Beloved Dallas Theological Seminary Professor Dr. Howard Hendricks taught, “Every disciple needs three types of relationships in his life. He needs a ‘Paul’ who can mentor and challenge him. He needs a ‘Barnabus’ who can come alongside and encourage him. And he needs a ‘Timothy,’ someone that he can pour his life into.”
Like Timothy’s family (2 Timothy 1:5), my parents and grandparents laid the foundation of my faith. Growing up, I found people willing to mentor me. Their guidance made me feel like I had a personal cheer squad willing me to finish the spiritual “race.” It cost them time and frustration, I’m sure. But they were willing to be vulnerable, and each made a powerful contribution. Each sowed spiritual wisdom in me and made a real difference in my life. Their long faith journeys influenced me, and God used their wisdom and knowledge to bless me.
Learning from wise and godly people is an important part of God’s plan to fulfill His divine purposes on Earth.
Scripture teaches us the model of mentorship or discipleship. Whether the familial pathway of teaching biblical truth to your children and grandchildren or subjecting yourselves to the teaching of your pastor, church leaders, or other believers, learning from wise and godly people is an important part of God’s plan to fulfill His divine purposes on Earth. The Bible records several stories of godly mentorship that teach us the importance of continuing a godly legacy.
Moses and Joshua
If you’ve ever taken on a position of leadership after a “giant” of an organization or ministry steps down, you know how daunting it can be. The young man Joshua, Moses’ successor, must have felt this way.
Put yourselves in Joshua’s position for a moment. Moses led Israel out of Egypt, acting on behalf of the people before Pharaoh, and he stood before Yahweh as mediator for his people. There was no one greater than Moses in the eyes of Israel.
Yet it is no coincidence that God chose Joshua to lead Israel following Moses’ death. Joshua attended Moses “from his youth” (Numbers 11:28, NASB). He would have seen Moses’ character and sponged from his wisdom on a daily basis. Moses influenced Joshua so much that he changed his name from Hoshea to Joshua (13:16). Joshua’s “strength and courage” came from the Lord of His salvation, as would all his victories leading Israel into the Promised Land.
Because of Joshua’s faith, he was singled out (as was Caleb) from the 12 spies that returned to give a report of what they had seen in the land of promise. God took Joshua’s life and shaped it through his mentor Moses. He bestowed on him Moses’ authority (27:18–23), and “Israel listened to him” (Deuteronomy 34:9, NASB).
Joshua’s legacy from his spiritual “father” Moses is best summarized in Joshua 24:31: “Israel served the Lᴏʀᴅ all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lᴏʀᴅ which He had done for Israel” (NASB).
Elijah and Elisha
The prophets Elijah and Elisha also shared a powerful legacy in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 19:19, Elijah threw his cloak (mantle) over Elisha while he was plowing his field. This act immediately signaled to Elisha his mission from God and that the prophet’s authority and anointing had come upon him. Leaving his oxen and following after his new mentor Elijah, Elisha sacrificed his oxen as an offering of his life to God.
Leadership succession in Scripture has unique characteristics based on cultural and spiritual parameters. However, we must remember the prophets were human like us. Consider Elijah and his encounter at Mount Carmel, where, in the power of the spirit, he slew the prophets of Baal. Then, in terror, he fled to Beersheeva at Queen Jezebel’s threats (1 Kings 19:1–8).
While not witness to Elijah’s human reaction, Elisha no doubt was aware of his own frailties, even in potential comparisons between him and his mentor. Human weakness affects us all, including those who have found favor with God, even those mentioned in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith.” But Elijah and Elisha were worthy of great honor as those who walked with God, pleased Him, and fulfilled all that He asked of them.
Shortly before his unique departure from this world, Elijah made a farewell tour to the other prophets in Israel. Elisha stuck with his mentor all the way, hoping to receive a final blessing. When he got the opportunity, his request reflected his character and that of his mentor Elijah. By asking for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha asked for spiritual blessings in the vein of Elijah. In other words, he desired to continue in ministry like his mentor.
As Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind, his mantle fell to the ground. Elisha picked it up and continued in the spirit of his mentor to the glory of God (2 Kings 2:13–14).
Effective mentoring occurs when God brings two or more believers together and “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
Effective mentoring occurs when God brings two or more believers together and “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17). Another proverb says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (9:9).
The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “commit [what he learned from Paul] to faithful men who will be able to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Scripture also teaches, “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5).
Pastors: Throw your “mantle” over the young men in your congregation.
Godly women: Seek out the young women of faith eager to learn from you.
Young men and women: In humility and with honor, pick up the mantle of those who go before you in faith.
May the mutual blessing you receive be of double portion.