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A Heart to Teach – A Teacher’s Prayer (10)

As I was thinking about the next main topic of this series (the bounty), I was struck while doing my morning devotions. Reading through Paul’s epistles has brought me to the book of Colossians. Before beginning the book, I read the background information about the book provided in my Bible and was hit with the fact that it is believed that Paul was writing this book to the church in Colossae even though he, personally, had never visited that church and knew of them only through his friend and fellow colleague in the faith, Epaphrus. And yet, Paul begins this letter by penning a prayer from him to God for them. The prayer is quite stirring and powerful when you realize that this is written for saints the Paul doesn’t truly know personally. It’s beautiful and, when we read it through the eyes of a teacher, as Paul, among his many talents, was a teacher, adds another level to the true hopes and desires of a teacher and reveals what the Christian teacher prays the bounty of their work will be. This is the connector between the idea of a teacher’s service for their students and, more importantly, their God, and the reward/bounty of the work of the teacher. It places the reward/bounty of teaching in the proper perspective: that it is all God’s doing, not, ultimately, the teacher’s. Godly teachers realize that all the blood (figuratively speaking, hopefully), sweat, and tears they shed on behalf of their students would all be in vain without the guiding hand of their heavenly Father, and, so, the Christian teacher prays. He prays, as Paul, for students that he knows on differing levels: for some with whom he has built strong teacher-student relationships and for others, perhaps, with whom he has less of a relationship as they’ve kept themselves more distant, or, simply, aren’t as easy to get to know and more reserved. Yet, the teacher prays:

I give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, students and fellow heirs of the promise. Praise be to God for your faith in Christ Jesus, for the love which you show for all the saints great and small at our school, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, for the word of the truth of the gospel which is come unto you, as it is in all the world and bringeth forth fruit since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth. And therefore, for this cause, I cease not to pray for you, to desire that ye be filled with the knowledge of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. So, thanksgiving to the Father, who has made us worthy in Christ to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light and who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Amen. (adapted from Colossians 1:3-13)

May this be an encouragement for you as you wrap up this year. God has given us His little children to be in our care. Our patience can run thin sometimes as the students prepare and become antsy for summer. Yet, may we pray. Pray that they be filled with the knowledge of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding and walk in that way that is pleasing in God’s sight.   

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – Service (9)

Since it has been a few weeks since the last post in this series, so let’s quick revisit where we’ve been. We have been looking at some keys for teachers in maintaining good classroom management. We looked at “avoiding mutiny by boarding the H.M.S. Bounty”. The ‘H’ stood for hope, the ‘M’ for match, and the ‘S’ for serve. The final aspect of the analogy is the bounty, which is going to be addressed in the next post, Lord willing. Today, we are going to look at the concept of servitude.

As a teacher, we are servants. We serve our students every day. If you don’t believe me, then perhaps I need to give a definition for servitude. Servitude, from a Christian viewpoint, is doing what’s best for others, often at the expense of one’s own time and energy, in order that God be glorified. As teachers, this is what we do. We serve our students by wanting what is best for them and doing our best to help them be the best servants of God that they can be. We serve them by showing them in our lives that we match up our walk with the walk required by our God. We serve our students when we show them how God is seen in the content areas that we teach. We continue to serve our students when we help them navigate the sometimes-difficult, occasionally-drama-ridden rollercoaster of building friendships and developing social lives within the covenant. We especially serve our students by utilizing wisdom in doing what is best for the students. This isn’t always what the students want. That’s not the service that we are called to. The service we do for our students can sometimes be tough love when discipline is necessary.

The important part of this equation, though, lies in the last part of the definition of servitude: in order that God be glorified. That is the end goal of our service. It ought not be for our glory. It should be our utmost joy to serve God and teach our students to serve God with gladness in their hearts. This comes as a mild warning. It can be easy to lose the joy of this service amongst piles of papers to grade, lesson-planning, student-induced headaches, and the everyday cares of life that often grows and swells over the course of the school year. May we remember the joy we have in serving our Lord in serving our students.

