Mentoring by Encouragement
God had made it very clear. Joshua was going to be facing the challenge of his life. He had been standing in the wings all of this time, watching, learning, growing in the knowledge of His God, watching and learning from his mentor, a man named Moses. Now it was "crunch" time. Everything he had learned; all of that one to one mentoring would either produce godly leadership or it wouldn't. The ultimate choice would be Joshua's. He had the information and the application. The appropriation which leads to transformation was up to him. It was and always will be a choice.
We have been following those two men for some time now, watching the process unfold. The meekest man in all the earth was leading the biggest congregation in history, training them for the most incredible experience of their lives: the actual possessing of that which they had been promised. They now stood on the threshold of that dream. The curtains were about to part. You could hear the orchestra of heaven begin to play in the background.
All the while, you can visualize the drama that has been taking place behind the scenes: The burning bush, the giving of the law, the parting of the sea, the water flowing from a rock. The murmuring, the rebellion, the wrath of God, the love of God, the mercy of God, all being revealed through the process of walking alongside God's man as he led God's people meekly, yet without apology. What are the ingredients that have gone into this moment? We have glanced at several of them, and tried to apply them to our mentoring experience.
We have observed, first of all, that we mentor by example. Joshua learned much of what he learned simply by watching the man Moses live. I am not sure you can teach meekness, for example, without a living illustration. It is not an easily definable word, and it is not a prevalent quality in a man's world. Joshua had to watch it unfold in three-dimensional reality as Moses faced crisis after crisis, even at the hands of his own brother and sister, and remained meek.
We also watched and learned as Moses mentored by intercession. He prayed often and always for Joshua even as Paul did for Timothy and so many others. We watched in awe as Moses sent Joshua out to the battlefield and then took his position at the top of the hill and prayed and prayed and prayed for his disciple. He prayed until weariness overtook him. But he had prepared for that, too. He had taken Aaron and Hur with him and they stood in the gap and prayed with him. And Joshua became a conqueror in the battle.
We saw Moses mentor by reminding, as well. He took Joshua just after that battle, at God's specific command, and we watched as God told him to take his battle-weary warrior and before he had a chance to so much as throw his uniform in the washing machine, to write down everything that had happened in a book. Then he went over that book line by line with Joshua. He was never to forget and he was never to let the people forget what God had done.
The process of mentoring is simple, yet it seems complicated. It is simple because it is really nothing more than pouring one life into another. It is complicated because unless it is accompanied by a supernatural balance, it can easily produce less than the desired results, and unless both parties realize that the only real purpose behind it is spiritual, you will reproduce a person, but it will not be the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a place for mentoring in the business world. There is a place for mentoring in the marketplace. There is a place for mentoring in the home.
Spiritual mentoring, however, is not the same thing. It is, in fact, a contradiction of sorts, because what you teach and what you impart will most likely be 180 degrees from the directions the world would give you. You are to teach them to love their enemies. You are to teach them to turn the other cheek. You are to teach them to respond graciously to unjust authority. You are to teach them that meekness is not weakness; that miracles still occur, that this life is only a short-term tour of duty on the way to your permanent home. You are going to hopefully show them and tell them that real blessings come from mourning and persecution and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Don't try that on the world.
None of these concepts and principles can be transferred from your life to the life of an unbeliever. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, neither indeed can he. They are spiritually discerned, and because those unbelievers do not have the indwelling Spirit, the things that seem to be the very foundation of our faith, become nothing more than roadblocks to them.
So mentoring God's man in God's ways are simple, but to do so while living in the midst of an aggressively hostile world is complicated. Those are the facts. And with those facts in mind, we continue our journey. Using Paul's yardstick as our mentoring mentality, we saw in our last study that Paul encouraged Timothy to "reprove, rebuke, and encourage with longsuffering and doctrine". He gave Tim a balanced approach to building the mind of God in a man or woman.
We looked in some depth at what reproof and rebuke were all about, and at what it means to be ready "in season and out of season" to preach and to teach. We also looked at the difference between teaching and preaching and found that both are necessary if we are to lead others to turn knowledge into understanding and understanding into wisdom.
We turn now to the third link in the chain of transformation. It is the word we are most familiar with, most comfortable with, and most likely to gravitate towards. It is that word "exhort" or "encourage". It has more of a positive connotation and leaves less debris strewn along the highway of Christian relationships than reproof and rebuke. By itself, however, it leaves believers wearing masks of deception, all the while going through the motions of pretending that "all is well" in the heart and life of the disciple. In future studies, we will see how Jesus dealt with this problem. For now, let's explore the various meanings of exhortation and encouragement as well as the various ways we encourage one another. I pray that it will be an "encouraging" experience.
