Good Morning Brothers…

We were buried most of the morning in the bottom of this long narrow steep drainage. The elk had us pinned down. Movement on our part would alert them to our presence and they didn’t seem interested in walking over to our location in response to our incessant cow calling. It was a stand off with only one side realizing the stalemate. Many hours later the elk herd moved on away from us and we found ourselves alone. We didn’t manage any shot opportunities, however, the elk were still in the general vicinity and we hadn’t blown the place up with noise and scent. All in all, not a bad morning of elk hunting. We hiked back up toward the roads edge where our truck waited with designs of revisiting this country later. About a mile down the road, we watched two other bow hunters crawl up over the cliffs edge onto the road next to their own truck. They were hunting a finger of the same drainage we were hunting, in the opposite direction of the elk herds travel. After exchanging pleasantries, one of them asked if we have seen any elk. My hunting partner replied, “Nope, it’s been a real quiet morning, didn’t even hear any bugling.”

I realized at that moment, my teacher and guide would lie to his mother about the whereabouts of elk.

James 3:1 says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” This verse kept me from engaging in the ministry for a long time. I repressed the call to lead for many, many years. This verse scared me. At my core, I didn’t want to be held to any type of standard, let alone, a stricter one. I always felt like I needed to ‘know it all’ before I could impute any wisdom onto someone else. As I have matured in my faith, I’ve realized that nobody ‘knows it all’…we all have gaps. I’ve also realized the meaning of this verse is broader than I first thought. It certainly carries the “millstone around your neck if you lead my children astray” angle, but it also implies something else.

As we continually put ourselves at the feet of Jesus and surrender our will to His will, we find His nature slowly infusing our nature with His fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 defines the fruits this way, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Our mistake, is thinking that we need to master these fruits before we serve. Actually, the opposite is true. Once we begin to serve, we learn that service is only possible with the fruits. We also realize we don’t have any idea how to do this. This is where we surrender a little more and Jesus supplies us the gentleness and patience we need to serve the kingdom in a Christ honoring manner. Serving with love and joy is only possible when we have exhausted the natural and surrendered to the super-natural.

As teachers, we undoubtedly have been given hard cases, or problem students. Those problems can be as wide and diverse as humanity itself, however, that doesn’t negate our responsibility toward them. We must teach them. They have been given to us by God above and He will equip us with the fruits we will need to break through the fog, batter down the stronghold of sin, penetrate the barriers of contempt, and lead them into a life of freedom in Christ. The Lord has ordained us as teachers and will be faithful to His call. Romans 14:1 says, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.”

Paul’s use of the word “weak” may be easier understood to mean ‘immature’ or ‘new to the faith.’ Our responsibility is not to ‘lord our knowledge’ over them or ‘talk over their heads’ but to treat them gently, with love, as we would a child. When we are teaching and mentoring in the Spirit, the patience and kindness needed to reach them…will come. The goal of any of our lessons is to draw the student into a communal relationship with Jesus. One, in which, results in a life dedicated to following Christ. Helping the student realize the call on their life and teaching them methods to put themselves at Christ’s feet, will put the Holy Spirit in play. Essentially, we are teaching our students how to hear the Spirit’s voice, recognize His nudges, and feed themselves from God’s Holy Word and through prayer. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace and truth is the real teacher in this scenario. The Spirit not only ministers too, and comforts our students…but He does the same for us. Only through Him, is discipleship even possible. Otherwise, we are teaching our students to follow us.

Emulating Christ in our life is always the goal. To emulate the fruits of the Spirit, we imitate His dedication to service. To teach in His name, is to imitate His patience, kindness, and love by which He taught. I’m reminded of the verse in John 17:12, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” Christ is praying to His heavenly Father in this verse and is referring to His disciples. I’m struck by His words, “and I guarded them and not one of them perished…”

I realize that I will be held to a stricter judgement because I have been called to teach. I also realize that Jesus, the great Teacher, guarded and cared for the twelve He was given…even the son of perdition. I understand that I am not capable of discipling men without the fruits of the Spirit. I need all of the patience, gentleness, kindness, and love I can hold. I am grateful for my calling…and I am humbled that the good Lord supplies all of my needs. I pray the Lord will guard my heart and mind against selfish desires and that I will be free with information about the whereabouts of the elk herds. I pray that Jesus Christ will continue to enable me to guard those I have been given…especially the hard cases.

I too, was a hard case at one time.

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