Our reading for Thursday, June 6, 2019 is 2 Timothy 3:10-17.
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. NIV
I am privileged to have been assigned to mentor several pastors by the District Superintendent and have done so in the past for many who now are being served by other mentors or who are themselves now mentors for other pastors. It is not until those who are fully ordained in the United Methodist Church select their own clergy mentors or other means of forming covenant groups with whom to receive mutual spiritual and professional guidance. These relationships are truly helpful if taken seriously.
I have just completed reading The Crucified Life by A.W.Tozer. Along with two of his other works The Pursuit of God and The Purpose of Man these have become a mainstay in my library for periodic review to guide my purpose in life and fortify my efforts toward attaining holiness in my life. Tozer is hard, demanding and I do not always agree with what he writes (Are we ever to agree 100% with everyone?), but I find him challenging and helpful.
In the closing chapters of his work he includes a chapter entitled “Spiritual Guides for the Journey” within which he encourages those who desirer a deeper life of faith in Jesus to identify some spiritual guides for our use and warns of the dangers in selecting the wrong guides for us to follow. Those guides we select are persons we intentionally relate with to mentor our journey and also the authors of books or teachers we follow more closely. What we put into our head and heart will go far in determining what may come out.
Paul was the mentor for a young fledgling pastor named Timothy. In our reading the apostle warns of following the wrong guides to our spiritual journey. He refers to them imposters. To be accurate he does not suggest these are mentors but does indicate that they are persons who pretend to have a deep spiritual walk yet who are a source of persecution and impose obstacles for following the truth. You see, there are challenges from within the church to our deepening faith I n Christ as there is outside the church in both circumstance and people. It is difficult to know whom to trust and follow.
Paul provides essentially two criteria for securing spiritual growth which I know we could discover additional gems of wisdom in his others writings. He recommends that Timothy remain true to the original teaching he learned from his infancy in faith. Hopefully what we are taught in those early lessons in Sunday school is trust in God/Jesus and the scriptures. As we get older and become exposed to more complicated ideas we can enticed away from the simple and foundational truths. What is stated most simply and understood as a child is most likely correct.
The apostle reminds Timothy of the importance of trusting the simple understanding of the scriptures we have inherited. “Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so“ is a benchmark lesson not to be ignored. It is within the Bible we discover everything necessary to guide us in our quest to live in a way that honors God and progressively conforms us into the very image of the character of God’s Son, Jesus. Those who we can best trust to guide us must have accepted the Scriptures as their only rule for faith and practice. They must also have placed their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, otherwise they will be false guides and sidetrack our efforts and confidence.
Another quality we should expect of those we give the privilege to guide our faith is the evidence of living the deeper spiritual and moral life themselves. As Jesus taught, we will identify false teachers by assessing their fruit, the outcomes of their daily living. Do they conform to the teaching of scripture? Are they striving to live out a higher moral path? Are they vulnerable and transparent concerning their struggles and failures and need for grace? Do they actively practice and encourage the practice in others of the spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, generosity, service, witness and fellowship with others of faith?
These are some of the yardsticks we use to measure up whom we might look to for guidance and mentoring. The apostle Paul was a great mentor for Timothy as he had to contend against the negative influences of his day, whether they be circumstance or people within or outside the church. Let us be careful to select the right mentors for ourselves under the guidance of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The best mentors and covenant partners will be demanding and challenging but will love us like a firm mother or father. They will also be demanding of themselves. Do you have a good mentor? Are you fit to serve as a mentor of faith for others?