May Psalm 100 serve as encouragement and inspiration for you as you push through to the end of the ever-upcoming close to the school-year:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

 

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – The Show Mustn’t Go On (8)

“Develop your teacher persona.” An innocent enough phrase, at least on the surface. “Figure out who you are as a teacher.” Still, no major alarm bells. Then the thoughts get developed: “Think about how you want to portray yourself to your students.” – Warning. – “Be able to put on your teacher costume, wear it well for the day, and then be able to take it off and recharge.” – Warning. Warning. – “It’s fine if you distance your ‘at school’ self from your ‘outside of school’ self.” – Warning. Warning. Warning. –

Unfortunately, these are some of the ideas, in various degrees of intensity, that are fed to educators-in-training at the college level. Some aspects of these, in milder degrees, do have some level of truth to them. However, when unpacked, they uncover a disturbing recommendation for those entering education: you don’t have to be the real you as a teacher…you can make it a show. You don’t have to be genuine; you can be artificial. You can talk one way when you’re teaching, but you can walk another way once you’ve left the classroom. You can make your teaching-style an elaborate production, a staged show, in order to mask the person you really are. You can, to put it bluntly, “fake it ‘til you make it.”

At first, this rhetoric in college didn’t unnerve me much. I rather blindly soaked it up and accepted it somewhat. There are some elements of this that are useful tools and advice. You do, as a teacher, have to develop your teacher ‘presence’. That word better captures what a teacher does than the idea of a teacher ‘persona’ or a teacher ‘mask’. It is important for a teacher to devote some time to thinking about how they act in the classroom and what it reveals about them. Questions ought to be asked such as: How strict should I be? How funny should I be? What demeanor would I like to carry in class – relaxed? upbeat? borderline-crazy/intense? How personable am I going to be? How much of my personal life am I going to share and be open about? How am I going to relate to students and form good teacher-student relationships? How am I going to show Christ each day? These are good and important questions, necessary ones even. However, I prefer the word ‘presence’ to describe this development over words such as ‘persona’ because these imply some level of separation, almost like an alter-ego. When we develop who we are as a teacher, it shouldn’t necessarily be something separate from who we are as a person, who God has made us to be. So, when we are thinking about developing and forming how we present ourselves as teachers to our students, it must be done with a level of authenticity. Who we are as teachers needs to be firmly grounded in our own, genuine personality. If it’s an act, quit it. That show mustn’t go on. Your “teacher you” must still be fully and entirely you.

I had a professor in college who got this. In contrast to the message I was hearing in many of my other classes, he understood this need to be genuine as a teacher. He asked us at the start of the year what he considered to be the most important question that a teacher must answer in order to be a successful teacher: “who am I?” He believed that this was the simple, most important question that any aspiring teacher needed to be able to answer, truthfully and genuinely. The heart of a well-governed classroom, he believed, lay in the teacher’s knowledge and understanding of themselves and their ability to live and teach accordingly. The title of this class, by the way, was “Classroom Management”. Being genuine as a teacher is an important part of a well-run classroom.

In my last article, I mentioned that there were two areas in which we as teachers need to “match up.” We need to match with our God and we need to match with ourselves. Matching with God means that we need to live and walk according to the ways of our God. We can’t be hypocrites, saying one thing yet living another. We also, as teachers, need to match who we are in the classroom, how we act, how we present ourselves, with the person God has made us to be. We can’t put on a production that is fake in order to make ourselves look like something or be someone that we are not. This is, in its own way, deception. The Bible speaks at length about how much the Lord is displeased by deception and lying:

  • “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” (Proverbs 11:1-3)
  • “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” (Proverbs 10:9)
  • “Lie not one to another, seeing that y have put off the old man with his deeds.” (Colossians 3:9)
  • These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
  • “A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” (Proverbs 6:16-20)
  • “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (Exodus 20:16)