We will find, I believe, that there are basically three ways for a believer to be encouraged by God. He or she may be encouraged by other believers, by the simple proclamation or explanation of the Word itself, or lastly, by encouraging himself in the Lord. Before we look at those three methods, let's look at why we need encouragement.
We don't usually stop to think about why we get discouraged. Neither do most of us stop to consider why some of us are more prone to discouragement or depression than others. Some of us are obviously more likely to become downcast, fearful, or angry over the pressures or problems that have come our way than are others. The very things that cause some to completely fall into the pit of despair actually seem to spur others on to a higher level of intensity or performance. But do not judge too quickly. The issue isn't what it takes for you to get discouraged compared with someone else. The issue is: "Has God designed a plan for us to be encouraged when we get down?" Remember: If you are one of those who easily gets depressed, you have a new reason to rejoice: God's strength, remember, is made perfect in weakness, and the more likely you are to get discouraged or depressed, the more likely God is to be glorified when He lifts you out of that discouragement, and encourages your heart in the Lord.
God, remember, did not make us all the same, so don't judge those who, because of physical or emotional differences, get "down" more easily than you do, or stay "down" longer. You have not walked in their shoes, you do not live in their body, and the futility they may feel is not helped by your unbiblical comparison. If everyone were like you, there might be fewer depressed people in the world, but there might also be a far lower level of sensitivity in the world, as well. Besides, your day may be coming.
The truth is: discouragement is universal to the human soul, but the levels of discouragement and what it takes to overcome that discouragement will run the gamut from infinity to infinity. Praise God, we are not to focus on comparative personalities, but on the miracles of encouragement God has promised us all. Let us, then, proceed.
The reason we are focusing first on the cause is because, until we find the source of the emotional pain, we cannot find the precise medicine, spiritually, to take to relieve it. Encouragement is not like an aspirin. There isn't a single cause, and God has individual promises for us to appropriate, depending on what the cause happens to be. If we don't search our hearts long enough to find the problem, we may never appreciate how close we are to the solution.
We will, in this and future studies, look at why we get discouraged, what aspect of our personalities God is working on, what aspect of His nature He is imparting, and what passages of Scripture He can use to transform us by the renewing of our minds. We will seek from His word to find specific spiritual medication to apply to those particular emotional wounds.
The remedies are all found in one pharmacy, and they are free. You can use your "Master's Charge" and 100% of the cost will be billed to your Father. You will, however, have to agree to take the medicine regularly or there will be no guaranteed results.
The treatment is free, but the choices will not be made for you. Each time the hand of oppression descends on you, (at that moment) you will have to choose whether or not you want relief, or if you prefer to remain in your discouraged condition, all the while lamenting the fact that you are there.
The sources of discouragement are many. Let's explore them. The first cause of a discouraged heart is rejection or emotional abandonment. It comes when anyone you want approval from fails to give it to you (at least to your satisfaction). It's why marriages fall apart, relationships dissolve, partnerships divide, and families disintegrate.
Sometimes the rejection is real; sometimes it is imagined or only perceived. The results are the same. Some people, because of the scars of childhood rejection or abandonment, feel rejected almost before it happens, and sometimes even when it doesn't. They have preconceived expectations and they will unconsciously even do things to bring about such rejection to justify their feelings of inadequacy.
Competition between siblings often triggers those feelings and as children grow to adulthood, those expectations of rejection only grow, based on a rapidly expanding base of experiences. God understands what it's like to be rejected.
That is why He wrote of His own Son: "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) It is why the Apostle John wrote of Jesus, "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." (John 1:11)
It is why He shared in great detail with us how, when He was unjustly accused and needed peer level support as few men ever have, we read, "They all forsook Him and fled". (Mark 14:50) All but one, that is. The one He had appointed Captain of His team stayed around long enough to curse and deny that He ever knew Him. (Mt 26:74) It is why Peter wrote that the way to God's heart was to be gracious when wrongfully accused; (1 Pet 2) that the woman whose husband would not heed her call to the word, had a higher blessing available to her by living the life in spite of his rejection of all that she stood for. (1 Pet 3)
It began with Cain and Abel and will not end until sin has been swallowed up in eternity and we are fully aware of what it means to be "accepted in the beloved". (Eph 1:5-9) It means He will never leave us or forsake us. It means there is such a thing as unconditional love, but we will not find it where we so often look.
