I ignored the warnings for months. The first was a quiet, almost imperceptible nudge. Then came stronger recognition. Finally, last fall, when asked for a prayer request, my answer reflected a growing awareness. But still, I pushed those warnings aside.
For those who teach or preach week in and week out, you’re probably familiar with this trap. Even if you don’t bear the title teacher, you are one. You teach by example. You teach by conversation. You teach your children. You teach your employees or coworkers.
The trap is real for all of us.
The teacher trap is the belief that the lessons and illustrations you identify as you study the Bible are for the benefit of others in your life.
And, boy, did I ever fall for it.
Preparation to teach a large women’s Bible study every week requires certain routines. One of my regular practices involves identifying principles and illustrations related to the Bible passage I’m teaching that week. I’m always on the lookout for something in my own life or in the lives of others to reinforce the lesson.
Problem is, that became my sole focus.
- Clear principle on the need to live dependent on the Holy Spirit? Filed.
- Good illustration on the need to forgive? Noted.
- Concise principle describing the effect of serving others? Included.
- Effective illustration of the importance of a vibrant prayer life? Got it.
I began to sense the problem last fall when a friend asked how she could pray for me. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it,” I told her. I hadn’t planned on saying that. The words slipped out before I had time to think. I realize now it was the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention.
The culmination came this past December, when I sought my new “one word” for 2017. If you’re not familiar with the practice of one word for the new year, the concept is intended to replace new year’s resolutions. In place of resolutions that often fail to survive through February, we prayerfully select one word to influence the way we live for the year.
My word in 2015 was release. In 2016, it was joy. In December of 2016, the Lord gave me the word hope for this new year. Despite multiple confirmations, I questioned the selection. I didn’t see immediate application.
That’s when I fell into the trap. After puzzling about it for a week or so, I concluded this was to be my word in 2017 to encourage others. To extend hope for those discouraged by their circumstances. To convey hope to those vulnerable to despair.
The teacher trap.
Just a few days into January, I learned the reason for my word. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. During the past month we clung to hope as we navigated hospitalization, surgeries, tests, and more tests. We cling to hope today as we evaluate treatment protocols and weigh options. And we will cling to hope in the coming months as we do our part and trust the Lord for whatever results He chooses to allow.
God graciously prepared me for the new year with just the right word.
As I write this, I’m again reminded of my prayer request last fall. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it.” Today, even more than then, it is my heart cry…first as a child of God and then as a teacher.
May it be the heart cry of every one of us who study and teach God’s Word.
What is your experience with the teacher trap?
I’m weary of people talking without listening to the words they speak. And they seem to be appearing in news headlines with appalling frequency.
I’m weary of Christians who say God is love, then spew hatred for unbelievers.
I’m weary of secularists who demand inclusion for every disenfranchised group under the sun, but exclude Christians.
I’m weary of protesters (left or right) who riot in the name of democracy, but deny the rights of others by destroying their private property.
Ah, it’s easy for me to point fingers at people in the news. But then I’m convicted. What about my own behavior? A well-known adage observes that when I point a finger at another person, four fingers point back to me. Sad to say, I’ve been guilty of living a hypocritical life, too.
I claim to trust God, then I worry about my situation.
I acknowledge that our sovereign God is in control, then try to manipulate my circumstances to fit my desires.
I say I love Jesus more than anything, then hold back when He gives me the opportunity to give to His work.
I claim to obey God’s call to serve Him joyfully, then prioritize my convenience over His service.
Can you relate?
Hypocrisy is not only found in the inconsistency of our words. It’s also demonstrated when our actions contradict our words.
If integrity is transparency and consistency between thoughts, words, and deeds, then my integrity has been overshadowed by hypocrisy more often than I’d like to admit.
I want to be a person of integrity.
No private agendas.
Instead, I’m as much a hypocrite as anyone else. And I need this prayer:
Heavenly Father, cleanse me from hypocrisy and inconsistency. May I live with complete transparency in my thoughts, words, and deeds. And may those same thoughts, words, and deeds be consistent with Your Word and the leading of Your Holy Spirit.
Will you pray this with me?
A new year, a new word.
In 2015, my “one word” for the year was release—a word I didn’t like, but did need. These posts explain my choice and my experience in applying my one word.
The following year, my word was joy…a word that seemed to be the opposite of release, yet I quickly learned it complemented and built on the lessons of the previous year. You can check out the reason for my choice as well as my success and failure in applying it.