There is something important to note in all of these passages and that is this idea of perversion. To pervert something means literally to “alter [it] from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was intended” (Google Dictionary). Synonyms include words such as ‘to distort’, ‘to warp’, ‘to twist’, ‘to bend’, ‘to deflect’, ‘to misrepresent’, etc. When a teacher misrepresents themselves and gives a different appearance or “act” than what is true and genuine, what is portrayed is a warped or twisted copy of themselves. This is a deceptive and untrue representation. As teachers, it is important that we present ourselves in a genuine and authentic way that is in-line with who we are as a person and showcases the gifts and abilities and unique personality that God has equipped us with. Don’t try to showcase some other “ripped-off” counterfeit version. Like with all-things counterfeit, sooner or later someone will call-it-out, and it will be discovered as a fake. Students can sense when a teacher is putting on an act, when they’re faking it. Even if they don’t do anything about it, the atmosphere in the room and the respect they have for the teacher is innately affected. The relationships between the teacher and the students will become as fake and superficial as the act the teacher is putting on.

Often this “fake persona” is brought about by one of the greatest dangers and easiest traps to fall into for teachers: comparison. A colleague of mine recently shared a quote that I found to be inspirational: “comparison is the thief of joy”. When we as teachers compare ourselves to others, we risk desiring to be and act like that teacher and risk being discontent with and/or blind to the gifts and unique abilities God has given to us. As teachers, many of us were inspired to go into education by a teacher or multiple teachers. Perhaps we even said to ourselves, “When I’m a teacher, I want to be like so-and-so.” While this, perhaps, is not a wrong sentiment in itself and it’s good that teachers are able to inspire others to be teachers, this can be dangerous territory. You are never going to be able to be that teacher because you are you and, therefore, cannot be them. Also, if that is your goal, you’re never going to think you match up to what you consider to be an extremely high standard. Instead, realize that God has made you to be a teacher and has made you specially to do that with your own gifts, talents and personality. Use those in developing your teacher presence so that it remains still authentically you. A good practice that I have found helpful in developing as a teacher is not to think about which teachers/people I want to be like in order to mimic them, their teaching style, the way they interact with students etc. Instead, give some thought to what it is about that teacher that you admire. Perhaps you admire and appreciate the manner in which they maintain a relaxed atmosphere in their classroom so learning seems to flow naturally and easily. Awesome. Now, don’t seek to do it exactly like that teacher and, in essence, be that teacher in your classroom because you will fail. You aren’t them. Try, instead, to think about the gifts and strengths you have, who God has made you to be, and work to accomplish the desired goal (relaxed atmosphere, for example) using your gifts and your personality. This way, it stays rooted and remains authentic. God fitted you to be his teaching instrument; don’t be afraid to use and show that craftsmanship of God.

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – Matching Up (7)

First year teaching, groggy and still-waking up, I pulled into the parking lot at school. The early morning sun, having just crested the horizon, glinted on the frost still remaining on my windshield and side-windows. Opening the door of my car, I stood and stretched. Looking down, my mind momentarily froze as my eyes registered the clothes that I had chosen to wear that morning. A sudden wave of horror rolled over me. The gray pants I believed I had put on had inexplicably morphed into my brown pair of pants. Somehow, I had managed to put on a different pair of pants than I thought I did, and, although the combo could’ve been worse, it wasn’t particularly award-worthy either. I could already picture the cringe that would sweep across my wife’s face when I got home later that evening.

While having clothing that matches is important enough for a teacher, in the grand-picture it is fairly trivial. However, being able to match up as a teacher is crucially important for your work in the classroom. If you want to establish a good atmosphere in your classroom where students respect, listen, and enjoy your class, matching is extremely important. Now what type of matching are we talking about? There are particularly 2 different areas that it is important that, as a teacher, you are matching: your walk with God and your walk with yourself.