All of this tells us that God has a different perspective of rejection than we do. It means that when we become despondent over being rejected or abandoned or disappointed with people, that God is, at that moment, calling us simply to change our perspective. It also means that the God who made us understands that each of us has a different perspective and thus a different response to being rejected. The specific goal He has for each of us will be impacted by our being rejected in exact proportion to His plan.
The very hairs of our head are numbered. Ours is a personal Savior. God does not have a huge clinic in heaven where He passes out mass cures. He has individual concerns and individual plans based on His individual understanding of who you are and what He wants to do with your life. Therefore, to the degree it is necessary, He will allow and even orchestrate situations in your relationships that leave you feeling lonely and perhaps misunderstood. He understands how it feels. He has been to planet earth, lived a perfect life and was unappreciated, unaccepted, and ultimately murdered because of it. So don't start whining to God: "You don't understand." "He was tempted in all points like as we" (Heb 4:15), says the Scripture, and beloved, nowhere was He tempted more than here.
What, then, is the cause of our discouragement when we are not accepted or appreciated or loved? And what, if anything, can we do at that moment to gain the victory?
There has to be an answer. A sea of despondent Christians does not typify God's kingdom. Granted, discouragement and depression are the natural results of life's disappointments, and as this age rushes to its conclusion, the percentage of people suffering from depression and despair ought to be and is multiplying exponentially. Satan is gaining increasing control of the factors that depress and discourage us. That means there is no better time for the joy of the Lord to shine in the lives of His children. Do you remember what joy is?.
Joy= "that constant, abiding confidence in God that does not waiver regardless of circumstances, but rather is increased when the things that would make us happy decrease.." (Ac 20:24, James 1:2)
If that is true, then what is God after when He allows your children to reject you, or your mate to respond inappropriately to you, or your peers or those over you to fail to appreciate you? Psalm 27:7-10 tells us:
Psalm 27:7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
Look at the progression of that passage. Then memorize it. And every time a cloud of oppression begins to settle on your heart, recognize that you are in the midst of spiritual warfare, and call up the only usable weapon you own, the Word of God. It is the sword of the Spirit and it works....every time. Don't try to reason it out. You will lose. If you need medication, take it. It is a gift from God when prescribed by proper authority. But remember: the purpose of the medication is to get you where you can think clearly enough to use the word: it is not a substitute for spiritual truth. And don't take it unless it has been prescribed by someone God has placed over you medically. God uses doctors, beloved. But they are not meant to be a substitute for the word of God and the Holy Spirit. They are vehicles which God uses to get you where those spiritual sources of power can do their work. Used in tandem, when necessary, the medicine will take you back to where God can reach you, and the word will do the rest.
Let's see what that passage is saying to us:
1- The Psalmist is in a panic. (vs 7) He is depressed. He is crying out to God and he is not even sure God is listening. Can you relate?
2- He then ties his problem to a need he has to personally experience the nature of God. So he prays for God to display His infinite mercy. (vs 7) He adds that the reflection of that mercy would be for God to hear and answer his prayer.
3- The Psalmist now is expressing that his only hope is to be in the presence of God Himself and gain His perspective. (vs 8) "My heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek."
4- He is not claiming any reason for God to intervene other than grace. (vs 9) God has a right to be angry and a reason to reject him and forsake him. Apart from God's intervention, he has no hope.
5- So he claims a promise from God that replaces his perspective of fear to one of absolute trust. (vs 10) He says: "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up."
What does that mean? It means that even if the people in the world who should be the least likely to reject you, do so, God will use that opportunity to demonstrate a kind of acceptance you did not know existed; a world you would never have appreciated or appropriated had you not experienced that rejection.
God's desire, then is to use this opportunity to teach you about unconditional, immutable love.
Notice the word "when" in verse 10. It is the trigger point for God's timing. God will usually wait until you are experiencing some kind of rejection or despair, and at that moment, (not beforehand, because you wouldn't appreciate it) He will take you up. That means He will come to you, reach down to you, lift you up into His arms of mercy and hold you close to himself until you realize what real love really is.
Had you not been forsaken, you'd have missed it. Had you not been discouraged, God could not have encouraged you by personally lifting you into His arms. So He allowed you to suffer rejection; in this case, the most difficult rejection known, the rejection of the ones whom God appointed to love you unconditionally: your parents. That rejection may not be real; it may be imagined, or it may be blown way out of proportion. That needs to be addressed at some later time. For right now, you feel rejected, so God is going to take you up.
That word "up" is an important word. It means to be lifted out of. Out of the circumstances? Not necessarily, though that is possible. It means "out of your despondency into His joy". It isn't something you do. You can't. It's something God does. But you have to let Him. Yea, you have to ask Him to.
