Her name was Kathy.
As a young writer at a local newspaper, I had dreams of changing the world, aspirations to mold minds and hearts with truth … and a lot to learn. It was Kathy who allowed me the freedom to dream, showed me how to present stories truthfully, and gently helped me through my immaturity. She was my mentor. Well, she wouldn’t have called herself that. And I didn’t think of her in that light at the time. But she was. In the land of journalism, her title was “editor.”
In our little corner of the news office, Kathy would take our local, human interest stories and show me how to create timeless, surprisingly deep pieces that could reach much farther than our central California city. Hers was the ability to inspire, to take the tiniest detail and make it shine, to allow readers to glimpse the beauty of the everyday. Her editing style was encouraging, making comments of both support and suggestion. I was never meant to be her clone and she didn’t try. Kathy knew how to keep my style intact while helping me write better – an ability that is extremely difficult to attain.
During my tenure writing under Kathy, I joined a women’s writing organization called California Press Women. Every January they would encourage members to send in newspaper articles printed the previous year for competition in a variety of categories: education writing, human interest, investigative reporting, specialty pieces, and more. Kathy would read through my year’s worth of articles, help me pick the best ones, and have my writing represented in as many categories as possible.
One February, Kathy had a call come through to her desk. I later learned it was the president of the state Press Women association. As she listened to the speaker on the other end of the line and asked a few cryptic questions, I watched her smile become a grin. Suddenly, Kathy jumped out of her seat, slapped the wall next to her desk, bobbed up and down on her feet, and tried to squeal and laugh while listening to whatever more was being said by the caller. She glanced at me from time to time, and continued with her mysterious, short responses. Conversation over, she sat quietly back at her computer, smiling enigmatically but saying nothing.
Several weeks later I discovered the reason behind her suppressed excitement. Not only had I won several first-place awards at the state level, one of my pieces grabbed a sweepstakes award for California. That particular article was sent on to national competition. It ended up winning first in its category. My husband and I took a whirlwind trip to Lansing, Michigan to accept the award.
I was stunned. Kathy was ecstatic.
Kathy not only taught me, fixed my writing, and encouraged me to write more, she was my biggest cheerleader, taking none of the credit as she constantly turned the spotlight onto me. That’s what needs to be at the heart of any mentoring encounter – a belief that the one you are mentoring is worth the investment, and that when they achieve, grow, or reach an amazing milestone, you are their biggest fan.
Paul was an intense mentor. His letters reflect a passion for God’s truth, a powerful ache for the church, and a deep love for Timothy. As you study, look for not only his guidance, his words of admonition and encouragement, but also moments of intentionally rooting for his “true son in the faith.” Imagine having Paul as your biggest fan. Better than that, discover how he points all of us to the One who is the ultimate cheering section on our behalf.
DAYS 1 and 2
I. Read 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 17-19.
At the close of chapter three of this first letter to Timothy was a beautiful, ancient hymn. As chapter four opens, Paul brings back a difficult subject, one to which New Testament writers refer frequently. Instead of holding fast to the words of Truth, the Holy Spirit reveals through Paul that fact that some will fall away from the faith, the church, the fellowship. They will pay attention to deceitful spirits. They will follow doctrines of demons.
There is more than one way to become a false teacher. Some are purposeful in their twisting of scripture and are not even saved in the first place. Some only look at scripture in light of their feelings and their hurts. Others may look at changes in culture and think a reinterpretation of Holy writ is necessary. All are trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in the lives of those they pastor, lead, or mentor. The result is a deadly leading astray of those younger in the faith.
- In the “later times,” how will we recognize the falling away Paul mentions?
- Who are the ones keeping such things in the forefront? How does Paul describe them?
- The Philips Translation uses the term “spiritually seduced.” What does that mean to you?
- Has your conscience been seared in the past? How did it manifest itself?
- Now read Psalm 51:10-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5; Ephesians 5:15-17; Jude 20-21.What specific counsel do these verses offer you today?
“It’s important in the plan and purpose of God that the church have a tender conscience and not stoop to such low levels.”
J. Vernon McGee1
II. Read Hebrews 13:9; Colossians 2:16, 23.
In Timothy’s day, some of this hypocritical teaching opposing God included things such as forbidding marriage and commanding abstinence from certain foods. Paul points out that both were lovingly created for us to be gratefully partaken of and shared.
God creates and gives good things, and we are to receive with gratitude what’s been given. Any question as to whether a believer should refrain or abstain from partaking in any thing is settled by an understanding of the Word and Spirit-led prayer. This way, nothing good we have will be misused. The abuse is what’s bad – both the over indulging in or the forbidding of God’s creation. Sin caused imperfection in creation; our continued sin keeps creation from being an instrument of God’s glory in our lives.
Author and pastor, John Piper even adds another aspect to the idea of abuse: the turning of God’s good gifts themselves into idols.
“The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.
And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for
the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for
God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”2
Re-reading 1 Timothy 4:3, it’s interesting to see what the two topics of false teaching directly impact – family and fellowship. Within a community of believers it’s these two things that provide a picture of and haven for unity and love, helping individual Christians to stand up in the truth of Scripture against the twisted thinking of this world.
- According to James 1:16-18, what comes to us from the Father?
- In that same passage, James tells us God never changes. Malachi 3:6 affirms that truth. In what context is the Malachi verse written?
- How can you see both family and fellowship being attacked in the lives of women around you?
- What good things have you seen ruined by the world’s work and perspective?
- From the Colossians 2:23 verse, how does Paul say we can guard against this?