If you’re a parent, you’re well aware of the fact that your children are always watching. They seem to have an innate ability to see and pick-up on little things far more than we realize and, maybe, would want. That’s why we need to make sure to be vigilant in showing them a walk that is upright before God. As they say, “monkey see, monkey do.” Similarly, our students are watching us to see if we are living a life that is in accordance with what we believe. As teachers, we are to lead by example. While not living an outwardly wicked life is, obviously, important, more pertinent to your work as a Christian teacher is to make sure that your life is not just “not bad” but that it would be looked on as a model for others. Paul expresses something similar to this in Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

There is a lot going on in this passage. First off, Paul instructs the saints in the church of Philippi to “let [their] moderation be known unto all men.” Don’t hide your faith and your love for God; it is something to celebrate: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” He cautions them not to worry about anything (be careful for nothing). This is to be done through prayer and thanksgiving, coming often and confidently. That is the model for a Christian. A teacher, if we are being honest, is not necessarily, called to be “more holy.” That is not the idea. The idea, though, is that God has given us the position of being someone that is looked to frequently and observed keenly. In the same way that parents are responsible to their children to be good models to base their life and walk on, teachers are responsible and required to be examples of Christ’s walk to their students.

We are to match our walk up to the standard of God’s law (as much as we are able to as redeemed sinners). Paul says, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report…think on these things.” As teachers, these are the qualities and the characteristics that we desire our students think and walk in. Make sure we are doing so as well. If you are advocating that the students spend more time reading good Christian literature, make sure that your Christian books aren’t gathering dust. If you are telling your students how important personal devotions are, make sure that your own devotional life hasn’t lagged and become dormant. If you desire that your students are kind one unto another and serve the Lord with gladness in their hearts, show the same kind of love and tender-heartedness to your colleagues and to your students. Don’t give your students the occasion to accuse you of falling on the “do as I say, not as I do” adage. Paul recognizes the prominent position that teachers have and how others are watching when he says, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” He didn’t shy away from this role. He wanted the saints in Philippi to live a life similar to his own. That was not to say he was without sin. That’s impossible. However, he knew that God had called him to live a life of integrity and uprightness before His face and that he was doing all he could each day to mortify the old man of sin within him and to live a new and sanctified life by the Holy Spirit (Form for the Public Confession of Faith). That’s what he desired for the Philippian saints as well.

This is far from the only passage in which Paul encourages an upright walk, especially for those with prominent positions. In his instruction to Timothy, he says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Timothy was dealing with the those in his congregation who were doubting, not listening to, or not giving credit to him due to his age. Paul’s advice to Timothy was that he “set an example” so that those around him would see from his life that He was God’s servant. That’s our calling too, as teachers. Be an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. That, really, is the calling for all Christians, no matter your job or how visible it is every day (Titus 2). We ought all to be striving for this even if a teacher’s walk is more openly regarded than others.

So then, why is this so important? As we’ve seen, it is important for each Christian to model their life after Christ and that they be not hearers of the Word only but doers also (James 1:22-25). However, for a teacher, especially in the light of classroom management, this is exceptionally important. Students perceive when a teacher is being genuine in their walk with God and in their instruction about living for God. If there is a disconnect between what the students hear and what they see within the life of the teacher, this can cause a related disconnect in the relationship between a teacher and their students. Students need to trust their teachers as well as firmly believe that their teachers are living for God first, and that, through that, they are living to do what is best for their students not only for their earthly lives but also, more importantly, for their spiritual lives.

The second area that a teacher must match up is in regards to their own portrayal of themselves. This involves another area of genuineness. We will continue next week by exploring how pivotal it is that we present ourselves authentically to our students and not come across as “fake”.

