Apprenticed
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Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

Have you ever tried to learn how to play a new game by just reading the directions? It’s pretty hard to do, isn’t it? It’s much easier if someone in the group already knows how to play the game and they walk you through the first couple of times.

Have you ever wondered how skateboarders and motocross riders learn to do what they do? Do they sit in classes, read books on their tricks, take tests over the physics involved and write papers? In fact, a person could read an infinite number of books about how to skateboard, but until he or she actually got on a skateboard and tried to ride it, he isn’t going to learn how, right?

When Jesus called His disciples, He followed the same pattern of teaching that we now know ensures the most success. First, He talked about what He wanted them to learn. Next, He showed them, and then He had them try it, both with supervision and without. That’s how apprentices used to learn their tasks.

We don’t have many apprentices around anymore, but my father, who was born in 1910, began his working life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Since he was kind of on the cusp of what we would consider “old world” ways of thinking and “modern” ways, he went to school too. He became a tool and die maker/machinist and never lost his love of creating things with his hands. He was also a sculptor and could make pretty much anything out of metal, stone or wood.

Now, even though my father learned his skills mostly through practice, I remember that he had a book he would refer to from time to time. It was called the Machinist’s Handbook. I really couldn’t tell you what all it had in it, even though I have looked through it many times, because it made absolutely no sense to me. But he could look through its pages and find a solution to a problem that he had encountered in one of his tasks. He even had parts of that book memorized because they were the most helpful to him. Hm … are you thinking what I’m thinking?

We could say that the disciples were Jesus’ apprentices, couldn’t we? Apprentice fishers of men.

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:18-20

“The prompt, unquestioning obedience of these men, with no promise of wages, seems remarkable; but the words of Christ were an invitation that carried with it an impelling power. Christ would make these humble fishermen, in connection with Himself, the means of taking men out of the service of Satan, and placing them in the service of God. In this work they would become his witnesses, bearing to the world His truth unmingled with the traditions and sophistries of men. By practicing His virtues, by walking and working with Him, they were to be qualified to be fishers of men.”1

Can you imagine what that must have been like for the men that Jesus called? Did they really understand what Jesus was calling them to do? Did they have any idea what was involved in being a fisher of men? I’m thinking, probably not. And they went anyway. Isn’t that odd?

Do you think you would have gone? Did Jesus call other people who chose not to go with Him? Do you realize that Jesus is calling us, right this moment, to become fishers of men, just like He did those men?

How do we become fishers of men? I mean, the disciples had Jesus right there with them for three and a half years, and they still didn’t really figure it out until after Jesus died. How can we even begin to learn?

Well, in addition to the Holy Spirit, we do have the Bible. We can sit at Jesus’ feet almost like the disciples did and learn from His words. In some ways, it might even be easier for us, because it’s condensed to the most important information.

We have to remember, though, that it’s easy to get stuck in the book phase of learning. We can get all caught up in theory and debate, but that’s probably not going to lead anyone to Jesus.

A few years ago, I decided to learn to crochet. I got a book or two, I looked on the internet. I read how to get started and I looked at picture after picture of all the different kinds of stitches. I looked at pictures of afghans and baby sweaters. But until I picked up a crochet hook and some yarn and started practicing, I hadn’t learned how to crochet.

Reading the directions is fine, but we have to move on from there. We have to start practicing what we’ve read. How many of us come to church every week, study our lesson, read our Bibles, and that’s all?

We’re stuck in the first phase of becoming fishers of men.

That’s all good stuff to do, but it isn’t enough. We have to move on to phase two: practicing what we’ve been learning.

What? You don’t think you’re ready?

“One of the lessons I have learned in six and half decades of life is that very few dreams should go on hold while you improve the shortcomings of your life …. To be sure, there are times when you need to stop what you are doing and focus on conquering a flaw. But if you wait till all your shortcomings are remedied, your dreams will die. All our advances are with a limp.

“If you wait till you are beyond criticism to pursue your dream, you will never do it. You won’t marry or stay married. You won’t decide to have children or raise them. You won’t take your first job or keep it. You won’t go into missions or stay there …. Few things paralyze people more than their own imperfections. And there are always people around to remind you of your flaws and suggest you can’t move forward until you’re better.”2

You know what? On our own, we’ll never be ready. And Satan will make sure that we never, ever feel ready. We have to start anyway, holding Jesus’ hand, and He’ll take us where we need to be. We just have to start doing something. Jesus didn’t spend three and a half years teaching His disciples and then say, “OK, the teaching’s over, go home.” No! That’s when the real work started! If you doubt that, you need to re-read the book of Acts.

I’m sure that sometimes the disciples didn’t feel like they could do what they were supposed to be doing. And without the Holy Spirit, they couldn’t. But, with the Holy Spirit, they could do absolutely anything!

The same goes for you and me. There will be times when we’re tired or when we mess things up or just don’t know what to do next. But Jesus is right with us, whispering to us, “for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20b

  1. E.G. White, Gospel Workers, page 24
  2. John Piper, Bloodlines (Crossway, 2011), p. 109
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Apprenticed — 5 Comments

  1. Lilliane, thank you so much for reminding us that just going to church and "studying" is not where it's at.

    For those of us who feel unprepared, the example of the demoniacs out of whom Jesus cast a legion of demons is encouraging:

    "...the restored demoniacs... desired the company of their deliverer. In His presence they felt secure from the demons that had tormented their lives and wasted their manhood. As Jesus was about to enter the boat, they kept close to His side, knelt at His feet, and begged Him to keep them near Him, where they might ever listen to His words. But Jesus bade them go home and tell what great things the Lord had done for them.

