Reading Gaius’s Mail: Who’s Your Mentor?

“The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” (3 John 1)

We’re going to spend this next week reading someone else’s mail. Is that wrong? Not this time. The tiny book of 3 John is one of only two New Testament letters addressed to a specific person and seemingly intended as “personal mail.” (A Scooby Snack for the first person to name the other.)

reading_350Still, John’s letter to Gaius is the inspired Word of God, and we’re going to mine it for some real and helpful truth. The first thing you’ll notice is that “the elder,” apparently, had been a kind of mentor to Gaius. He calls him a dear friend and says he loves him “in the truth.”

Do you have any Christian mentors in your life – someone wiser than you that cares enough to help you understand better how to walk in the truth? If not, ask God to send you a good one who will be committed to the truth of God, above all, and willing to help you learn to love it, too.

Think: What would you say are the qualities of a good Christian mentor or discipler? How many Christians in your life love you “in the truth”? How many people do you love with that kind of unconditional, godly love?

Pray: Thank God for the mentors in your life. If you need a spiritual mentor, ask him to send you one that loves his truth – and let him know you’re available to help disciple someone else as you grow more wise and mature.

Do: Make a quick list of the top 3 spiritual teachers in your life and 3 people you love and serve “in the truth.”

Reading Gaius’s Mail: Soul Talk

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 2)

The apostle John, “the elder,” launches into his little letter to his good friend Gaius by describing how he prays for him. It’s a practical prayer: for Gaius’s health and for “everything else” in Gauius’s life to do as well as his soul was doing.

reading_350Notice that John makes a distinction between good health, good circumstances, and the life of the soul. That tells me those things don’t always go together. My soul can do well even when I’m physically sick or when things are going badly in my life. And, of course, my soul – though spiritually alive in Christ – can feel “down” even when my life seems to be going just fine.

Remember those psalms where the writer would talk to his own soul? “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” The poet was suffering through a dark moment. But he told his soul he would not stop praising God or remembering God’s goodness, love, and power. He told his soul the truth.

How do you talk to your soul?

Think: Have you ever compared the attitude of your soul to your physical health or other circumstances? Have you ever told your soul to cheer up because God is good? Have you ever felt really spiritually positive and alive even though your physical circumstances weren’t so good?

Pray: For yourself and one good friend, pray today’s verse. Ask God for the enjoyment of good physical health, for good everyday circumstances, and especially for your souls to do well.

Do: Read Psalm 42 and notice how the writer talks about and to his soul (especially in verse 5).

Reading Gaius’s Mail: What’s Your Rep?

“It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.” (3 John 3)

Does it bother you when you hear that people have been talking about you? Do you get worried when you find out that a friend from one group and a friend from another group were comparing notes about you?

reading_350You cannot keep people from gossiping or telling lies about you sometimes, but you can control who you will be. Are you faithful to the truth? Do you live as the same person no matter who you’re spending time with? Are you committed to representing God well in every group of friends?

Gaius’s friends talked about Gaius behind his back: They told John that Gaius was committed to the truth in his everyday life. As his mentor and teacher, John was thrilled to hear it. Gaius had a rep as a truth-walker.

Think: What bothers you more, that someone might lie about you or that people might find out the truth about you? How can you protect your reputation by making more truthful choices?

Pray: Ask God to help you to develop a reputation as someone who walks in the truth so that your mentors and friends will be happy when they hear about it from others.

Do: Write down one thing you can do differently this week to be more faithful to the truth.

Reading Gaius’s Mail: Don’t Hate the Cheerleaders

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)

How you hear these words from the apostle John to Gaius probably depends on how you view your spiritual leaders. On the one hand, this could come across like emotional manipulation, couldn’t it? “Your good choices make me happy – so don’t screw up and steal my joy!”

reading_350But, no, that’s not what John is saying. We all need spiritual moms and dads – even if they’re not our actual moms and dads – to cheer when we walk in the truth and cry when we don’t. It helps to know somebody will care if we keep following Jesus or take off down our own paths.

