One-on-One Makes a Difference — Part 3
By Yap Kim Meng,
Former National Director and Senior Mentor of The Navigators Singapore
Mentoring: Elizabeth and Mary
In the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we encounter the narratives of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, each marked by its own uniqueness.
In the case of John the Baptist, his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were from the priestly lineage of Aaron, were barren and advanced in age. They had been petitioning God for a baby for a long time. However, when the answer to their prayers finally arrived, it was met with disbelief.
The birth of Jesus was extraordinary in that a young girl named Mary was chosen to bear this exceptional child who was conceived without a human father. Mary’s response to this announcement was one of innocence, as she was a virgin. Upon being informed that she had been selected for this unique task which would be made possible through the power of the Most High, Mary submitted in humble obedience.
The angel had also mentioned to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth (who was past her childbearing years) was also expecting and in her sixth month of pregnancy — a miracle made possible by God. Mary then hurried off to verify if it was true.
You may wonder, what do these birth accounts have to do with mentoring? However, they are indeed connected and the mystery will be unravelled.
Story of Mentoring in My Life
If it had not been for my mentors, I might not be here today. When I responded to the gospel (as a teenager), I was in the midst of a family crisis.
My father was absent from the family. Suddenly, I became the man of the house, and my mother was forced to work to provide for the family. Upon accepting Jesus Christ into my life, I was introduced to man-to-man discipling through the Navigators. My growth in the Christian faith was facilitated by someone who spent time with me and guided me through each step. Later on, upon enquiry with other Christians, I found out that it was not the norm to have someone to “hand-hold” you and personally guide you through each step of your Christian walk.
Although it was unfortunate that I missed out on my formative years with my father, God, my heavenly father, saw fit to bless me with others who mentored and personally taught me to grow in His family.
Passage Explained and Connected
Mary harboured concerns in her heart regarding the news that she would bear a child through the power of the Most High. She sought assurance and wanted to verify if this was indeed true.
Many of us are like Mary; we often desire to ensure that our inner struggles are not merely the voices in our heads. We wish to be able to open our hearts and confide in someone about our problems — someone who would accept us without judgement and carry our concerns in their hearts.
In search of reassurance, Mary visited her relative, Elizabeth. During the visit, Elizabeth confirmed and assured Mary that the child she would bear was indeed a gift from the Lord. Moreover, Mary learnt about the child that Elizabeth was expecting and the extraordinary circumstances surrounding it. Upon confirmation of the news, Mary was so overwhelmed with joy that she burst into a song of praise, widely known as the Song of Mary.
Time Together – First Aspect of Mentoring
Mary experienced what I would term as a "mentoring moment" with Elizabeth — a time spent clarifying doubts and gaining assurance about her destiny in God's plan. The time spent proved to be well worth it.
Mentoring incorporates a unique ingredient: the need to spend quality time with another person. This is one of three aspects I wish to draw attention to in mentoring — it involves two individuals who trust each other and are willing to open up and bear their souls to one another.
As mentioned earlier, I am grateful for those who mentored me. They allowed me to witness their lives. I observed their lives not from a distance, but up close. While they imparted Bible truths to me, I also saw them living out those truths.
Despite their busy schedules, they made time for me. I was a priority to them, and spending precious time with me was evidence of how much they valued our relationship. There is a saying that goes "more is caught than taught.” Indeed, I caught more than just words; their lives demonstrated and displayed the principles they taught.
The Transforming Power of God’s Word – Second Aspect of Mentoring
When Elizabeth saw Mary approaching, she burst into a pronouncement of blessing, concluding with “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45).
Earlier on, Mary had submitted to the Lord with these words, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).
In the song of Mary, she declared, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:54-55).
What God says is of vital importance, especially that which is recorded for our remembrance. The Word of God is made available to us, serving as a record of God's utterances.
One of my favourite portions of Scripture is the Psalms — all 150 of them. I was informed that the Jews memorised all of them, including Psalms 119, from childhood.
The Psalms comprise a collection of prayers, encompassing praises to God and expressions of complaints and groaning about unfairness, injustice, and the apparent lack of God's presence and power (questions like "Where are you, God?"). They are beautiful in their honesty, reflecting the genuine cries of individuals as they grappled with life's challenges and voiced their concerns to God in unfiltered tones. If they were angry, they made it known.
Some people find the Psalms embarrassing because of their unfiltered honesty. They prefer something more spiritual that extols God’s goodness and greatness.