How do you do that? You do what the Psalmist did. You go to Him, you cry out to Him, you claim His mercy and grace, and you relinquish control of your discouragement by letting Him "take you up". He will do it. He has to. His word is immutable and infallible, and He said He would. Let Him. Take His word and digest it over and over by personalizing it and repeating it. That's called "meditation".
Pray, "Dear Lord, you said when my father and mother forsake me, even then, you will lift me up. Father, someone just made me feel like completely worthless and unimportant. I'm not appreciated and not loved the way I wish I were. Please love me and lift me out of this false perspective. Amen."
Then learn to meditate by forming "threads" of Scripture together. A "thread" is two or more verses that address the same issue. In this case, thread Psalm 27:9,10 with 1 Kings 8:57 and Hebrews 13:5. It goes like this:
Ps 27:9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
1Ki 8:57 The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:
Heb 13:5b ..he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Those verses, threaded together, give you a chance to personalize your cry, for God to repeat His promise, for Him to reinforce that promise, and then guarantee you that the promise is not only personal, it is eternal. He will not only take you up now, He will never leave you or forsake you. Your mother and father cannot promise you that. Your best friend cannot promise you that. Death will one day separate you, at least for a season. But God will never leave you and He cannot ever forsake you. Then, maybe add some other "not forsake" passages to solidify and encourage your heart until your despondency is replaced by shouts of joy and hope. Here are a few suggestions:
De 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
De 31:8 And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
1Sa 12:22 For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.
Ps 38:21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.
Then there are those precious promises that God has given to those who find themselves in the sunset of life, not wanting to be forgotten or rejected or cast aside in their later years:
Ps 71:9 Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.
Ps 71:18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.
Thread those passages together and they form a series of promises that you can use when Satan attacks you in the area of rejection or despair; when it seems to you that everyone has forgotten how much you need acceptance and love. He will never leave you or cast you aside. Not even as life's latter years bring into your life suffering, pain, dementia, humiliation, and the absence of recognition that accompanies those final years and days. God would not have you be discouraged. He wants you to be "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness." (Col 1:11)
Strengthened, yes. According to His power, yes. With joyfulness, yes. Those are the parameters. God's strength producing joyfulness. So we have man's perspective of rejection and we have God's. One uses the vacuum created by the hurt to carve out a lifetime of despair or bitterness; the other uses the same hurt to create a place for the love of God to be experienced in ways man could never understand, let alone know experientially. It takes from man the natural acceptance he so craves, in order to make room for a kind of acceptance that lasts for eternity; a kind of love that cannot be experienced apart from a heart-shaped void created by the lack of that love in the human realm.
And so we see marriages dissolved or death separate and we see someone face the place where either life is not worth living, or they cry out to God for Him to fill that empty space with Himself. When they do, He does, and the heart of that man or woman is encouraged in the Lord. W see a child face rejection at school. It may be because of how they look, or their lack of athletic ability or their failure to make the grade academically. Or it may be something physical that makes them less than "normal" by man's standards. The other children release the venom of childhood rejection and that little boy or girl seems destined to live all of life with scars that cannot be erased. They lack the courage to go on. They are discouraged and despondent. Nobody seems to love them.
A little time passes. The vacuum in their heart has developed into a Grand Canyon of despair. Their school work suffers. They shy away from relationships. But one day they hear about the love of God. Unconditional love. Love that will not let them go. They cry out in anguish, confessing their sins, asking God, who demonstrated His love at Calvary, to express His love by saving them. He does. Heaven touches earth. That child is born again.
What happened? That rejection left a void. That void cried out to be filled. The loss turned to life; the pain turned to power. They now have a story to tell of how God makes strength out of weakness; of how He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, that no flesh should glory in His presence. He or she found out that rejection creates need; and need draws men and women to reach out to God. And perhaps it all happened because, when father and mother or brother and sister or friend or classmate forsook them, they found out that it really is true. The Lord will take you up. And the moment He does, real acceptance becomes yours forever.
Your job, then, (should you choose to accept it) is to take every person you mentor or disciple through a journey back in time; a sort of "This is your life" tour, long enough for them to look at the rejections they have experienced and discover how God has used those very times when they seemed to be forsaken to demonstrate to them experientially just what real love is. His name is Jesus Christ. And He is waiting to demonstrate just what real acceptance is. It is the process of a holy, perfect God exercising His incredible grace by not only revceiving us into His family, but by loving us enough to bring into our lives the absence of acceptance so we will come to appreciate what real love really is. Then, the moment Satan slings his arrows of rejection their way again, instead of depression and discouragement, they will begin to sing and to praise God for how He has used those "adverse" experiences to create a deeper need in the human heart that only a loving, caring, accepting God can fill. You will be mentoring them by teaching them how to overcome rejection through encouragement.
