When was the last time you listened to a podcast of a TED talk or of a sermon of your favorite preacher? This is a good way to “redeem the time” spent commuting or exercising on a treadmill (for instance). Perhaps you plan to attend the Chick-Fil-A Leaderast, Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, or a local Dale Carnegie Training seminar. These are fine organizations that offer wonderful opportunities for personal growth. Have you attempted to determine the effectiveness of such opportunities? Have you successfully applied what you from these experiences in your life? I must say again that I appreciate and affirm these and similar efforts. Lately, I have been read the classic Morning & Evening, By Charles Spurgeon. Reading these night time excerpts feel a bit like a conversation with one of the foremost theologians of the 18th century. Reading, listening, and attending conferences are a good use of our time. Often, however, the lasting impact of these events are short-lived. Why is that? Accountability, sustainability, and adaptability are a few of the factors. I submit that an individual who is “further down the road” than us, may be the key to lasting change.
The scriptures support this. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” This proverb may appear simplistic, but it affirms values that I hold dearly. First, relationship is implied in this verse. In YBL, we believe that life change happens best through relationships. In this passage of scripture, walk means “to spend time with.” Furthermore, interaction is required for information transfer. We interact through asking questions, processing challenges, and receiving advice. Interaction moves a relationship from merely positional to influential. YBL offers men the opportunity to connect with a mentor, and in so doing, to meet regularly. These one on one meetings create the platform for discussion, connection, challenge, and accountability. As Matthew Henry (Bible commentator from the 18th century) wrote, “He that would himself be wise must walk with those that are so, must choose such for his intimate acquaintance, and converse with them accordingly; must ask and receive instruction from them, and keep up pious and profitable talk with them.”
The Bible has several wonderful examples of relationships that demonstrate “walking with the wise.” It is worth reading about the intentional nature of the following: Moses & Joshua (Exodus, Deut ), Elijah & Elisha (I Kings 19, 2 Kings 2), Naomi & Ruth (Ruth), Barnabas & Paul (Acts 14, 15), Paul & Timothy (Acts 16, Phil 1:1), and most significantly Jesus & Peter, James, John (Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn). These relationships demonstrate intentionality, but it is likely these men and women were simply following the Lord and serving Him faithfully. As students of the Word of God, we get the benefit of seeing all of scripture. A few simple expectations we glean from Biblical mentoring are as follows: acceptance, open communication, honesty, confrontation, accountability, advice & counsel, coaching, and mutual benefit. Just as pain is experienced in muscle growth, discomfort and pain will accompany our growth both personally and spiritually. Proverbs 27:17 states, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (NASB)
If we chose to spend time with a mentor, we will have the opportunity to observe his life “up close.” What do wise people think about? Talk about? Spend their time, talent, & treasure on? What do they read or listen to? How do they measure success? What are their routines? What are their deep convictions? How are their relationships impacted by these choices? Paul wrote to Timothy (his protégé), “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” II Tim 1:13. Paul also wrote the young church in Corinth, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Imitating is both doing what we see, and not doing what we don’t see. I have been inspired by observing gracious older men who don’t talk much about themselves (unless asked to do so), and are quick to smile & laugh.
One of my first bosses told me he prayed daily for wisdom since his teenage years.
This is indeed a Biblical practice; James 1:5 urges us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” There are few promises like this in scripture. We promised that we will receive wisdom if we pray for it! Certainly wisdom comes with age, but aging does not guarantee growing wise. Likewise, experience can result in wisdom, but simply getting through an experience does not guarantee wisdom as a result.
We are quick to hire coaches for exercise, and some have hired consultants to coach them for business. A personal mentor serves a similar purpose – to help you become better. From scripture we can be assured that spending time with folks that are wiser than us will help us to grow in wisdom. We are also urged to pray for wisdom. There is no substitute for the process of growing older or the benefits of experience. If you have not benefitted from a mentor, reach out to folks in YBL who would be glad to direct you to a mentor. Begin intentionally walking with the wise today!