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5 Things To Look For In A Mentor

Written By Deborah Fox, Australia

I wasn’t born when The Karate Kid was first released, but I’m thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had to watch it growing up. It taught me the importance of listening to the wisdom and advice of those who were older and more experienced. The seasoned sensei, Mr Miyagi, uses repetitive, everyday tasks—like painting the fence and waxing the car—to prepare his young protege, Daniel, with the skills he needed for his first karate tournament. It took time and incredible patience, but eventually the training paid off.

In a similar way, Christian mentoring is about allowing the skills and experience of those who have gone before us to help us grow more into the people God created us to be. Mentors are advisors we can look up to and trust.

I have been meeting with my mentor, Sarah, once a month, and it has not been the intimidating process I once feared it to be. You see, I used to have this idea that Christian mentoring would demand a high level of time and effort that would leave me mentally and emotionally exhausted. But that hasn’t been my experience at all.

When Sarah and I meet, we catch up in one other’s homes or at a local cafe. Over a coffee and a few laughs, we discuss how I’m doing with my health, job, family, and walk with God. We’ve also been reading through the book of Ruth together and looking at how the stories of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz shape their identities. Growing in my understanding of who I am in Christ is something I would like to work on, and I’m so grateful Sarah is helping me on that journey.

Mentoring relationships may look quite different for other people. But for the most part, a mentor is a guide who can disciple you as you draw closer to God. There’s a different level of respect and trust than those of family or friends. Mentors encourage you to grow into the person God is calling you to be. They’re not your counselor or teacher, but their wisdom and experience in life and faith can help shape your journey as a follower of Christ. They encourage you and walk alongside you as you develop spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading the Bible, and spending time with God.

One of the best examples of mentoring in the Bible is the relationship between Paul and Timothy. They traveled together, and Paul recognized Timothy’s passion for the gospel and gift of leadership. Paul shares his own experiences with Timothy, being vulnerable with his young protege to model humility and grace (1 Timothy 1:15-16). He also encourages him to hold firm to his faith and keep doing the work he was called to despite being young (1 Timothy 4:11). Paul knew that, by training Timothy in spiritual maturity, he could help others to do the same. We all need a mentor like Paul to guide us in our walk with God and become mature disciples.

So what should you look for in a mentor? Here are a few things I’ve discovered along the way which might help you in your search:

 

1. Mutual Trust and Confidentiality

Journeying with another person requires sharing some of the deepest parts of your life—sharing your struggles, fears, and dreams. You need to have confidence in one another and mutual respect.

I had this in mind when I approached Sarah. We served together on the same Sunday School team, and I got the opportunity to know her as a more mature follower of Jesus. She shared her story with me and I was amazed by how many similar struggles we’d both experienced.

When my church encouraged everyone to seek a mentor, Sarah was an obvious choice for me. She understood me, and I knew I could trust her implicitly. Similarly, when Sarah shares personal things about her life with me, she knows that I will always keep our discussions in confidence.

 

2. Spiritual Maturity

It almost goes without saying, but you need to seek out a mentor who practices what they preach.

Hebrew 13:7 says to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” If you are to model yourself on someone else’s actions, you need to agree with the example they are setting. Do they attend a Bible study? Are they living with integrity? Do they put God first in the decisions they make? Are they generous, loving, and passionate about the gospel? Are the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control evident in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23)?

If your potential mentors are not actively living out the faith they proclaim, cross them off your list. Sarah is someone I want to emulate. She shines the light of Christ by the way she lives, and it makes me want to improve my own faith.

 

3. Relationship Boundaries

It’s important to like and admire someone you spend one-on-one time with, but boundaries are important when it comes to choosing a mentor.

Years ago, a woman I worked with offered to mentor me. She wasn’t much older than me, and we had a number of mutual friends we would hang out with. While I enjoyed catching up with her, it was difficult to maintain an easy-going friendship while simultaneously being mentored by her. We also tended to fall into the trap of gossiping about people we both knew, and I would come away from our time together feeling like I had more issues to work through than when we first began.

Just like the relationship between Paul and Timothy, I would recommend choosing an older mentor removed from your regular friend groups, someone who is able to look objectively into your life and provide sound advice. If you feel like your relationship limits how much you can share with them, don’t chose them as your mentor.

