The Blessing of Mentorship
Hindsight can be a good thing, particularly when it gives us clarity or direction on how to approach things in the future. But at times it can also be a little painful, especially when you look back at a situation and think, “If only I’d known back then what I know now.”
How can we know in advance the lessons that only hindsight seems to teach us? I actually believe we can gain the kind of knowledge that sets us up to win by accessing the wisdom of those who have walked the road before us. The Message version of the Bible tells us to: “Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honouring God” Jam 5:10 (The Message Bible). As a leader, do you have a positive mentor in your life, an experienced and trusted advisor? A mentor is different from a hero. Although we may admire a hero’s achievements, these will not necessarily help us get to where we want to go. Nor will the myriad of voices that vie for our attention such as the media, our hairdresser or our unchurched family. So what is it that makes the voice of a mentor stand out?
mentors in the bible
The experience of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro, gives us some valuable keys on mentors and having the kind of spirit that attracts the blessing of mentorship. In Exodus 18 we read that Moses was drowning in his role as the leader of the Israelites. Moses had a blind spot; he was trying to carry alone the leadership of millions of people and all their problems. It was only when wise counsel came from a seasoned advisor, Jethro, that Moses made the necessary adjustments to his leadership approach. What was it that qualified Jethro to speak into Moses’ life and situation?
Jethro cared about Moses’ well-being
“So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law... and they asked each other about their well-being.” Exod 18:7
A good mentor is someone who has the well-being of others at heart. Jethro was not motivated by his own success or promotion, but instead he was focused on helping Moses become a more effective leader in order to fulfil the call of God on his life. Make sure the voices you are listening to are committed to your well-being.
Jethro was a positive influence
“Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake…Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel.” Exod 18:8, 9
Although Jethro recognised the challenges Moses was having in leading millions of people, he didn’t focus on the problem. Jethro was solution-orientated. There can be a thousand voices that can speak to the problem, but only a few that can help us find solutions. We need to listen to the voice of experience, but only when it points to answers that will move our life forward.
Jethro was direct
“So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?’” Exod 18:14
Jethro observed how Moses was trying to micro-manage the Israelites and confronted him with the truth. A true mentor won’t beat around the bush. They will speak directly and honestly into our lives - simply because they have our best interests at heart.
Jethro knew God
“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods.” Exod 18:11. Another name for Jethro is Reuel, which means ‘friend of God’. This was true in more than just name; Jethro’s words and wisdom confirm that he had a personal revelation of God. We don’t need people who are just experts and professionals speaking into our lives; they need to be people who know God and can speak God’s Word into whatever season we’re in.
HOW YOU CAN ATTRACT THE BLESSING OF MENTORSHIP IN YOUR LIFE
The years have shown me that mentorship is not something you have to demand; it often comes supernaturally. It’s amazing how God has brought people into my life at different seasons, and I believe it’s because I had an openness or receptivity to hearing it. We need to ask ourselves: ‘What is it about my life that attracts mentorship?’
Again, the story of Moses shows us that he was open to the voice of wisdom and he readily embraced wise counsel. We believe the following characteristics below attracted mentorship to his life.
1. Be teachable
“So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.’” Exod 18:17, 18
Instead of responding to Jethro’s advice with: “I’m Moses, didn’t you hear about the Red Sea parting”, Moses took his father-in-law’s wisdom on board. Leaders who are insecure or too sensitive will often struggle to receive advice or instruction. Some will even be offended by it as they see it as belittling to them. Leaders who take things too personally risk missing the blessing of mentorship.
2. Be a listener
“Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you...so Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he said.” Exod 18:19, 24. It’s one thing to listen but entirely different to heed the good advice we hear. To heed literally means to listen with a commitment to change. Moses not only listened to Jethro, but he applied his counsel to the situation and changed the way he managed those he was leading. It’s not about how many sermons we hear preached, or how many counselling sessions we go to - it’s what we do with what we hear that counts. To see the fruit of wisdom in our lives, we need to have the spirit of a listener.
3. Be a pray-er
“Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.” Exod 18:19. Jethro’s advice pointed Moses to God, not away from Him. Similarly, a mentor should never replace God in our lives. Mentors should propel us toward a greater dependency on God, not man. Yes, we have to sow spiritual seed, and God uses other people to water that seed, but only God brings the increase into our life.
4. Be a reader
“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness...” Exod 18:21. Some people are readers of books but aren’t very good at ‘reading’ life, people or situations. Moses knew how to read people. When choosing leaders he didn’t look at their resumé, instead he looked at their heart, their motives, their character and integrity. He had to find the kind of people who had a heart that would help him do what God called him to do.
We, too, need to hone our skills at reading people, and resist the temptation of making surface judgements based on external appearances. Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement” John 7:24. Using discernment and focusing on internal heart issues will cause us to listen to the right voices.
5. Be a releaser
“Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.” Exod 18:27. Many people want to pull things in, including mentors, and hold on tight. But mentorship is not all about our needs and us. We need to release our mentors to live their own lives, just like Moses did Jethro. If we come to expect our mentors to be on hand whenever we need them, we can potentially risk cutting ourselves off from the spirit of mentorship. I believe the right spirit will attract the kind of people who care about you and your challenges, and point you to a greater dependency on God. My prayer is that you will grow in these five areas and discover the blessing of mentorship in your leadership role.