When my family and I first moved to Hawaii when I was in early elementary school, my older brother, an eighth grader at the time and an excellent basketball player for his age, immediately became the star for one of the local teams for the National Junior Basketball League (NJB). I remember being at their first game of the season. They were up against the top team in the league. As our family sat in the sidelines and watched both teams warming up (and their warm-up drills could not be more different) my older sister—herself a basketball player in middle school—leaned over and said: “That team (pointing to my brother’s team) will eventually become the better team. That team (pointing to the opposing team) may have the better players, but that team (pointing to my brother’s team again) has the better coaching.” She could see this by the way my brother’s coach was warming up the players. While they lost that first game, my sister’s prediction was right. My brother’s team not only eventually defeated that same opposing team in their second game, but ended up winning the championship by the end of the season. It would forever teach me the impact of a good coach.
While athletic talent may be innate, it can only be unlocked to perform at full potential through good coaching. I’ve watched football teams start off the season on a six-game losing streak, only to all of a sudden have a seven-game winning streak due to the change in coaching. I’ve watched young runners who started off their season unable to run more than three miles at a ten-minute pace end the season running ten miles at under a seven-minute pace due to the presence of good coaching. That’s not to say that every athlete who gets good coaching will succeed. But every athlete who consistently succeeds only did so through good coaching. Coaching is an absolutely necessary element of success in competitive sports. In fact, coaching is vital in just about every area of life. Christian living is no exception.
Jesus Himself said, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he is fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). There is no such thing as a self-made and self-influenced Christian. Humans are, by nature, imitators of other humans. Humans were designed by God to acquire skills through education transmitted from teacher to student. Every person, no matter how seemingly independent and self-sufficient he may be or seem, will become like someone else. Every person, whether he is conscious of it or not, and whether he admits it or not, is striving toward a portrait that is modeled in some way by another. Every person is either currently imitating someone or has imitated someone. And who do they end up imitating? None other than those whom they consider to be their teachers (Luke 6:40).
No matter how gifted a man may seem, and no matter how ambitious and fervent he may be for the Lord’s work, he will in some way become like the man who mentored him. It’s no wonder that Paul reminds both Timothy and Titus to be examples to other believers in their personal character and conduct (1 Tim 4:12; Titus 2:7-8). It’s no wonder that pastors and elders are called to prove themselves examples to the flock of God (1 Pet 5:3). Younger Christians especially must seek out older and more seasoned saints to mentor them and “coach” them through life and ministry. Older and more seasoned saints who are gifted with teaching, exhortation, and leadership must never underestimate the impact they can have on younger believers whose potential for kingdom work can be unlocked through sound biblical mentoring. In the same way athletes must remember the impact of a good coach, a Christian must remember the impact of a sound, godly mentor.
Take pains, then, to seek out good spiritual mentoring and coaching. Beware of ungodly examples, who may be charismatic but will end up luring you away from the faith and burdening you with things you ought not to be burdened by (Matt 23:1-7). Identify a more seasoned believer whose words and life decisions demonstrate a commitment to the Word of God and whose outcome of life you respect, and imitate his faith (Heb 13:7). For who you consider your teachers is who you will become.