- Look at Psalm 92:1 and Philippians 4:6. In what way can you express gratitude for God’s creation and gifts given to us?
DAYS 3 and 4
I. Read 1 Timothy 4:6-11; Psalm 37:9-11; Proverbs 19:21-23; Philippians 2:19-22, 4:4-9.
As a mentor, you will be helping those under you if you do two things: remind them of the warnings from 1 Timothy 4:1-5, and show yourself to be strong in the truth of the faith you’ve absorbed and to the sound teaching you’ve followed.
“Steer clear of all these stupid, godless fictions…”
(1 Timothy 4:7. Philips Translation)
In our house, we trained our then toddlers and elementary-aged kids that, “stupid” was a bad word. It’s a good policy for younger age groups who tend to use such interesting and compelling words…on each other. Now a high school senior and college junior, they know that a lot of things in life are indeed “stupid.” But it’s not enough to simply acknowledge and avoid wrong. That puts everything back to neutral which is still ineffective. We must chose, purpose and act to bring godliness into our lives.
- In verse 6, what characterizes a good servant of Christ?
- What are some godless fictions you face in your life that could hinder your spiritual walk?
- How can you lead another woman to putting her mind on growing in godliness?
II. Read Luke 13:24; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27; Colossians 1:29, 4:12.
Paul must have enjoyed a good sporting event. He often uses athletic terms, as he does in Timothy 4:8 and 10 with words such as “physical training” or “bodily discipline.” And in 1 Corinthians Paul uses the example of the ancient Olympic Games to emphasize the work we need to do in this life to stay competitive and on the right track spiritually.
CrossFit is a highly popular form of physical training not only among professional athletes, but also in high school and university sports programs, among weekend warriors, and those who simply want to stay strong as their bodies begin to show signs of age and wear. According to an article by Coach Greg Glassman, CrossFit creators sought “to build a program that would best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—prepare them not only for the unknown but for the unknowable as well.”3
The CrossFit model is basically what the Bible describes for ideal spiritual fitness. Correctly done, it offers optimal performance in many areas of fitness. It enhances an individual’s competency for multiple tasks. It creates an ability to be successful in diverse and random situations.4
- Continuing on with the idea of training ourselves in godliness, re-read the second half of 1 Timothy 4:7. What does your spiritual fitness program look like?
- How can you make yourself more prepared for whatever temptation the world offers and whatever tasks the Lord has for you?
- Describe a time in your life when you weren’t prepared.
I. Read 1 Timothy 4:12-16; 1 Corinthians 16:10-11.
“Just.” This word has multiple meaning. It can show a nobility of character, someone with integrity. Another use of the word is when something has righteous purpose such as a “just defense” or a “just punishment.” There’s fairness, impartiality, and honesty.
But “just” can also be one of the most disrespectful words in the English language. Paul implies that Timothy has been listening to disgruntled, perhaps older people in his congregation and using the term on himself. The words “look down on” translate the same as “think lightly of,” “disrespect,” and even “despise.” (See also Matthew 18:10 and Romans 2:4.) When Timothy – or any of us – listened to the negative voices around him, “just” becomes whiny, ungrateful and dishonoring to God. How often do we say, “I’m just a woman,” or “I’m just a mom”? “I’m just a wife” can completely degrade your marriage and your man. “I’m just a teenager” (or “youth” in Timothy’s case) implies an excuse for ignorance and impotence, and fodders the belief that God-given dreams and desires don’t matter. “I’m just a pastor’s wife,” “I’m just a kindergarten teacher,” “I’m just an assistant Sunday School worker,” and the list goes on. Don’t throw out what God has done and given you. Don’t dishonor Him, because that’s just what you’re doing.
- What are the things on which Paul urges Timothy in verse 12?
- What insights do you gather comparing verse 12 to the 1 Corinthians passage?
- Before whom do you need to be an example?
- In front of which aspect of your life have you put the term “just”?
- How can you encourage someone you mentor to move away from this term in their life?
II. Read 2 Chronicles 24; Proverbs 15:31-33.
Once a mentor is out of the picture, it’s easy for the person who was mentored to ignore advice that was given. The story of Joash is a perfect example. Crowned king at age 7, Joash needed and had a godly mentor in Jehoiada. God even granted Jehoiada long life – he lived to be 130, an uncommon age by that time – so that Joash would have a solid foundation from which to rule. But once his mentor died, Joash chose to forget what he’d been taught and follow extremely bad advisors. In his absence, Paul wanted more for Timothy.
- List the action verbs or verb phrases from 1 Timothy 4:13-16 that emphasize how Timothy should be spending his time while Paul is away.
- What good did Joash do during his reign of Judah? How did Joash forsake the Lord in the latter part of his reign? When did the change occur?
- Where was Jehoiada buried? Where did the people bury Joash?
- How does Joash’s life illustrate the need to follow Paul’s action verbs at the end of 1 Timothy 4?
Whether you are a mentor, seeking a mentor, or praying and training to someday be a mentor, it’s important that the truths of what are being taught remain the focus. An editor can’t make me a better writer if I never follow her advice. And a writer won’t improve under the mentoring of an editor who has lost interest in honing her own craft. Spiritually speaking, you can only give what you take in, and you can only become that which you’ve determined in your own heart.
1. McGee, J. Vernon. Thru The Bible With J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville. 1983.
2. Piper, John. A Hunger for God. Crossway. Wheaton, Ill. 2013. pg. 14.
3. Greg Glassman, CrossFit Journal, www.CrossFit.com, April 2007.
4. “Foundations,” Greg Glassman, www.CrossFit.com, April 1, 2002.
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