    Here was a work for them to do,--to go to a heathen home, and tell of the blessing they had received from Jesus. It was hard for them to be separated from the Saviour. Great difficulties were sure to beset them in association with their heathen countrymen. And their long isolation from society seemed to have disqualified them for the work He had indicated. But as soon as Jesus pointed out their duty they were ready to obey. Not only did they tell their own households and neighbors about Jesus, but they went throughout Decapolis, everywhere declaring His power to save, and describing how He had freed them from the demons. In doing this work they could receive a greater blessing than if, merely for benefit to themselves, they had remained in His presence. It is in working to spread the good news of salvation that we are brought near to the Saviour.

    The two restored demoniacs were the first missionaries whom Christ sent to preach the gospel in the region of Decapolis. For a few moments only these men had been privileged to hear the teachings of Christ. Not one sermon from His lips had ever fallen upon their ears. They could not instruct the people as the disciples who had been daily with Christ were able to do. But they bore in their own persons the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. They could tell what they knew; what they themselves had seen, and heard, and felt of the power of Christ. This is what everyone can do whose heart has been touched by the grace of God.

    From Desire of Ages, pp. 339, 340. The whole chapter is great reading. (Clicking on the link will get you there.)

    When we realize that what Jesus wants most from us is to share what He has done for us, it isn't so hard. We need to get rid of the idea that we have to tell people to quit smoking or to go to church on Saturday, etc. None of that means anything until they know Jesus and His love. And those are best taught by example and our sharing what Jesus means to us and what He has done for us. Before anyone can understand the love of Jesus, they need to see love "with skin on it" in the person of one of His disciples.

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    • Lillianne and Inge, thank you for actually telling us what we are supposed to do! I think the most needed thing is our willingness to accept Jesus that through the power of Holy Spirit we will be able to WALK AND WORK with HIM.

      People want to see how do we walk & work with the One we preach about. That is how the gospel we are preaching has changed/impacted our lives!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your perspective Lillianne. It is good to be a disciple, an apprentice, a life long learner and follower of JESUS!

    You are a great writer. One lesson I have learned as a servant leader is to keep my eyes on Jesus, keep my focus in God's Word and remember there will be hardships (criticism, negativity and rejection) but all is worth it as we prepare for God's Kingdom. Come soon Jesus, may your laborers be faithful to your reaping of the harvest!

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  3. Wow, what a powerful lesson. Their is so much to back this up in scripture and in life. I was a licensed Barber, when I started there were no books I new of that I could learn from to teach me to cut hair, for years I said I would learn to cut hair, but fear of messing up kept me on the sidelines. One day an old friend, may He rest in peace, said watch me and the rest of the Barbers in his shop for a week and give it a try. Well I tried just that, then I tried it on my own. I must admit, there where a few disappointed men that left the shop, but the more practice the better I got, and it couldn't have been a year later I had my own shop, which is another great testimony all its own, and I became one of the city's greats, and a lot of those disappointed customers from the shop where I began became some of my best customers. I went through the same thing in Ministry. I started well then I got knocked down and couldn't get up for a while, But praise God I got up again, a couple of years ago, and this lesson has just encouraged me in my fisher of men apprenticeship... God bless...

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    • Al, thank you for your testimony and experience in life. I wish our church would stop thinking that we know everything and take some simple lessons from everyday life and apply them.

      When I was in my twenties I tried sales work probably because my dad was a salesman. I was never successful as one so I tried a lot of companies hoping to find one that I could do, mostly door to door sales, you know, Fuller brush, vacuum cleaner sales, encyclopedia sales, etc.

      Every single one of them would spend time in a classroom sort of setting and go over the canned presentation and told me to memorize it. Next they sent me out with a successful salesman and for a whole day all I would do is observe how he did it. Then, for several days after he would go with me and help me when I stumbled and after each visit he would give me pointers on what to do and not do.

      That is what is called training and it is very successful in the world of business which of course is what our church has basically decided not to do. Jesus also sent His disciples out by two's which for some reason we feel isn't good enough for us because we know better. . . I sure wish we would wake up instead of numbly looking at the total lack of success and wondering why things are the way they are.

      Sure, there are people out there that are natural to doing what we are commanded to do but most of us are not and those that try are, in many cases, not supported which becomes so depressing that most of them simply give up.

      In all of my some 35 years as an Adventist only one person ever took the initiative to ask me to go along with him in order to teach me how to give a bible study. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to do it properly himself so my only training ended up being zero.

      It doesn't just stop with the lay people either. Not too many years ago in a sister church in the same pastoral district of the church I was attending had an evangelistic series. The evangelist took our pastor along and showed him how to do visitation. That pastor told me that he was so grateful for that and that he learned some very useful things that he was unaware of. What shocked me most was that he, like most pastors in North America, had a master degree from Andrews in one of ministerial programs required by the conference at the time.

      On the other hand my church had an evangelistic meeting several years later and the evangelist (a different one) absolutely refused to take our pastor along because in his mind pastors didn't know how to do soul winning. Furthermore, he was very vocal about all the bad experiences he had with other pastors. But it gets worse; the first evangelist was visiting some of the people that were obviously not ready for the series of meetings so he decided to take the time to lay some solid ground work for a future series (seed planting). Unfortunately, again, the conference that employed him didn't like his track record for baptisms and fired him as an evangelist.

      Now, while that happened to him the second evangelist had whole lot of baptisms at the end of his series for which he was highly praised, however, the candidates were never told they were being baptized into the church, further; they were all attached to him rather than to Christ so as soon as he left they did also. I wonder who actually did the will of Him who is in Heaven. I also wonder why our church can't seem to learn from Christ's ministry on earth and from Paul who also trained the people who were with him.

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