Let No One Despise You
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
During a week-long training in Lautoka, I had the opportunity of training a man who we’ll call “K”. K is an educated man, with a good measure of theological training from a seminary in the Philippines. In one of our discussions, he assumed I had been to seminary. I told him how I fear getting tangled in theology and losing sight of the basics. He argued me on that point, suggesting that more theological training would make me a more effective minister.
At first, he scoffed at our training materials, and looked for flaws in them. At one point he even stood up while someone was teaching, asked some tough questions from the perspective of both an Atheist and a Muslim. He put the girl who was teaching that day on the spot in front of the whole training class and really shook her up. At our next break, we were all talking about it. Most people weren’t sure if he was a Muslim or an Atheist, and weren’t sure what to do about it. I assured them he was a pastor and was just asking some tough questions because you encounter them when you speak to someone more educated. Still, the girl teaching went from thinking she was doing a good job to feeling like a failure very quickly.
K’s trainer had to be at a meeting, so they reassigned him to me for the rest of the course. I was excited for the challenge. The other guys I had were quiet and somewhat timid, and I enjoy trying to figure students out motivating them to excel. During the input sessions, he would discuss the materials with me, but never practice them. For some reason he wouldn’t really try to share them with me. He would take our materials and try to make them his own, which I think is great, but it might be better to modify them later when you’ve proven you can use them proficiently.
He wanted to tell people the good news of Jesus his way, so I let him. Why not? If you don’t like our way, try it your way. I let him practice sharing the good news of Jesus his way, but it didn’t go anywhere. I pushed him to just try doing it the way we were training him. He couldn’t do it. He tried, then would start over, not sure where to start.
He couldn’t tell a simple story to illustrate what Jesus did. He finally admitted that he has a lot of knowledge, but he can’t tell stories. Even more, he struggles with bringing his knowledge down to a level for others to understand. That’s where the training really started. I retold the illustration story, he tried to tell it but only summarized it. Before we could get going, our time was up for that session and we had to move on.
We went out into the community to let him observe me sharing my faith so he could see it. I started in my favorite place, a medical clinic. I prayed for a small child name Saki who had a stomach ache. A quick prayer later and Saki said his stomach ache was gone. Ministering to children is so simple. We spoke to his father, a Seventh Day Adventist who seemed to have a genuine faith, so we spoke to him a little bit and eventually moved on.
Over the next hour or so, we walked around together. K started asking me questions about my family and I shared some of my story with him, which isn’t really a pretty story. He remarked that I was very open, and likewise opened up about what was going on in his life, his struggles. We went out to share our faith with people, and I ended up ministering to him that afternoon, listening to his struggles and answering his questions about mine.
He went through a nasty divorce and suffered a lot of rejection from the Christian community in Fiji because of it, and was tired of being treated like a second-class Christian because his life wasn’t perfect. In fact, I believe he stood up and challenged my friend during her input session to show that he had some value to the church community, and that he wasn’t useless.
As we were walking back to the church at the end of our on the job training session, God reminded me of a story in the book of Numbers where the people rebel against God and Moses, and God gets pretty pissed off. Moses, rather than condemning the people, stands between God and them, asking for God to forgive them. Moses shows the heart of a leader who loves his people, though they try to screw him over constantly, and pleads with God for mercy. I got the sense that he too was supposed to bless his wife, even when she curses him. As I prayed for him, God gave me more to share, but I forgot the details. He even went up and said something to encourage my friend who had been embarrassed by him earlier.
Over the next couple of days I saw a change in him. He was open to learn. He took diligent notes and allowed me to speak into his life. We had some great discussions. I even taught him how to teach the Bible to people in a way that lets them hear from God for themselves, whether they recognize it or not. It was awesome. I had a great time training him and talking to him, and was proud to see him get his certificate for completing the course.
This experience was significant to me in that it’s often intimidating for someone like me, who has very little theological training to speak into the lives of someone who does. Often, pastors don’t have any room in their hearts for young guy like myself to minister to them. They’re the experts, etc. But God proved something to me. He proved that I have what it takes, that I have sufficient knowledge and experience to train people, in some cases even well educated and experienced pastors. How humbling that God even uses foolish things like me.