At any given moment, it might be easy to feel a little smothered by moms or dads or other leaders and their expectations for your spiritual life. Resist that urge. Enjoy bringing joy to the people with big love for you, especially when you can do it by walking in the truth.

Think: Do you tend to appreciate or resent – or both, sometimes – the people rooting for you to keep following Jesus? How do you feel about the idea that you can please God himself by simply trusting him and taking the next step in his direction?

Pray: Thank God for any spiritual leaders in your life who feel joyful when they hear that you are walking in the truth. Ask God to help you to continue to feel thankful for them.

Do: Make a quick list of the people in your life who really, emotionally care about your spiritual choices. If you get to 10, stop and thank God for them again.

Reading Gaius’s Mail: Brothers from Different Mothers

“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you.” (3 John 5)

What does it mean, really, to “walk in the truth”? One thing it means, according to John, is to recognize complete strangers as brothers and sisters simply because they’ve been adopted by the same Father in heaven through faith in Jesus.

reading_350We have different rules for family than we do for friends, especially when trouble comes. If either of the two brothers I grew up with called me right now and asked for my help with something major, I’d be there. They get special access and special permission to come to me for help.

A similar thing is meant to happen between brothers and sisters in Christ; we’re told to love everyone, but especially those of the “household of faith.” Even if I just met them and found out about their need for help with the mission, I’m available to my brothers in Christ. They’re family.

Think: Have you ever felt a family connection to someone you just met because both of you were Christians? Have you ever helped a stranger in their mission to serve God only because you serve the same God?

Pray: Thank God for your brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. Ask him to help you to be ready to help people in your Christian family when you can.

Do: Be on the lookout for the next stranger who asks for your help and be ready to do what you can for him or her.

Reading Gaius’s Mail: Give It Away

“You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans.” (3 John 6-7)

When people ask for money to help with some project or mission or big need, do you ever wonder about their motives? Are you ever curious if they’re being honest about where the money will go or how it will get spent? It’s okay to wonder.

reading_350These guys John is talking about were on a specific mission for Christ that needed funding. They were likely missionaries calling unbelievers (or “pagans”) to repent and turn to Jesus. They didn’t want the people they were trying to reach to have any reason to wonder if they were just manipulating them for cash, so they refused to take a dime from them.

That’s one reason John wanted Gaius and his people to contribute to this mission – to keep there from being any reason to question the motives of the missionaries. Integrity should be the norm among God’s people, even if it costs extra.

Think: Have you ever heard about any Christian leaders who misused money given for their ministries? What do you think that does to our reputations as Christians? Can it harm Jesus’ reputation in the culture?

Pray: Ask God to give you wisdom about how to give your money to men and women for ministry. Ask him to help those churches and ministries to use that money with integrity for the sake of Jesus.

Do: Notice this week what voices you hear talking about or asking for money for various needs in your church, community, and world. Wonder if God wants to use you to contribute to any of those needs.

Reading Gaius’s Mail: Get Off the Bench

“We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.” (3 John 8)

We’ll stop reading Gaius’ mail after today, but don’t miss the opportunity in this verse from Gaius’ friend and spiritual leader, the apostle John: You can do something truly significant by helping people in ministry do their jobs better.

reading_350Sometimes we discount what we have to offer God. Maybe you won’t be able to make that mission trip this summer. Maybe you’ll never end up in “full time Christian service.” That doesn’t mean you have to ride the bench in missions or evangelism.

John says that when we show hospitality (or give help and money) to the people out there spreading the good news about Jesus, we “work together” with them. We’re on the team. We’re in the game. Are you in the game?

Think: Do you think God might be calling you to become a pastor or missionary or full-time evangelist for your job? If not, does that mean your life will be less valuable to him? What are some ways you could get in the game with a missionary or pastor or ministry organization?

Pray: Ask God to help you to know how he wants you to contribute to the mission of telling people about Jesus, even if it is by finding ways to help those who do it every day.

Do: If you get the chance, ask a missionary or pastor how important “hospitality-showers” (those who show hospitality) are in the mission of telling people about God’s grace through Jesus.