 

4. A Good Listener

There is a well-known saying that God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). While your mentor will no doubt have good advice for you along the way, it is also important that they listen to you and that you feel comfortable opening up to them. When someone understands where you’re coming from, they can offer you the best kind of support.

As someone being mentored, you also need to hone your listening skills and be willing to take on advice to improve. And know that your mentor’s advice comes from a place of love.

However, bear in mind that a mentor is not necessarily an expert. They may provide helpful advice and feedback, but they’re not infallible. A good mentor will be aware of this and be open to rebuke. You may also find that your mentor is able to learn new insights from spending time with you.

 

5. Someone Who Will Both Encourage and Challenge You

As disciples of Jesus, our faith cannot stay in a state of infancy. We need to keep growing and developing as we expand our knowledge of God’s Word and deepen our walk with Him. We are encouraged to move from spiritual milk onto solid food—an active faith of substance (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). Having a mentor has helped me to see how I was neglecting my regular quiet time with God. I’m now making a conscious effort to block out time each day to be still and talk with my heavenly Father. This has brought to light aspects of my character I would like to improve, but has also given me confidence to use the unique gifts God has given me for His glory.

 

Having someone help me navigate through life from a Christian perspective has been invaluable. Are there areas of your faith you would like to grow in? Why not consider finding a mentor? There may be people within your church or workplace you could approach. Youth leaders may know some older people in the congregation you could connect with. You might like to meet someone for a coffee and get to know them a bit better first, before you decide whether you want to pursue an ongoing mentor/mentee relationship.

Jesus’ call in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) is not to make lukewarm fans, but disciples who actively imitate the life and teaching of Christ. The training of disciples also creates a multiplication effect as they are then able to train and invest in the lives of others. Like it says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Finding a mentor may be one of the best decisions you make as you grow in spiritual maturity and help others to do the same.

When Family Conflicts Turned Us Into Enemies

Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Four years ago, I was staying with my husband’s family. I was a new mom to a baby boy, and there were many things I had to learn.

My in-laws, naturally, kept a close watch on their grandson. They would often correct me on how to carry the baby or hold his milk bottle. As a perfectionist, I hated being corrected. But at the same time, I felt pressured to perform well, even when I was tired.

This pressure, combined with lack of sleep due to the baby needing milk in the middle of the night, really put a toll on me. I snapped easily and became very temperamental. Behind closed doors, I tried to share my problems with my husband, but he suggested that I should try to be less temperamental and just go along with his parents’ suggestions. I didn’t feel very loved at that point. I tried to put up with the circumstances, but things eventually went from bad to worse.

After some time, I started shouting at my in-laws for putting pressure on me. I didn’t just lose my temper once, but very often during that time. And so I was labelled as a rude daughter-in-law. I felt like everyone in the home was against me. I walled myself in and hated talking to people, because it seemed like any talk easily led to quarrels. My in-laws were supposed to be family to me, but instead became like enemies. Home was supposed to be a place of comfort and warmth, but it felt like a war zone.

Eventually, a relative heard about my plight and shared the gospel with me, which really helped me to process what I was going through. This relative became my spiritual mentor, and when we talked about my situation, she pointed me to prayer and God’s Word. She first reminded me that God was in control in the midst of this mess, and I was not to blame my in-laws, since God was the one who allowed this mess for a greater purpose. Although I did not see the purpose at that time, I believed that God was sovereign. The family situation was messy and destructive at the time, and I knew that the only way to redeem the situation was to go to Jesus, who promises abundant life (John 10:10).

As I read more of the Bible, I realized that I was commanded to show respect to my parents and my elders (Ephesians 6:1, 1 Peter 5:5). Letting go of my bitterness, however, was not easy for me—the prolonged battle in the family had already left me drained, wounded, broken, and especially bitter. I did not marry to be wounded, to be mistreated, or to be without a voice in the family. I wanted revenge. I wanted the family to suffer like I suffered, so that they would know how I felt and so make things right for me.

But then I came across 2 Corinthians 10:5, which urges us to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. So I decided that each time I had bitter thoughts in my head, I would do exactly that. I made it a habit to do so as often as I needed.

