Faithful, Available, Teachable
In my early exposure to the Navigators, I learned the importance of being faithful, available and teachable. I was told that these are the characteristics of those whom the Lord uses in His Ministry. In addition, it was impressed upon me that these are the hallmarks of those with whom we should spend time, knowing that such an investment will be fruitful for many generations in the future. This is expressed in the verse in II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” (KJV)
Webster’s dictionary describes faithful in the following ways: “Firm in adherence to promises, contracts, treaties; loyal; true in affection or allegiance; and worthy of confidence and belief.” Is the person with whom I am meeting and discipling described in this definition? Am I able to depend upon them for commitments they have made to me and to others? Are they true in allegiance to the Lord, to His word and in their relationships with others? Can I have confidence in them to adhere to promises they have made in their own lives as well as in their ministry to others? More importantly, does my life measure up to this definition of a faithful person? I cannot lead others where I have not been before. Paul’s words, ”Follow me, as I follow Christ,” are descriptive of where our lives should be if we expect others to be faithful in their lives as well.
Available is the second word used to describe someone whom the Lord is able to use in His Mission. If I am to spend time with them, they must be available not only to me, but available to the Lord and to His word, as well as to the body of Christ. (The church) One of our friends wanted me to spend time with her husband years ago, but after several months went by, I realized that despite repeated efforts to accommodate my schedule to his that he was never able to meet. Another man called our Navigator office some years ago from a local church. He was placed in charge of the men’s ministry in that church and quickly realized that he needed some help. After meeting with him on several occasions, we agreed to do a study of Ephesians together as a model of what a ministry should look like to others. We were to write down our observations, interpretations, and applications of the passage to our life, as well as to memorize one verse from the passage. As we met the following week, he related that he did not have ”the time” to do our agreed upon assignment. The second week he arrived with yet a different excuse for not making any part of his week available to the Lord and His word. We discussed various scripture references and I shared illustrations from my own life that I hoped would help him to be available to the Lord on a regular basis. Despite encouragement, however, he never chose to be available to the Lord on a regular basis and I concluded that further investment in his life would not be fruitful at that time.
The third area of availability in a person’s life must be to a local church. It is impossible to see growth achieved in a person‘s life unless they are committed to church fellowship. I have had the difficult experience of trying to help others grow spiritually when they were not willing to be a part of a local church fellowship. Meeting with me and with the Lord is not enough. They must have the input and the fellowship of the body of Christ. Without this, Christian growth is severely stunted and little will be accomplished in and through their lives. Augustine goes so far as to say that it was impossible for anyone “to regard God as a merciful Father unless he is prepared to honor the Church as his mother.”
For many of us, it is difficult to be remain teachable. The knowledge that we already possess regarding a topic, a scripture passage, or an area to be developed in our life crowds out any receptivity to different ideas. I am always challenged in my own life by a statement made by Howard Hendricks that “Hardening of the viewpoint is more serious than hardening of the arteries!” Although there are a number of ways of describing the characteristics of a teachable spirit only three will be referenced here. The first of these is to simply admit a need, or to be desirous of a change in your life. This may arise as a result of a problem in one’s life or it may be due to an enlargement of vision for that person’s life made evident to them by the Holy Spirit. A second manifestation of teachability is evident when they are willing to look at the scriptures for the answers they need in their lives. They not only look to the scriptures, but they are applying them regularly. The third, and most conclusive evidence, of teachability is a transformed life in which a change in character and conduct is becoming evident to others. As a result, individuals are beginning to seek them out for advice and counsel.
In our own lives, then, we need to be faithful, available, and teachable if we are to guide others along these same paths. It will require being faithful in our commitment to them despite areas of initial unfaithfulness in their lives. It will demand our availability to them when it is, at times, inconvenient to do so. It will necessitate patience on our part as we await the transformation that signifies a teachable spirit in their lives. If we continue, by God‘ grace, to labor with these qualities in mind we will be able to say with the apostle Paul the words he wrote in I Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy.”
In Christ, Richard Spann