In the Office: The Disciple’s Diet

Many years ago, I attended a conference in which one of the speakers challenged those of us in the audience by saying something to this effect: “If you’ve been participating in a Sunday School class or other Bible study for three or more years, and you don’t feel like you’re ready to start teaching others, then either you haven’t been paying attention — or you’re not taking seriously the call of God to pass along what you’ve learned.”

In the OfficeAt the time, I remember thinking that this seemed a little extreme. And even today, I don’t think I’d want to press these sentiments too hard. And yet, now that I’m a pastor I have experienced the frustration of not being able to find a sufficient number of people who feel ready and willing to teach. And more to the point, I’ve become more deeply convinced that our faith — far from being a “static possession” — should instead be a living reality that grows over time and that changes not only us but also puts us in a position to change and equip others.

This is a lesson that’s echoed in today’s New Testament reading (Hebrews 5:7-14). The writer suggests that Jesus himself experienced growth in His awareness of and response to God: Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (verses 8-9, which open up a theological can of worms that I won’t get into today). And based on Christ’s example, the writer suggests that we, too, ought to be pushing on toward maturity:

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (verses 12-14)

Let me rush to say, of course, that my goal in highlighting these verses isn’t to make me or anyone else feel guilty about the specific teaching roles that we are or aren’t filling. But I would gladly remind us that we’ve been given the gift of nourishing our hearts with “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33); and the heartier our appetite for the meat of His Word, the more we’ll grow — and the more we’ll be in a position to encourage the growth of others.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), the Bible says. May we feast on Him today and find that the banquet of His presence leaves us hungry for more.

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