One parting thought, though, for this week, still on the topic of living a life that is in accordance to the walk we pray our students walk in. One of the most beautiful and straightforward passages in the Bible that speaks about how we are to live as Christians is Psalm 1. May this passage encourage you in your own daily journey with God so that you can relay that encouragement to your students so that they too, can walk in a way that matches with the God of their salvation.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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A Heart to Teach – Hoping to Avoid Mutiny (6)

We’re going to be taking a slight detour from discussing qualifications of good teachers and the reasonings behind our current teacher shortage to talk, in a short series of posts, about something relevant for both prospective teachers and established teachers alike: classroom management. This time of the year can be particularly challenging for teachers as both they and their students become battle-weary and work-worn within the dreary dregs of Winter. The sun rarely shines and the workload piles up. Then the warm days show up – a couple days at least – and the madness of March sets in. Teachers find their patience and calm often frayed to nubs, easily agitated unless they actively fight the urge to be short and irritable. Small problems that have been simmering within the class atmosphere seem to be exacerbated and manifest themselves as the extremes in student attitude and teacher reactitude – yes, I made that word up – are pressed to their limits. Teachers can feel like a bone to be chewed when the gales of student discontent come slashin’. A mutinous spirit has entered the class and, if not carefully stymied, can grow and mutate into a festering sore.

A properly managed classroom does not mean that this spirit of unrest can’t happen. We live in a sinful world, teaching sinful students as sinful teachers. Yet, a proper, Christian view of your students and your role as their teacher can plug a lot of holes in a “sinking” ship. A healthy, Christ-centered approach to classroom management strengthens the unity of the classroom and defuses a mutinous attitude or, even better, helps to prevent it from growing in the first place. So, teachers, avoid mutiny by boarding the HMS Bounty.

Wait…what?

Teachers, you need to get onboard. Establishing a Christ-centered classroom requires that you consider your treatment of the following four principles: Hope, Match, Serve, and Bounty. Avoid mutiny by hoping, matching, serving, and trusting in God’s bounty.

First, let’s look at hope. How is this to play a central part in the direction of your classroom? It is crucial that we have the hope of God when it comes to our students. We can be discouraged at times with the actions of our students. We can be discouraged with our own actions and reactions. It can be easy to get downhearted, anxious, and even despairing over the day-to-day interactions between students as well as our own engagements with them. We might say something – or not say something – and regret it. We may get discouraged when students sin against each other or struggle with the afflictions of the flesh and the effects of their own sinful natures. This is where the hope of God comes into play. The hope of God casts aside despair and refocuses us on the One who really matters and on whose strength we ought to lean on and encourage our students to lean on. Psalm 43 expresses the Psalmist’s same struggle with these discouragements. Psalter 120 paints this Psalm beautifully:

Judge me, God of my salvation,
Plead my cause, for Thee I trust;
Hear my earnest supplication,
Save me from my foes unjust.

CHORUS:

O my soul, why art thou grieving?
What disquiets and dismays?
Hope in God; His help receiving,
I shall yet my Saviour praise.

On Thy strength alone relying,
Why am I cast off by Thee,
In my helpless sorrow sighing,
While the foe oppresses me?

Light and truth, my way attending,
Send thou forth to be my guide,
Till Thy holy mount ascending,
I within Thy house abide.

At Thy sacred altar bending,
God, my God, my boundless joy,
Harp and voice, in worship blending,
For Thy praise will I employ.

It bears special notice how often prayer is referenced. We receive the hope of God through the power of prayer and God speaking with us: “At Thy sacred altar bending, God, my God, my boundless joy, harp and voice in worship blending, for thy praise will I employ.” We worship Him and praise Him by bowing before Him. It is through this prayer and worship that we are given His hope and, in turn, His help is received. It is when we shed off our own conceited notion of self-ability and admit our own inability (which happens more and more as the Holy Spirit cleanses our hearts and sanctifies us to live like unto Jesus Christ) that the reassurance of the power of Christ’s shed blood more-and-more washes over us, calming the squalls of disquiet and dismay so that, instead of feeling cast-off from God, our sighs of helpless sorrow are flung away. We have CHRIST pleading our cause! What greater balm for discouragement is there than that?!

