Through tears, your friend shares that her marriage is in turmoil. In a moment of vulnerability your neighbor shares that she is interested in learning what the Bible is all about. Your child struggles to overcome image issues every time she gets dressed or has time out with friends. A woman approaches you about the need for Bible study teachers and asks for your involvement. The ministry opportunities abound around us, and the weight of burden on our hearts often gives us the desire to help. You know that the Bible gives true hope, but your level of spiritual maturity seems too low for the needs around you. Do you hesitate to lead others with God’s Word because you feel unqualified?
The charge is clear; “Let no one despise your youth,” whether physical or spiritual (1 Tim 4:12).We often think of this as applying to others looking at us, but it also informs the way we look at ourselves. While we’re quick to applaud young Samuel’s response to the call of God, we’re even quicker to close the door to God’s call on our lives. Or like Thomas we demand to feel the side of Jesus with our own hands, because we doubt the work he’s doing in us.
Feel too sinful to help?
Of course, we must use caution. James makes it clear that “not everyone should teach,” but God has called believers to disciple (Jas 3:1). Being unfit, weak, and sinful are the qualifications we passed for needing salvation, so it isn’t surprising that we feel inept to help others. The difference is that, with salvation, God has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and calls us help each other grow. A person immersed in Scripture and obedient to his Word is fertile ground for God’s use, so grow in the grace God has given you.
No impressive resume?
I know how useless you may feel at first. God started my story with teaching and leading through prayer groups and Bible studies in college. If I could listen in on those groups now, I would probably grimace, but God is always the one doing the actual growth in everyone’s lives. We merely sow and encourage. Yes, we may look back and wonder if we did things right. We all will certainly make mistakes regardless of our maturity levels. Take comfort in the fact that the God who redeemed your life through salvation can redeem any missteps you take in a godly effort to lead others along in their knowledge and love for God. Also, the same community and church that you desire to see grow and thrive is the same group of people who are meant to keep you accountable. We are never alone either way.
Rely on God and his Word
Just like our middle school clothes, advice goes out of style pretty quickly, too. We must put all of our hope and trust in God, and the best way to live that out is by letting God’s inspired Word do the talking. Yes, people may need a counselor for topics you might feel inept to handle, but don’t feel like you have to get a “professional” to do everything. The confidence and love of a friend gives any outside help essential, valuable support. We shouldn’t just pass off our friends to someone else and forget about them. Pursue your friend with prayer and encouragement. Any believer can give that kind of loving care to another.
God never asks us to be Bible experts but rather weak vessels meant to be filled with the Word and poured out for others (2 Cor 4:7-11). God wants us to show our love for him by loving the people around us. When someone comes to us in need of spiritual nourishment we have the opportunity to show our faith in what God can do by our response.
So, what kind of spiritual fruit should be evident in your life if you want to teach, disciple, mentor, or counsel someone? Are you…
- Seeking God daily through Bible reading and prayer
- Attending a church that preaches God’s word faithfully and accurately
- Ministering to others with your spiritual gifts (Eph 4)
- Cultivating and displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24)
- Learning through extra resources when possible (books, classes, blogs, mentors, study groups, etc)
- Humbly obedient to the Bible
Of course, no one can perfectly emulate these qualifications. Christians don’t pursue perfection, but we do strive for holiness (1 Pet 1:15-16). While every Christian should be encouraging and serving others, spiritual leaders have the extra expectation of being able to say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Christ gave us his word and his Son to follow. God asks for us to emulate Christ as well so that we can lead others on the right path toward godliness. In a sense, these qualifications should intimidate us because no one perfectly measures up. This means every believer, even mature believers, need to seek growth in these areas for their own souls and for the souls that God brings into their lives.
Still growing in maturity?
Maybe you look at these qualifications see that you are lacking in obvious ways. If you don’t seek God daily through personal study of the Bible or communicate through prayer, take time to change and pursue him. If you don’t consistently fellowship with believers by going to church, start now. If you don’t serve your church family in any way, ask your pastor where you can help. Continue to evaluate the ways you can mature as a believer and grow your love for God so that he can equip you to lead others as well. While evaluating your life, you may realize your need for a strong, spiritual leader in your life. The goal of discipleship is to train disciplers, so seek a mentor or join a Bible study to become an effective discipler.
If we feel the weight of needing more maturity, consider the strength of God. God called Moses to speak to Pharoah for the Israeliites, but what was Moses’s response?
But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Ex 4:10-13)
God is the voice that heals, encourages, strengthens, rebukes, and surrenders a whole nation to his will. If you feel insignificant, look to Jesus, the great I AM who uses weak people to shine his glory.
Take up the cross and follow the path God has laid out for you, be it teacher, mentor, counselor, or simply friend. If God offers the opportunity, he means for you to take it.