building spiritual relationships

Merle talks about three groups of people that each Christian should be part of. Because no one is an island, our choices and actions affect others. Will we individually extend the line of wisdom that we've been given?

wisdom calls us to learn from and invest in others

When I was in high school, I spent my summers working in the concrete plant where my father was part owner. Sam was a cement salesman who came to the business every week to sell cement. He learned to know me and took an interest in me. Sam was fifty years old, and I was fifteen. 

When Sam came each week, he would visit with my father about cement. Then he would come out to the plant and find me wherever I was working. He would talk with me and often would take me to the break room and buy me a Mountain Dew. Sometimes Sam would take me to sports events for an evening. I knew Sam didn’t have to do these things in order to sell cement. He genuinely liked me and took an interest in my life.

“Our own choices and way of life have consequences, not only for ourselves, but also for those who are following us.”

One summer I was operating a front-end loader. There had been a problem with its power steering. I had talked with the mechanics in the shop but they hadn’t fixed it. After some time, I was getting frustrated with the bad steering. One day, the steering wheel spun backwards and the knob on the steering wheel hit the crazy bone in my elbow.

In a moment of pain and rage I went into the shop. I found the shop foreman and told him what I thought of his ability to schedule jobs in the shop. I berated him for not paying attention to the steering on the loader I was driving. I was angry and said a lot of harsh things.

When I turned to leave the shop, there was Sam! Sam took me by the arm and led me around the corner of the building. He backed me up against the wall and leaned in over me. He proceeded to tell me that what I had just done was wrong. He told me that if I was ever going to be the kind of man he thought I was going to be, I had a lot to learn about how to relate to people and deal with disappointments.

He told me that I needed to go back into the shop, find the shop foreman, and apologize for what I had just said. I should tell him that I will drive the loader without the steering fixed as long as I need to and that if he ever schedules it into the shop and repairs it, I will say thank you. 

Sam also said he was going to go with me to do that. So, we went back into the shop, and I followed Sam’s instructions. Then we went to the break room where Sam bought me a Mountain Dew, and all was well.

As a fifteen-year-old, I needed a man like Sam. If you have people in your life who care enough about you to help you know how to deal with life situations, do not reject them!

Scripture gives us examples of three types of spiritual relationships that are important for us to have.

Mentor or Coach

Timothy had the Apostle Paul as his mentor or coach. Paul discipled him. In II Timothy 3:10 –11 Paul gives Timothy a list of things he has seen in the life of Paul. This list is a good list of things we gain from having a mentor or coach.

  1. Doctrine: What is the correct belief system? What can I know to be true? 
  2. Manner of life: How do I live out my beliefs?
  3. Purpose: What is worth living for? What should my short-term and longterm goals and objectives be? 
  4. Faith: What can I put my trust in? 
  5. Patience: When do I wait, and when do I act? 
  6. Love: How do I show love in relationships? 
  7. Perseverance: How do I keep going and not lose hope when things are difficult? How do I cope when things go wrong? 
  8. Persecutions: How do I respond to opposition and personal attacks on me and my character? 
  9. Afflictions: How do I deal with longterm hindrances or difficulties?

Our mentors can be people we admire. They may have a character quality that we want to develop in our own lives. 

They may be people who have written books that impact us and give us direction for our lives. They are often the people who we turn to for advice.

I encourage you to seek out Godly mentors. It would be nice if they sought you out. But that probably will not happen, so you can take the initiative. 

Some people may feel intimidated to be thought of as mentors. Perhaps it is best to ask a prospective mentor if you can get together and ask some questions. After you have done this a few times you can see if it seems like a good fit and a helpful relationship. Then perhaps your times together can become more formal with regular input and discussions

Peer or Co-laborer

It is important to have people with whom we are working toward common goals and objectives. These friends are often in our same age group and at a similar stage in life. They can empathize with us in the challenges we are going through. 

Paul and Barnabas were co-laborers. They worked and traveled together to bring the Gospel to places where Christ was not known. They encouraged each other. They faced challenges together. We need these types of people in our lives.

With these people we rejoice and weep together. We share accountability for the important aspects of our lives. These people know us well and help us to fulfill our commitments and live out our faith.

These are the people who are our intimate friends and associates. They help us carry our burdens. They know when to wound us so that we can heal. They know our secrets and show us the love of God despite our weaknesses and failures. They celebrate our successes.

Follower or Disciple

These are people in whom we are investing time and energy to help them be all that God wants them to be. We see the potential that God sees in them. We encourage them and guide them through their challenging seasons.

In I Timothy 4:12–16 Paul gives Timothy advice and direction for his life. He tells Timothy not to allow anyone to despise him because he is young but to be an example to the believers. 

The list of things he is to exemplify resemble the earlier list of things Paul told Timothy about Paul’s own life. Timothy was to take the things he had learned from observing Paul’s life and demonstrate them to others. He was a disciple, but he was also to be a mentor to others.

I encourage you to look for those who want your influence. Be intentional in connecting with them. Pay attention to those who are younger than you but still get close to you and follow your conversations with others. Who are the younger people who like to talk with you? Who watches you or listens to you when you are in a group setting?

Intentionally do things with these people. Start conversations with them. Ask them questions about their lives. Take them with you when you are going to do things. If you are traveling for ministry, take a younger person with you. Go out of your way to talk with these individuals. Ask how you can pray for them. See if they would like to meet with you.

I believe that the value of having people we are discipling is that it keeps us challenged to be worthy of being followed. It helps us to be serious about the type of example we give to others. Mentoring reminds us that our own choices and way of life have consequences, not only for ourselves, but also for those who are following us.

I believe that these three types of relationships are important for each of us. Learn from others. Find mentors for your life. Be accountable and have co-labourers. Invest in the lives of others. 

The book of Proverbs is based on the assumption that wisdom can be passed on from one generation to another. Be part of that wisdom chain! Gain wisdom and pass it on to others.