When we hope in God, our discouragement in our own failures is put in perspective. God’s mercies are new and boundless to us every morning. Never will we “scrape the bottom” of His goodness. When we know that truth, our discouragement is transformed into encouragement for we confess that we “can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth” us (Philippians 4:13). Paul, in the context of this passage, is speaking to the wide range of different situations in which God has placed him and the variety of different emotions he’s faced: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (vs 12). The life of the teacher can feel like this sometimes. There can be highs and lows. Sometimes, as a teacher, you experience the greatest “highs” of the mountaintops: witnessing students as they serve Jesus in their walk, model their life after Jesus Christ, apply the things they’ve learned in their classes to their Christian worldview, and take up their place within the the Church of Christ. However, you also will experience the lows: the realities of our own sinfulness, the consequences of sinful walks and actions, the corrupting influence of the world upon families and friendships, and Satan’s own direct assaults upon the youth. These can be disheartening. Sometimes it can feel like the negative, difficult situations are hitting harder and more frequently than the good moments, the scales are out-of-balance, like you’ve been placed in a heavyweight-boxing match and you’re horribly undersized and underprepared. That’s where we take our hope in God…for ourselves (He’s our strength), but also, and this is crucially important, for our students.

Having this mindset of having the hope of God for our students is critical, and it plays a role in how we navigate the management of our classrooms. When we see students sinning, or they sin directly to us, or they are burdened down with the effects of their own sinful behaviors, these can be troubling and can, without the proper Christ-centered perspective, lead to an improper perspective of the students and our own reaction to them and their time in our classrooms. We, as teachers, have been given the joy of teaching and instructing God’s youth. They are God’s youth. We place our trust and our hope in that truth. When they act out in sin, we should be wise to remember to direct them to God. Don’t focus the attention on what they did to you as a teacher primarily but redirect their attention to God. When they are struggling with their own sinful behaviors, orient them to face the rugged cross of Jesus. Equip them with the Word given by God for them. When counseling, leading, and comforting, don’t just bring your own words. These can only go so far as they proceed from earthen vessels. Bring God’s comfort and hope alongside your students when they’re struggling so that they too have a proper and right perspective.

We have a surety in God’s promises that we can rely on, a confidence that we bear in the classroom when we view the young people sitting before us in the light of Christ. They are Christ’s lambs. Each one, like ourselves, is under-construction by the Holy Spirit who teaches and guides us through a life of continued sanctification, and He will not fail to bring about His desired purpose: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Our confident work, therefore, is performed out of love. It begins with Christ’s love for His sheep. We love Him because He has first loved us. Our love for each other proceeds out of this love for Christ: “We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:19-21). When we remember this, our view of others, our students included, changes. We harbor a confident hope in God’s promise for them as His children, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).

And this hope is a joyful thing. We can take joy in the hope of salvation: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3). This hope is a lively hope. It inspires a certain agency to our hope so that our hope is not a dead hope. Christ is ARISEN! Our hope, therefore, is sure and very much alive. When we have this hope and joy in our students, even when they sin against us and our tempers flare or our selfish desire is to take offense for our own self’s sake, we remember to whom we belong and to whom they belong. This doesn’t give excuse for their actions by any means. If anything, it adds more imperative that the wrongdoing be addressed and not turned a blind-eye to. Yet not for the sake of our own honor but for their own well-being and, more importantly, to guide them to an awareness of their own hope of salvation and to draw them to the foot of the cross.

When we have this attitude towards our students, God blesses us with strength. A healthy, Christ-empowered strength. This type of strength is fed on by students as they watch and observe the walk of a teacher whose walk is in line with God’s Word. Psalm 42, which was referenced earlier, speaks about being disquieted and the exhaustion that accompanies it. The Psalmist draws the picture of a deer panting for water, near-death from thirst and near-mad in its search for “water brooks”. That “water brook” is Jesus Christ, the living water. When His people drink of Him and hope/wait on Him, He “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

So, take that hope of God into your classroom. Hope in God for your students. Trust in His promises for them. Joy in the Lord and take courage. Equipped with hope, enter your classroom with a new strength, that of Jesus’ work not of your own. Be on your knees before His throne, constant in prayer, and, through His peace may you be given joy. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).

Mr. Ethan Mingerink is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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