Intentional – Lesson Eight

Posted on: February 23, 2015 Written by
Intentional – Lesson Eight
Photography by: CRSHELARE from iStock          

INTRODUCTION

Her name was Naomi. But it didn’t really matter, because she planned to have it legally changed anyway. Extreme loss while living in a harsh culture far from family and friends had planted in her a seed of doubt – doubt of her position, her value, and her future. Now, traveling wearily back to her homeland as a widow and twice-bereaved mother, that seed grew a weed of despair. A plan was forming. When she arrived home, if anyone should recognize her she would start fresh with a name that reflected her present state. Her current name meant “pleasant,” which in no way described her life. Her new name would be Mara. It meant “bitter,” a vivid term for the past several years but a state of being into which she was struggling not to descend.

She trudged northward with a heavy heart. But she didn’t travel alone.

Her daughter-in-law had insisted on coming with her. Even with Naomi’s current discouragement, over the years Naomi had given the young woman something – a deep desire to know and serve the God of Naomi’s people. Though herself a young widow, Ruth joined the journey from Moab back to the land of Judah. Not with bitterness, however, but with great hope.

Years earlier, after marrying a son of Naomi and Elimelech, Ruth had been eager to learn: cooking, cleaning, running a household, what it means to be a wife, and looking forward to children – which never came. During slower moments sewing or mending, Ruth was especially attentive to the stories Naomi told of her new family’s heritage: tales of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob were captivating. There was an excitement and urgency in the older woman’s voice as she taught her daughter-in-law about the feasts, sacrifices and traditions that set apart this family she had married into. But it was the discovery that behind all the stories and customs stood the God of all creation, the sustainer of His people, the provider and protector of His prized possession that captured Ruth’s imagination and heart. Even though she too was struggling with sorrow, she was eager to know even more of this God and His people, thanks to Naomi’s love and guidance.

Naomi put her hand over her mouth to stifle a sob as she walked. What was the point of all she’d been through? What would she face when she finally arrived home? Would God ever show Himself to her in a real way again? Naomi felt Ruth gently take her other hand and looked into the dark, contented eyes of this brave young woman who’d become a true daughter to her. A tiny smile tinged the corner of Naomi’s mouth, changing her countenance dramatically. Perhaps God had something in store after all.

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The story of Naomi and Ruth is a beautiful picture in the Old Testament of a woman mentoring a younger woman. We will have opportunity to explore the story further in this week’s study, but I want you to think about some questions as you get started: Why do you need a Titus 2 woman in your life? Why should you be a Titus 2 woman in the life of another? In this week’s lesson, look for ways God can work in you or move you so that He can put this kind of relationship in your life.

 

 

DAYS 1 and 2

I. Read Titus 2:1-10.

The way the New Living Translation puts forth Titus 2:1 articulates well the essence of what this week’s chapter is about: “But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching.” Good character doesn’t just come. It’s developed. Good character doesn’t spring from wrong philosophies and false teaching. It’s grounded in the eternal Word of God. And good character doesn’t last after a one-time lesson or talk. It’s nurtured.

The Lord promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). That includes the physical and spiritual. In the physical realm we need food, clothing, and shelter (Psalm 68:6, 10; Matthew 6:30; 1 Timothy 6:8). He will provide. In the spiritual realm we need a constant supply of Scripture (the milk and meat of the Word), good works that glorify Him (the clothing of sanctification), and a safe haven within which we can share, confide and grow (the shelter of the church body). Again, He provides.

Intentionally mentoring as opportunity arises promotes all three aspects – spiritual food, spiritual clothing and spiritual shelter – in both you and each woman you mentor. We are filling needs as the Father’s emissaries. And, according to Paul’s letter to Titus, each age category has its own goal for growth and giving within the church.

1. What are the six characteristics Paul lists for older men?
2. Skipping to verses 6-8, what are the younger men to be like?
3. What does Paul imply to Timothy in verse 7 with the phrase “show yourself”?
4. Why is it so important that speech be solid, and without reproach or condemnation (verse 8)?
5. What does Paul list for bondservants or slaves in verse 9?
6. Choose one character trait Paul listed that was unique to each of these three groups – older men, younger men, bond slaves – and tell briefly why it would be important for that particular group.

 

II. Re-read Titus 2:3-5; read Isaiah 58:10-12; look over some verses that offer definitions of words used in the Titus passage – for “pure” (some versions may use “innocent”) Proverbs 11:3, 21:8; for “sensible” Proverbs 14:15, 18, for “gossip” Proverbs 16:28, 18:8; for “subject” or “submission” Luke 2:51; Ephesians 5:15-30; 1 Peter 3:1, 5, 5:5.

The text in Titus 2 is a much-loved passage for ideal mentoring relationships within the church, especially for women. But it’s interesting to note that the older men are not expressly instructed here to teach the younger men, though it is implied in that they are to be good examples. Yet the older, godly women are given specific, almost step-by-step directives. There are things in a woman’s life that only another woman can address. So Titus, Timothy, any other pastor or elder in a church needed to give instructions to those who could make the biggest impact within this particular facet of the congregation.