Rejection, of course, is only one way Satan attacks with his arrows of discouragement. There are many others. His fiery darts include the weapons of financial pressures, unresolved guilt, physical affliction, spiritual warfare, cyclical remembrances, fear of the unknown, and obsession with one's failures, to name a few. We will be looking at each of them as we proceed. If we are to be encouragers, we must seek to go beneath the surface and find the cause.
Remember, unless we look for the source of the discouragement, we will fail to take the proper prescription from God's word. Unless we are insightful in dealing with those we mentor, we will pass out trite truisms like bits of candy and never realize that beneath that depression lies an ocean of need waiting for an encouraging word from the word of God.
Learn to ask the right questions. Learn to pray intensely for spiritual wisdom. Learn to discern when depression is being covered over by a mask of hyperactivity or an ocean of spiritual clichés. Learn that if we are in too big a hurry and give "pat" answers so we can dismiss them and we can go on our way, we will have taken the very opportunity that God intentionally allowed or created and let it slip away through a spiritually insensitive spirit.
When we pray for those we mentor or those we love and ask God to change their hearts, and then are too unaware or too hurried to listen to their heartbeat and sense their discouragement, we are asking God to perform a miracle, then standing between Him and the miracle, keeping it from happening.
Part of the problem is: we are in too big a hurry in our world. The way most of us deal with discouraged disciples is to either interrupt them and tell them we're discouraged, too, or to look down on them as though their discouragement is a sign of an unspiritual life. Pity. It is more likely to be a sign that we are too self-focused to become aware of, and then sensitive to, those that God has allowed to be "down" partly for our sakes, so we can experience the joy of being an encourager.
Encouragement. Exhortation. The process of building up another by applying a God-shaped perspective to a Satan-induced, God-allowed set of circumstances until the word of God has taken the heart of man and transformed it, using the very tools the enemy designed to destroy it.
Read the book of Job. You will see that Job's great problem was one of perspective. He found some "encouragers" who were going to get him straightened out. They applied the wrong medicines, and the disease got worse.
Then along came God. He simply said to Job: "Let's the two of us get alone for a while and let's talk about who I AM is." They did, and the rest is history. God simply revealed who He was through what He said. He demonstrated His nature through His word, and Job repented in dust and ashes, and He saw God as He had never seen Him before.
His counselors meant well. They were reasonably motivated, but ill-equipped to encourage poor Job. Instead of entering into his broken heart, they stood apart and threw stones. Instead of revealing the heart of God, they chose to judge.
God just talked to Job about who He is. And then, once Job had seen His God in a deeper, sweeter way, God asked Job to pray for the very ones who had misjudged him. Job had cried: " My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me." (Job 19:14) Yet God had a deeper purpose in mind. So we read: "And God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends". (Job 42:10) Indeed. When Job was able to see God even through the rejection of those who should have formed his base of support, and actually gain compassion by giving it away, his whole perspective changed.
Rejection. It is a grievous experience. Satan means it for evil, but God means it for good. Satan wants to use it to break our hearts. God wants to use it to bind them together with His.
And the choice is ours.
For Further Study and Application
1- Take some time to review the "ways" we mentor that we have looked at so far.
a- We mentor by example
b- We mentor by intercession
c- We mentor by reminding
d- We mentor by rebuking and reproving
Try to measure the way you utilize each of those methods in mentoring your children, your disciples, or those you teach or minister to.
2- How would you measure your tendency to depression? On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to become discouraged? How about those you mentor or disciple? How about your mate? Do you depression or discouragement as a weakness, or a potential strength?
3- Try to define the word "rejection". What would you list as the great rejections in your life? How have they affected you?
4- Meditate on Psalm 27:7-10. What did God tell the Psalmist to do? Did he do it? What promise did God give him and us in verse 10? What does that verse say to you? Could that mean that being rejected is actually a catalyst to receiving a greater measure of the acceptance of God?
5- Memorize the thread (either the short one or the long one) on page 11. Ask God to apply it to your life. Meditate on it day and night so that when rejection or discouragement comes into your life, you will respond with joy because God has created a scenario for you to know Him better.
6-If you are a senior citizen, memorize Psalm 71:9,18 instead.
7- Make a plan to take everyone you are pouring your life into back on a visit to the great times of rejection in their life until they see them as turning points rather than reasons for despair. Teach them to go back and praise God for each one.
© Russell Kelfer. All rights reserved.