Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This twelfth and last pillar talks about how the Scriptures transform the mentees and how important the Scriptures are in the mentoring process.
Three men in Scripture stand out as being known for their devotion to and their use of Scripture. They are Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15-17), Apollos (Acts 18: 24), and Ezra (Ezra 7:10). All were characterized by being “mighty in the Scriptures,” or “well versed and learned in the Scripture.”
Ezra is my favorite Old Testament character with this noteworthy distinction. As a priest, scribe, and teacher, Ezra was sent by the king of Babylon to Jerusalem to teach God’s laws to Israel. One verse in Ezra summarizes it all:
For Ezra had devoted himself to the study, and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.Ezra 7:10
Let’s make a few observations to unpack his heart and commitment to Scripture.
“For” is referring back to Ezra 7:9. God’s hand was upon him because he devoted himself to the Scriptures. Three times in the book of Ezra it says of him “for the hand of the Lord his God is upon him.” His spiritual authority to lead emerged from God anointing him and in his manifesting God’s presence.
“had devoted himself” – This was a continuous process. It was an intentional choice on his part to discipline himself to study, obey, and teach the Scriptures. Notice the sequence of these verbs – study, obey and then teach. For this reason, we say that ministry is an overflow of Christ’s life and Word in us.
Study, obey and then teach
“study” was first. He did not just skim over the surface of the Scriptures. He studied them in-depth. His life was transformed by the Scriptures as he saturated himself in it. He allowed them to control his life. He knew it was not just how many times he went through the Scriptures. What was important was how the Scriptures were going through his life.
“observance” (obeying) the Scriptures. He not only believed they were important and inspired by God, but he submitted his life to the Scriptures. He developed inner convictions and values from them. The Scriptures did not just inform his mind, but also transformed his life.
“teaching” its decrees and laws – The Scriptures lived and were allowed to soak into his life before he taught them to others. Then, and only then, would he teach the Scriptures with authority and power. He therefore first modeled in his life what he taught to others. As Ezra taught the Scriptures, he knew and trusted the active impact it would have as it worked in people.
Notice the many references to his reputation in regard to the Scriptures:
- “was well versed in the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:6)
- “a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord” (Ezra 7:11)
- “teacher of the Law of the God of Heaven” (Ezra 7:12,21)
- “the wisdom of your God, which you possess” (Ezra 7:25)
Why is it so imperative that those we mentor continually know, obey, and appropriately use the Scriptures for their life and ministry? Why do we want to model and use the Scriptures in our ministry to them? It is because the Scriptures have essential roles in the mentoring process.
The Scriptures are the Spirit’s primary transformational agent
The Scriptures nourish and calibrate our souls for intimacy with God.1 2 Timothy 3:16 In other words, the Word tunes us in to the reality of eternal things, and to final truth. It helps us interpret reality and life experiences from God’s point of view, giving us a new lens of eternal perspective. The Scriptures are our moral compass of right and wrong. They reveal sin in our lives. The Word also is our eternal food, giving vital nutrients for our eternal being. The Scriptures reveal our inheritance in Christ – His riches, His divine and living resources, and graces.
We are transformed by the Scriptures into Christ-like character.2 2 Cor. 3:18 The Scriptures are a vital change agent and shaping tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives by a process of time and experience into maturity. The Scriptures reveal Christ’s standard, his very image. As we behold him in Scripture, we are in the process of being conformed to Christlikeness. The Scriptures are the essential component in molding a person’s internal values, convictions, motivation, and character.
The Scriptures equip us with God’s wisdom, his absolute truth for life, and ministry to people.3 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:15 We are to communicate wisdom and truth, leave a legacy of wisdom in others, and be able to handle and use the Scriptures with love, power, and authority.
The Scriptures also activate God’s divine resources for bringing internal transformation in the lives of others. They are His divine weapons for breaking the strongholds of the enemy.4 Hebrews 4:12; 2 Cor. 10:4-5 We need to trust the Spirit to use the Scriptures to do their living and active work in the lives of people.
A family memory!
I remember so vividly one of our early tenting experiences as a family. I was speaking at a weekend college retreat on the importance of the Word of God in our life. Bev and I had decided that camping on the conference grounds would be a great opportunity to build happy family memories with our two young daughters.
We arrived late at night when darkness prevailed and everyone had gone to bed, so no one was available to give us direction as to where we could pitch our tent. Like a typical macho male, I took the task in hand, selecting what I thought would be a good place away from the rest of the cabins. After putting up the tent by the headlights on the car and firmly pounding in the tent stakes, we finally got settled. When Bev inquired whether we were in a good place, I replied, “Everything will be fine; let’s just get to bed.”
A storm and a train
In the middle of the night, we woke up to a wild storm with lightning, torrents of rain, and crying kids. Suddenly above that roar, we heard a loud whistle seemingly coming right at us. You’re right –a train was coming closer to us by the moment! The girls’ crying escalated as the sound of the train got louder and louder. It seemed as though it would come right through our tent. The ground vibrated while we huddled together as the train sped by us. It had missed us but by how much?
As daybreak came, we quickly exited the tent to find out we had camped about 30 feet from the railroad track. It was a memorable family night together, to say the least! But we decided together to find a safer place for our remaining nights.
Storms loosen the stakes
When we went to pull up the tent stakes for the move, we discovered weathering the storm had taken its toll on the stakes, loosening them. So, when we found a better spot for our tent, we made sure to drive the stakes down even further than before – especially since we heard another storm was headed our way. The rest of the weekend the storms loosened the stakes every night. We learned a great spiritual lesson in regard to how key the stakes were and how they needed to be driven down again and again for our tent to be stable.