You might imagine I was eager to learn my word for 2017. Or after reading my previous successes and failures, perhaps not so eager. My one word for 2017 came to me in early December. Once again, it was not a word on my short list of considerations. But hope kept coming to mind. And it confused me.
I could see reasons for the words release and joy, as I blogged earlier. But would I really need to focus on hope as a daily activity? Hmmm, since I teach and write, perhaps I was to focus on hope as a way to encourage others. To be a vessel of hope to those who may be struggling under waves of despair.
I didn’t have to wait long to learn why hope is not only my word for 2017, it’s one my husband is focusing on, as well.
On January 4, Russ entered the hospital with sharp abdominal pain. He thought it might be kidney stones. Instead, tests confirmed the presence of a pancreatic tumor.
While we waited in the ER for the admission paperwork to be completed, a nurse placed a glass stone in my hand. “Here,” he said. “Hold on to this.” I looked down to see the word hope etched across the glass.
Within 2 days, Russ had 2 surgeries. One to stop internal bleeding and the other to remove a cancerous tumor, his spleen, and parts of his pancreas and stomach.
If ever a diagnosis calls for hope, it’s cancer. These past several weeks have been jam-packed with medical tests and doctor appointments as he recovers from the surgery and makes decisions regarding further treatment. Discussions about radiation and chemotherapy are now a normal part of our conversations.
Through it all, we trust our Savior and cling to Him.
Yes, hope is precisely what I need this year. And, although I didn’t realize it then, the Lord began preparing me for 2017 in December 2016.
What is your “one word” for 2017?
Each new year brings the potential for a clean slate. New opportunities, new challenges, new experiences. But that clean slate also produces uncertainty.
Globally, we’re facing wars, terrorism, and natural disasters. Nationally, we’re weary of political conflicts, division, racism, as well as disillusionment with our elected officials—regardless of who you may have voted for.
All this uncertainty has renewed interest in end times prophecies. But it has also precipitated questions about the correct interpretation of those prophecies. Will there be a rapture, and if so, when? Is the millennium a literal period of time? Who is the AntiChrist? What is the role of the United States in the end times, if it even has a role?
When I recently taught the book of Revelation, I was overwhelmed by the number of class members who enrolled for one reason. They wanted names and dates to complete a timeline of end time events. But if we’re only looking for names and dates, we’re missing the point of prophecy. The Bible calls us to ask ourselves,
In light of the uncertainty in the world and the certainty of God’s sovereignty, how should we live?
Prophecy does more than simply reveal information about coming events. Every prophecy in the Bible also reveals something about who God is—His nature and His ways.
The more we learn about who God is, the more we understand how we are to live in uncertain times.
How we are to live when our government disappoints us.
How we are to live when our culture responds to our God with hostility.
How to live when even our friends reject our choice to surrender to the Savior.
There is no question that we live in uncertain times. Older generations fear for younger ones. And prophetic Bible passages often lead to more questions than answers. Still, the way we live in these unsettled times communicates much about who we believe God is.
Are we sending a message to those around us to “Do as I say, not as I do”? For example, we say we trust God…until a crisis arises and we collapse as our private world falls apart. Or we say we trust God for our nation…until the “other” candidate gets elected and we react with complete despair.
It’s one thing to trust God’s sovereignty when our experiences are positive and pleasant. It’s quite another thing to trust God when events seem to be spinning out of control and the future appears bleak at best.
Which situation do you think will provide the basis for a more powerful witness to a watching world? To the reality of intimacy with God? After all, anyone can claim to trust God when things are going well. It’s when our circumstances are at their worst that we have the opportunity to reflect Christ in ways that cause unbelievers to sit up and take notice.
As 2017 continues to unfold, we can be certain of at least one truth: God is always at work for our ultimate good and His eternal glory. Do you believe this? Really believe this? Will you choose to live in a way that communicates this truth in your personal relationships? On social media? At work? In your family?
If you do, regardless of what the new year brings, you will radiate a peace the world hungers for. You will also have numerous opportunities to share with others how they can obtain this peace for themselves.
When you look back on 2017 twelve months from now, what will you see? A year in which your intimacy with God blossomed through a relationship with His Son, Jesus? Or a year filled with a growing sense of dread that suffocated every opportunity to live for the glory of the One who is still sovereign over His creation?
The choice is yours. Just remember, your choice affects more than you alone. Your choice will impact everyone in your sphere of influence.
How will you and I live in 2017?