Feelings of inadequacy stifle many of us at times. Yes, we’re fellow women, but what do we say? How can we help? What if we’re irrelevant? The call is just too big. There’s nothing we can really do. Yet, the instructions remain. Dr. Jeff Meyers, in his book on mentoring, answers these excuses:

“When we complain that we’re not competent or educated enough or equipped for mentoring we need to think again. … Claiming to not know enough is the main excuse given by most of the leaders God chose in Scripture. … God didn’t sympathize with these men. He knew their limitations; He made them that way! Their self-abasement seemed like humility, but it was actually sin because it diminished the significance of God’s design and work in their lives.”1

1. What were the older women to put into practice in their own lives?
2. What things were the younger women to be taught by the more experienced women of the church?
3. Which of the traits in Titus 2:3-5 are difficult for you, and why?
4. How does the Isaiah passage relate to mentoring? In what way does it encourage you?

 

III. Read Ruth 1-4.

The story that introduced this weeks’ lesson was a fictional account of a well-known story. Even though not detailed in Scripture, Ruth’s desire to know the Lord in a real way reveals what must have been years of intentional mentoring by Naomi. Though we rightfully credit the Holy Spirit, He chooses to use people to do His work in the world. In the book, How People Grow, Dr. Henry Cloud says, “…relationship with others is part of the created order. Independence from relationship is independence from God himself, for he is present in his Body; it is also independence from the way he designed for us to grow.”2

Part of Naomi’s depression at the beginning of the book stemmed from the fact she wasn’t looking at the whole picture and had a wrong view of God. Even though physically and metaphorically headed back to where God wanted her, she couldn’t see God’s hand in her life, and she certainly didn’t understand God’s current work through her in Ruth’s life. Mentoring is vital within the church. As the book of Ruth unfolds, we see Naomi again stepping into the role of spiritual mentor.

1. As the story progressed, what kinds of things did Naomi orchestrate for Ruth? What were Ruth’s responses to Naomi’s advice that showed she trusted her?
2. What were some of the things townspeople and fellow workers said about Ruth?
3. How did the Lord encourage Naomi at the end of the book for faithfully mentoring Ruth?
4. In what ways did Naomi change from the first verses to the close of the narrative?
5. How does the example of Naomi and Ruth better prepare you for a mentoring and discipleship relationship?

 

 

DAY 3

I. Read Titus 2:11-15; Psalm 84:11; Acts 20:24, 32; Romans 3:24, 12:3; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 12:9, 13:14.

Grace is usually defined as unmerited favor, something we can’t earn. Another, expanded definition of grace is “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”3 This longer explanation of what grace is all about fits with Paul’s letter to Titus. These few verses at the end of Titus 2 give us the reason we even bother to incorporate the character traits put forth in the first part of the chapter.

1. What are we instructed to deny and how are we told to live instead in verse 12?
2. What two descriptions are put before Jesus Christ’s name in verse 13?
3. Why did Jesus give Himself, according to verse 14? Read Ephesians 5:27 for more thoughts.
4. What was Titus to do with what Paul told him and how (verse 15)? Why do you think Paul told Titus to “let no one disregard” him?

 

II. Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.

Whenever we are in a position of leadership, whether over many women or in a one-on-one mentoring relationship, we must be constantly checking our motives and our submission to God’s authority. How do we respond to His grace? In our daily offering of ourselves as a living sacrifice to His purposes (Romans 12:1) we give Him worship. Is our worship pure and undefiled?

1. Meditate on the Ecclesiastes passage. What speaks most to your personality and your circumstances?
2. In what ways do you need to accept God’s grace more fully, allowing yourself to mentor or be mentored by another?

 

 

DAYS 4 and 5

I. Read Titus 3:1-11; James 1:21-25, 4:1; Romans 7:15-25.

My husband and I took a parenting class when our first-born was just an infant and one of the things that impressed me then was the subtle impact our deeds would have on our children. The example used was that of shopping carts.

In the parking lot of many grocery and big-box stores in America, there are areas designated for cart return. Once you’ve unloaded your purchases you can park them within these spacious cart “corrals” where they can be easily grouped by employees and pushed back to the front of the store for other shoppers to use. But what if there aren’t enough of these areas? What if the area closest to my car is full? What if there aren’t any such “corrals” at all? Most people would rather leave their cart in the next parking spot or shoved over the curb of a nearby planter than walk it all the way to an inconveniently placed area, much less to the front of the store.

There is no law that says we have to park them in a certain place. There is no sign stating there will be a fine for those who leave their cart haphazardly in a random spot in the parking lot. There is no shopping cart police officer who will give out tickets to those who choose not to comply. Even the sign above the stalls usually states, “For your convenience.” Well, it’s more convenient just to leave it right here, thank you.

