Wisdom of the Week by Dave Nelson of Libby, Montana.
Until my retirement in May 2011, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
To view a full library of Dave’s devotionals please visit his website at www.wisdomoftheweek.com
Enjoy this week’s devotional!
June 5, 2023
“THE JOY OF DISCIPLING”
We had the opportunity to attend the district track meet in Oregon to watch our granddaughter qualify for state in the 100 meter hurdles (Yea Lacey!). Our grandson, Luke, who was home from his first year at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, got to assist the track coach in preparing the athletes for district. He especially worked with Mason, the javelin thrower. Although Luke qualified for state last year in several events, the javelin was his specialty. He won the district meet and narrowly placed second at state. It was fun to watch the vicarious enjoyment that Luke got as he helped Mason after each throw to make minor adjustments which resulted in his placing second and qualifying for state.
This past week John, a good friend and brother in Christ, helped us get a load of firewood. John is a retired Marine and police officer and expert marksman, especially in pistol shooting and helps out with local shoots as well as competes in matches throughout the year. As we worked, he mentioned the joy and excitement it recently gave him to help someone who had been doing well on nearby targets but struggled as the targets were moved further. He noticed that they were not “squeezing” the trigger as they had been earlier. He pointed it out to them and it made a big difference in their accuracy.
It should bring us joy when we help others to succeed, even if they pass us up! I have coached high school tennis and given private lessons for several decades and it always brings me a sense of fulfillment when I see players that I have worked with improve and have success competing at a level far beyond my skill level. That is part of the joy of mentoring or discipling others, and is especially true when it comes to our spiritual lives.
I think of the example in Scripture of Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth who was nicknamed “Son of Encouragement” (Barnabas) by the Apostles (Acts 4:36). When Saul of Tarsus, a leader in Judaism and persecutor of Jesus’ followers called “The Way” (Acts 8,9) came to know Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), he went to Jerusalem and tried “to associate with the disciples but they were afraid of him (understandably so!), not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the Apostles” and went on to vouch for the validity of his transformation (vv. 27-28). While others avoided this former persecutor of believers, Barnabas took Saul under wing and discipled him.
Because of persecution, many believers had fled to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19). At Antioch many Gentiles got saved (v. 21) creating a very highly explosive situation. The Church was barely off the ground and it could be split down the middle between Jews and Gentiles, so the Church in Jerusalem sends Barnabas, the “man with the oily disposition,” to Antioch (v. 22). Barnabas, “a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” encouraged them and “considerable numbers were being brought to the Lord” (vv. 23,24).
Then Barnabas decided to go to Tarsus to get Saul to come and help at Antioch and for a year they discipled the believers. It was there at Antioch that believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:25-26). You will note that at this point the duo is called “Barnabas and Saul” (v. 30),” implying that Barnabas is the leader, the discipler. The leadership that grew out of the church at Antioch was soon directed by the Holy Spirit to “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Barnabas and Saul were commissioned by the church and sent out on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor. Note that it was still “Barnabas and Saul” (13:7).
As they continued in ministry, Saul started going by his Gentile name, Paul, and pretty soon it is no longer “Barnabas and Saul,” but “Paul and Barnabas,” (Acts 13:42) implying that Paul was now the leader of the team. The disciple had passed up the discipler! That is very often the case, and it should bring joy to the discipler to observe it happening.
What a joy it is to me when I hear of how someone I taught in a youth group way back in the 1970’s is now faithfully serving our Lord in a vocation as a pastor, a missionary, Christian author or even as a Bible college professor! Or, I hear of someone who attended the church I pastored for 37 years who is continuing to use their spiritual gifts to serve the Lord. In his third epistle, John wrote: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (III Jn. 1:4). Discipling is hard work, takes great discipline on our own part, but is so rewarding when we see the truths from God’s Word fleshed out in the lives of those in whom we poured it. So, “Pass it on!” The things that God has taught you through His word through those who discipled you, entrust to others who will in turn be equipped to teach others (II Tim. 2:1,2).