Are you a teacher? Stop for a moment before you answer that question. If you are like me, you’re quick to say, “No. I’m not a teacher,” and move on to something that’s more relevant to you. Think about the people you have had interactions with in the last two weeks? My list would look like this:
- My family
- My coworkers
- My neighbors
- People who go to the same places I do (stores, parks, church, etc.)
- People I interact with online
Think about your list. What did you do or say that you may have “taught” someone. Directly, or indirectly, we do teach others when we interact. For me it’s a little scary to think about some of these interactions and what I may have “taught”. What did I reveal about myself, my opinions, my motives, my beliefs…perhaps something not so appealing or desirable?
One time I was exhausted from a long workday, looking forward to getting home to my safe-haven of quietness and much needed solitude. My heart sunk when unexpected guests came to the house. I wish I could say I was compassionate enough to be kind and entertaining. I confess I was not. Later, I soon regretted my actions and apologized for my sore lack of the graces of hospitality.
What did I teach my guests at that moment? That it was ok for me to care more about myself than I did about them? I certainly didn’t teach them anything about Jesus. When He was in similar circumstances, He was moved with compassion for the droves of people following Him around. He saw and valued them as people needing care, needing a shepherd.
Sometimes our teaching is direct, like teaching a child to tie a shoe, or teaching a new process to a coworker. Unfortunately, in my old life, things I intentionally taught others were actually harmful. While the example I gave earlier may not have destroyed the persons involved, I am certain that when I have excused my own bad behavior, encouraging others to behave in the same way, I did them harm. God has forgiven and freed me from those bad choices and habits, and yet it pains me to know others I “taught” are still trapped in those sins.
What would it cost me to accept more responsibility for what I teach others? A beautiful teaching relationship, like father-son, is described in 2nd Timothy. Paul the Apostle knew Timothy’s mother and grandmother, strong in their faith, and he wanted to intentionally teach Timothy how to grow strong in his faith, moral character, and effective teaching. Paul mentored and encouraged younger Timothy in at least three ways to teach others both directly and indirectly:
Live a Spirit-filled life (2 Tim 1:9) Paul reminded Timothy that he holds a gift from God within himself, within his own soul: the living and holy Spirit of Jesus who comes to live within every true believer. Think of a dark, empty cave where no light exists. You can’t even see your own hand in front of your eyes. I picture my soul like that before the Spirit of Jesus was living in me. Once I invited Him to come and live in me, my dark soul-cave was flooded with light, like a bright candle burning within me forcing away all the darkness in my life.
Paul taught Timothy that this to-be-cherished Presence of Christ within him would encourage, strengthen, reassure, comfort, and teach him self-discipline. The Holy Spirit would initiate godly desires and empower him to live them out. He would learn holy, healthy ways, living for the purposes of God, and the ability to do so would come purely by the grace and strength of God within him.
Train to be godly (1 Tim 4:7) Paul taught “train yourself to be godly,” comparing the effort required for godly training to that of physical training or working out. He says “we labor and strive” to set an example for other believers “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” Working out physically is popular, but it’s not common to hear talk about godly workouts! Paul wrote, physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, … for both the present life and the life to come.” Working out physically has value while you’re living in your earthly body, but the godly workout has value forever in eternity.
How does that work? How do I do a godly workout? Paul taught Timothy to do a godly workout like this:
- Know the Scripture – read daily, memorize portions, study the Bible with others.
- Live like Jesus lived – Jesus was the embodiment, the fulfillment of Scripture. Read about his life, what he did or didn’t do, how he interacted with others, the things he said or didn’t say to others. Practice those same things.
- Make godliness a priority: Paul wrote “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching,” …“be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them…” “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them…”
- Become the teacher – Paul continues “……because if you do (these things), you will save both yourself AND YOUR HEARERS.”
Love others (1 Tim 1:5) Paul taught Timothy to actively love others. This deep love is a choice, not a feeling. This love grows from the Presence of God within. Causing us to do the right things, to speak up, to teach others the truths that we learn about, and begin practicing in our own life. An increasing knowledge of God’s truth in Scripture gives us an awareness of counterfeit or ungodly lies. The whole motivation for how to interact with others was to be “love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Have a great godly workout! May God make us all great teachers to everyone in our lives!