphans detach themselves from those they are angry with. The older son said, “When this son of yours came” (Luke 15:30). In other words, “He’s not my brother.” Spiritual orphans not only detach and distance themselves from those they are angry with, but they often surmise the evil or sin that others are involved in. Note that the older son said his brother wasted the father’s wealth “with prostitutes” (Luke 15:30). The Bible doesn’t actually say that the younger brother did that, only that he squandered his estate on “loose living” which means riotous or extravagant living. Spiritual orphans are good at assuming what others are doing and often they contrive untrue stories about those they are angry with. The fifth and final characteristic of a spiritual orphan is their inability to recognize their inheritance; a failure to truly see their blessings. The father said to his son, “all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). Think about that for a moment, this son was whining about one young goat to celebrate with his friends when he owned the entire farm. Spiritual orphans live in blindness or with a veil over their eyes that keep them locked in a mindset of spiritual deficiency. In reality the older son was living in poverty while in the presence of royalty.
This is a terrible way to live and certainly not what Jesus gave His life for. I want to pray that the veil is taken off the minds of all spiritual orphans. Our Father has given us a spirit of adoption, and we are privileged to cry out “Abba, Father,” which actually is an intimate term that can be translated, “papa” (see Romans 8:14-15). Take authority over this mindset in Jesus’ name and demolish this stronghold. Come into agreement with the fact that you have been chosen and adopted as a son/daughter (see Eph. 1:5). You don’t have to live as a spiritual orphan any longer. It’s time to experience intimacy with the Father as a blessed child of the King.
Father, we repent of agreeing with an orphan mindset. We take authority over that mentality in Jesus’ name, and we severe its hold over our minds. We thank you that we are your son/daughter, and that you have blessed us with an eternal inheritance. Amen.