I tried to apologize to my in-laws. But every time I apologized, I would soon lose my temper again. Because of how I used to treat my in-laws, they were often stern with me, and it was very stressful. I often became bitter again and would accidentally offend my in-laws with the wrong choice of words when speaking in haste, causing further misunderstanding. As hard as I tried, I was often quick to lose my temper. Each time I met my family, I had to pray for courage and strength.

But these experiences have shown me my human weakness and taught me to rely on the Lord, who promises that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made prefect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I reminded myself that my identity is in Christ alone, and not defined by my circumstances. God’s Word gave me strength.

Though I moved out of the house after the first year, the struggle continued for four years before I was reconciled with my husband and in-laws. The four years where God allowed our strife turned out to be my maturing years, and I experienced real spiritual growth.

When I first hear the term “spiritual battle,” it frightened me. But my experience has taught me that God’s love for us is unchanging. A spiritual battle is not necessarily about casting out demons, but a battle for our hearts and our souls. God had a great purpose in allowing me to go through those difficult four years, and I saw His purpose for me at the end of it.

Through my spiritual battle, God has taught me that victory is through Him. I was reminded that even though we may face many challenges in this life, God who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). When we rely only on God—reading the Bible and seeking Him in prayer—He will bring about His will in our lives and sanctify us in the process so that we will grow more and more in Christ-likeness.

Seek, Nurture, Flourish

Title: Seek, Nurture, Flourish
Materials: Digital Collage
Artwork by: Rachel Summers (www.rachelsummersillustration.com)
Description: This series is inspired by a collection of verses with a united message: growing comes from knowing. At its simplest, if we want to grow in faith we must keep filling ourselves with God’s word. Faith is not passive, and each image shows the figure acting in response to God; seeking, nurturing, bearing fruit.

 

Seeking

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Faith is not passive, blind or without reason. It is a choice that starts with seeking God’s word, and it leads us to him. The more we know, the more our faith grows.

“Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7)

 

 

Nurture

God’s word is often described as a seed planted in our hearts, and we nurture it daily through prayer and Bible reading. The more we know God, the more our faith grows and flourishes.

“Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1)

 

Bearing Fruit

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5)

Just as a tree is known by the fruit it produces, we are known by our fruit: our actions show where our heart belongs. As we remain in God, our lives will bear good fruit, “fruit that will last” (John 15) and we can rest in his provision.

ODJ: no expert

January 28, 2015 

READ: Acts 18:24-28 

[Apollos] taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit. . . . However, he knew only about John’s baptism (v.25).

My daughter’s preschool teacher asked me to speak to the children about being a writer. Visiting parents were being presented to the class as ‘experts’ in their professions. I agreed to talk to the children, although being an ‘expert’ unnerved me a bit. I didn’t feel like an expert. That week, I’d been frustrated by a lack of good ideas and wondered if I would ever write anything of value again! I thought, You’re no expert. You’re not qualified to speak.

When it comes to talking about our faith in Jesus, many of us don’t feel fit to open our mouths. Fortunately, theological expertise isn’t required to speak for God. Apollos was a man who “taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit. . . . However, he knew only about John’s baptism” (Acts 18:25). As a Jewish man, Apollos had studied the Old Testament in detail and he knew the Scriptures well (v.24), but he had incomplete information about the Saviour.

When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos’ outspoken preaching, they “took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately” (v.26). With his expanded knowledge, Apollos fashioned formidable arguments and presented them in public debates. He wanted his fellow Jews to understand that Jesus was the Messiah.

Apollos may not have been an expert in every area of his faith, but he boldly proclaimed what he did know. He also was willing to continue learning what was true. Like Apollos, may we be teachable and bold as we “carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to [us]” (2 Timothy 1:14). Even if we’ve never been to Bible college or if we find parts of our faith difficult to explain, God will help us to be effective as we speak for Him. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

365-day plan› Genesis 44:1-34

MORE
Look up Exodus 4:11-12 to see what happened when Moses hesitated to speak for God. Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 to see what Paul said about Christian qualifications. 
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On a scale of 1-10, how willing are you to invest time in learning more about your faith? What areas of God’s Word might you need to investigate more thoroughly? 

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