Anchors in life
I am convinced that there are some major value stakes in our life that need to be driven down again and again in regard to the Scriptures. If we are to be transformed by the Scriptures, there needs to be an initial commitment – a covenant with God, if you will, regarding the place of the Scriptures in our lives. Then periodically we need to tighten down those stakes. The winds of a postmodern, relativistic culture that is addicted to felt needs, the storms and troubles of life, the constant bombardment of the media on our thinking, and our enemy Satan with his subtle tactics, undermine the Scriptures. They erode and loosen little by little those critical stakes in our lives.
What are these critical stakes or values to hold and anchor us in life storms? The following commitments to the Scripture need to be initially driven down by decision, set as the default mode, and intentionally and periodically re-driven down in our hearts.
Values that anchor our lives
- The Scriptures are my final authority. The Scriptures are the final authority for truth in my life and ministry. They are inspired by God, and therefore I will submit my mind to think the way Scriptures teach. I will value them highly. I will prize, delight in, love, respect, rejoice over and treasure the Scriptures.5 Isaiah 66:2; Psalm 1:2-3; Prov. 2:1-5
- The Scriptures are continually taught to me by the Spirit. The Scriptures are understood, revealed and taught by the Spirit of God and not by my intellect, or experience. Therefore, I will continually seek God, crying out to Him for understanding and wisdom.6John 14:26; Prov. 2:3; Eph. 1:17; Psalms 119:18
- The Scriptures will be my daily, essential food. The Scriptures are essential living food, the only food that will nourish my eternal soul and reveal God’s wisdom for my life and ministry. Therefore, I will seek to diligently and continually nourish myself with the Word and embrace its wisdom.7 1 Peter 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 4: 6-8
- I will continually equip myself with the Scriptures. I will seek to proactively equip myself with the Scriptures, mastering them as much as possible in my lifetime, so that I might first know Christ, and then be able to use the Scriptures effectively in life and in ministry.8 2 Timothy 2:15
Values that anchor effective ministry
- I will trust the Spirit’s work by the Scriptures. The Scriptures are empowered and activated by the Spirit, giving them the innate power to convict and change the inner heart. Therefore, I will trust and use them in my ministry regardless of what my peers do, or the culture endorses. They are the sword of the Spirit, to implement His purposes in us.9 Eph. 6:17, Hebrews 4:12
- I will continue to develop my Word gift – teaching, exhortation, or prophesy. My desire is to be the most effective communicator of the Word of God that I can be. I want God to cause the hearts of people to burn for him when I teach. Therefore, I will allow him to keep the gifts that He has given me sharp and growing.
Transformation by developing internal convictions from the Scriptures
Feed themselves from the Scriptures
Help people learn how to feed themselves in the Scriptures, rather than looking to others to feed them. (See other blog posts on this blog on the importance of self-feeding, particularly among cross-cultural missionaries.) It is vitally important to get them to the point where they can observe, interpret, and apply the Scriptures on their own. The best teaching and hearing are important, but they will never bring about maturity alone. Transformation comes as they feed themselves from the Scriptures.
Teach them how to build a Scriptural savings account (reservoir), not just a checking account, to nourish, continually feed, and minister out of the rest of their lives. Help them to develop a lifelong plan to master the Scriptures as much as they can in their lifetime.
Identify their learning style
Help them to identify the method of interacting with the Bible (hearing, reading, studying, or memorizing) that best nourishes them. Then encourage them to focus on this method in their lifetime. They will likely not be equally good at using all these methods. Instead, because of their learning style, they will prefer and benefit most from one or two of them. But meditation is essential for all. For without meditation, the benefits of all other methods diminish.
Communicate biblical values and absolutes rather than non-essentials such as personal opinions or methods. Teach biblical principles, not culturally relative perspectives. This is best done in a creative way through problem-solving, case studies, story-telling, and asking significant questions.
Let a person wrestle with the answers to their questions and problems, before giving the answer. Convictions come through their own personal study and reflection. The route between head knowledge and heart conviction is the route of meditation. Involving people actively in the learning process, and engaging them in active dialogue increases learning and ownership.
Let them discover truth, rather than it always coming from you as the mentor. Discuss with them the passages they are reading in the Scriptures. In so doing, their internal convictions and life character will grow through their personal discoveries. Once they have discovered them, they will own their convictions and be responsible to live them out and share them. This is what the word “entrust” means in 2 Timothy 2:2 – to actively engage them in the process of learning so that they own it and will then share it with conviction with others.
Teach people to go to the Scriptures for answers to life and ministry, rather than first asking other people. When they ask you a question, suggest a portion of Scripture for them to study and then discuss their conclusions. Point them to the Scriptures as they go through life experiences, helping them interpret life experiences by the Scriptures.
Discover their life messages
God has been forming in all of us his artwork. This artwork includes the life messages that we need to identify, develop, and share with others.10 See this helpful blog post about discovering your life messages. So, help those you mentor identify three to five of their own life messages. Then guide them in how they might study them and develop them in the Scriptures.
Share your excitement and personal discoveries in the Scriptures with those you mentor. But use the Scriptures appropriately in love and at the right time. If a person is in crisis, they need comfort and understanding before we communicate Scriptural truth.
The Scriptures are one of the major ingredients in empowering growth and transformation in those we are mentoring. Therefore, they must not be ignored in the process of mentoring. They are the standards of reference for helping people interpret reality and life experiences. The Scriptures are also God’s powerful dynamic agent, used by His Spirit for internally transforming the character and direction of a person’s life.
Therefore, be an Ezra!