My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself; yes, my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things. Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:15–18—NKJV)

My efforts as a father have been influenced by various moments of realization. Most recently I was surprised by the coinciding of two things. On one hand, I realized that my father has been in heaven for almost a quarter of a century. I can still hear his voice every now and then when I am thinking through a problem, but his voice is growing a little thin in my memory because of the intervening years. It seemed appropriate to make a list of character traits he taught me, and a list of principles by which I still live today, that I can attribute to his influence in my life.

On the other hand, my children are all close to attaining the quarter century mark in their lives. These two facts caused me to ask myself this question: “After God has taken you to heaven for twenty-five years, what legacy do you desire to see still being lived out in the lives of your kids?” It would seem to me the same question is appropriate to be asked by any, and every, disciplemaker as well. Spiritual parenting is always concerned with a character legacy that continues to bear fruit in the life of a convert long after you are gone.

Our text is concerned with lasting spiritual legacy of all who would disciple others. Before any advice is given, it is imperative that the two qualities illustrated in verses 15 and 16 are present and active in the heart of the disciplemaker. The first is the imperative quality of selflessness. As any healthy parent knows, you do not have children for your own needs of affirmation or fulfillment any more than a soul winner seeks out the lost in order to add another entry in his record of success, or a new notch on his gun belt, if you will. Both callings are only for one purpose—to bring new lives into successful maturity. The quiet joy of selflessness is one of the major qualities that enables you to gain a hearing for any advice you hope will be heard by your disciple. All spiritual parenting is for one purpose, and one alone: the glory of God!

The second imperative quality is that you be a lover of the truth. As the author says, “my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things. The disciplemaker must be able to recognize truth in its unadulterated state so that he can recognize its seasoning in the words that are reflected back to him from his disciple. As John states in his third short letter, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” The inculcation (to tread down and repeatedly reinforce) of truth is a time-consuming task but well worth it when your disciple becomes a lover of truth too!

The disciplemaker knows that the Christian “tour of duty” wears the warrior down and so he must teach the spiritual principles that keep the believer in constant readiness for action. Solomon’s next words yield valuable seed-thoughts for anyone looking for the qualities of long-lasting legacy. There are four seed thoughts. First, teach your disciple to keep a clear head and guard his heart—never “envy sinners.” There is much to entice the “old man” within each one of us. It takes discipline to not let the heart envy the fleeting accolades of fallen men. Second, teach your disciple to learn the basics of spiritual warfare by building upon only one foundation—“the fear of the Lord all the day.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (1:7); there is only one foundation “that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11), and if the life is built on the rock, when the storms come his house will stand (Matthew 7:24–25) “for it was founded on the rock.” Third, teach your disciple to remember the mission by keeping a light grip on the things of this earthbound life, since this life is preparation for the real life—“for surely there is a hereafter.” Fourth, teach your disciple to stand his ground in the light of the truth of God’s faithfulness—“he will not allow your hope to be cut off.” God keeps the books and therefore He is the One who must call the shots in your life. His sovereign love will not be frustrated, He is able!

What legacies remain active in you that you received from your spiritual parents? Are there any qualities that have fallen into disuse that need to be revived within you? Are you filling the role of a spiritual parent in the life of someone else? What qualities do you want to see mirrored back to you for God? Trust and obey.