One observation I have made of the Psalms is that there is a general pattern. Even in the midst of a cry of complaint — sometimes in the middle or at the end, the Psalmist becomes aware of who he is complaining to: God! It seems as if he suddenly stops and is startled by the fact that he is ranting to God Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and the Maker of Mankind. He remembers that he is, but dust, and God is listening to his cries. Although he may not see solutions in sight, the awakening of his heart to God listening is enough for that situation. The Word of God constantly reminds us that God speaks and also listens to us, ready to respond to His people.
Prayer — Third Aspect of Mentoring
The Psalms also serve as wonderful prompts for prayer. When we read a portion of the Psalms and allow the Spirit of God to guide us in response through prayers, the concerns of our hearts inevitably surface.
Rather than approaching God in prayer with a list of problems, we engage in worship as we read the Psalms. In the process of praying and responding to the Psalm we read, the issues of our lives naturally come to the forefront. This creates a strong mutual encouragement: our personal needs are met through reading and praying the Psalms, and our worship of God is profoundly strengthened.
To recap, I have mentioned three things about mentoring:
1. There is an element of time. Investing our time in another person is rewarding in multiple ways.
2. There is a need to spend time reading and reflecting on the Word of God, grounding our discussions in the teachings of Scripture rather than relying solely on our personal experiences.
3. There is a need to respond to the Lord in prayer, affirming and echoing our obedience to Him through the Word and in our actions and attitudes.
Mentoring can take various forms, and I am pleased to share its significance and how it has been effective for me.
Some would propose a “three-strand cord” approach — a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy approach.
A “Paul-type” could serve as your mentor, resembling a teacher for you to respond to. A “Barnabas” could be a peer, walking alongside you as a supportive companion, while a “Timothy” represents a younger person whom you invest your time in — teaching, influencing, and guiding — with the goal of having them replicate what you have done for them in the lives of others. Of the three roles mentioned, which do you think is important? If this is a multiple-choice question, the right answer would be “all of the above”.
Different life situations call for different responses. In the context of the student world, such as campuses and schools, there are many opportunities to learn and practise various types of mentoring.
In the context of the adult world, especially for middle-aged individuals with families and growing children, there is a significant need to re-learn the basics of mentoring.
Many people in this category are busy with various responsibilities. Yet, as in the case of my friend, there is a real need to rediscover God in a fresh way.
Are you experiencing a plateau in your faith? Is your walk with God getting stale? Are you providing your best to your spouse or children as a growing Christian reflecting Christ in your life?
If not, then you are an ideal candidate for mentoring. Start connecting with another individual. Pray for God to create an opportunity to bring you into an encounter with someone (I am referring to man-to-man and woman-to-woman interactions). Set aside regular time, weekly or fortnightly. I do that in the mornings with various men.
When my children were younger, after sending them to school, I would meet up with another person over coffee for about an hour. We shared our hearts, updated each other about our lives, read a Psalm and prayed together before we continued with the rest of our day. If we were unable to keep to that date, we would catch up at the same time the following week. Over time, a relationship was formed and strengthened. Mutually, we exhorted one another to grow in the Lord.
You may start off at a peer level and then progress to helping another in a Paul-Timothy type of relationship.
In John 4:35, Jesus conveyed to his disciples that the fields were ripe for harvest. In today’s context, churches are teeming with families who are ready for the transformative harvest in their lives. Children frequently emulate their parents, particularly in matters of faith. Should parents encounter difficulties in living out their faith, inspiring their children to embrace Christian living becomes a formidable task.
But the very agent of change and catalyst is ourselves. As we seek to mentor another and encourage one another to grow in the Lord, we can become better spouses and parents.
If only we would come before God and invest our time in one another, man to man, woman to woman, spend time together in the Word and prayer, share our hearts and exhort one another to grow, there would be a harvest of revival in the hearts of us all, transforming families, workplaces, and society.
Christians ought to live a powerfully transformed life, and it begins with us wanting to invest our time in others, encouraging fellow brothers or sisters to grow and experience the reality of Christlikeness in our world today.
What I have described is also applicable to students and young people. If we find that our Christian faith can be lived out and impact others, would we not want to share it? If we can have mentors to watch over us, pray for us, guide us, listen to us and help us learn to trust God, do we not want that? Ask God to bring someone into your life, perhaps a peer or an older person who is willing to coach, model and set an example for you—ideally, they could be your parents. Once we experience the joy of the transforming power of God in our lives, we will seek to influence and mentor others.
(Stay tuned for Part 4!)