The point of the illustration was that from infancy our children watch what we do with our shopping carts. We may not be breaking the law, but questions beg to be answered. Do my actions make it harder or easier for the store employees? Do my choices prevent someone else from having to wander the lot for an open parking spot? Do I even care if a wayward cart might roll into someone’s car? Do I wonder what an elderly person might face if they go up to the store and find there are no carts available?

Are we putting others first? This attitude makes God smile and is something worth teaching others. But, if we’re not intentional as we go throughout our day, those watching us may get mixed messages. It may just be a shopping cart, but how we respond in the moment could have lifetime impact.

1. How does Paul reflect this idea of being others-oriented in Titus 3:1-2?
2. In contrast, verse 3 talks about how we once operated. What are some of the characteristics and attitudes listed there?
3. In verses 3-8 we have yet another of Paul’s concise, gospel reminders. Using this passage, try to track how people moved from being affected only by external laws to having a God-glorifying, others-oriented heart, and the results of that new attitude.
4. From what Paul writes in verses 9 – 11, how might the James and Romans passages help you approach conflict-producing people more Biblically? What does it reveal for you personally?

 

II. Read Titus 3:12-15; 3 John 2-12.

At the end of most letters in the New Testament there is a list of names – greetings to, greetings from, warnings against, and exhortation for engaging relationships. It’s often here where we can get practical insight into intentional mentoring.

1. In Titus 3:12, of the two men talked about, only Tychicus is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. Look up Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21-22 and Colossians 4:7-9. What can you discern about Tychicus’ character?
2. Like Paul, John had a keen interest in the welfare of his “children” walking according to God’s way. One way we can mentor is by encouraging good friendships. From the verses in 3 John, what things does the apostle point out in both Diotrephes and Demetrius?
3. Zenas the lawyer and Apollos (Acts 18:24, I Corinthians 16:12) may have been heading out on a missions trip of their own. How was Titus to serve them?
4. In verse 14, Titus’ Cretan congregation was also responsible to serve. What were they to do and why?

 

III. Read Acts 16:14-15, 18:1-3, 21:7-8, 28:7-8; Romans 12:9, 13; Hebrews 13:1-2; 1 Peter 4:8-9.

The idea of meeting “pressing needs” (Titus 3:14) goes back to supporting financially, but also to hospitality, a trait we’ve touched on many times in Paul’s lists for all levels of leadership and relationship in the church. In these lists both from I Timothy and Titus we find hospitality presented as a command, not an option. As you read through Paul’s missionary journey accounts throughout Acts (the above verses are only representative), he stayed with a variety of believers who opened their homes to him as he stayed to preach and teach in their area. And over and over, Paul extols those who made themselves available to facilitate the ministry.

1. In what context does the hospitality idea fall in the Romans passage? How should we approach it?
2. What impresses you about Paul’s experiences with hospitality?
3. According to Alexander Strauch, there is power in bringing others to your table and eating with them. He says that in order to be truly hospitable and correctly follow God’s command in this area, we must open our homes to others.iv In what ways does God need to change you to help you become more hospitable?

 

INTENTIONALLY SPEAKING

As a little girl I remember hearing again and again that there are only two things that will remain forever, God’s word and people. There was also the saying that when you go to heaven the only thing you can take with you is people. The heart of God is relational. He wants to have intimacy with us and He wants us to have intimacy with fellow believers. Mentoring is just one way we can pursue God’s design of interaction between people. Often it comes very informally as we live day to day, as it did for Naomi at the beginning of her relationship with Ruth. But how much more can God do when we allow our interactions to be purposeful. Naomi was able to hold and help raise a member of the line of Christ when she became an intentional mentor. What an incredible thought.

 

Footnotes:

1. Meyers, Jeff, PhD. Cultivate: Forming the Emerging Generation through Life-on-Life Mentoring. Passing the Baton International, Inc. Dayton, TN. 2010.

2. Cloud, Dr. Henry, Dr. John Townsend. How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI. 2001. Page 122.

3. “Greek Lexicon :: G5485 (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 15 Feb, 2014.

4. Strauch, Alexander. “Hospitality: the Biblical Commands.” Archived seminar through Vision Forum Ministries.

 

 

©2015 Thrive.



About the author

Dee Dawson is a journalist by training, a former newspaper feature writer by trade, and a home school mom of nearly two decades by choice – a job which recently came to an end due to the successful graduation of her second and last child. She attends Calvary Bible Church where she’s been involved in the music department as pianist for more than 25 years. As part of her involvement in her church’s women’s ministries, she developed and taught a 9-week class on writing called “Inscribe.” She’s written Bible study guides for children on Daniel and Acts to accompany adult studies taught at Calvary Bible. She’s also written two other Bible studies for Thrive’s Weekly Word: one on Esther, and one on James and Jude. Her engineer husband, Mark, has been her main editor and biggest fan for 25 years. They live in Bakersfield, Calif. USA.

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