Rev. Carla Sunberg
NTS Alumni Association President
Co-District Superintendent, East Ohio District Church of the Nazarene
I am so very grateful for my NTS education and all I was able to learn. My life was forever changed by my NTS experience, which gave me a new and greater appreciation for the Word. I love to soak in the Word on a daily basis; and each day, I ask God to teach me new things. I want to share here some devotional thoughts from just a few weeks ago.
Matthew 10:24-25: “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!”
Jesus was telling his apostles what to expect when they spread out in their apostolic mission in the world. They would always and forever be associated with their teacher — Jesus, and the world already had developed preconceived notions about who Jesus was and what he was like. The student, or disciple, would not be thought of more highly than the teacher. Neither would those who serve Jesus be thought of more highly than he. The apostles were called to be like their teacher, but the result was not necessarily pleasant, for Jesus as the head of their household was looked upon with disdain by many in his day. Evidently there were those who had taken to calling Jesus “Beelzebub,” which had become synonymous with Satan. Beelzebub was an idol which existed in that period of time. He was a god of dung who attracted flies. He was a dirty and nasty god. He was the “lord of the flies” and this is what the people called Jesus. Therefore when the apostles went out and preached, they were considered the flies which were attracted to manure and hung around the dirty god. That’s a pretty descriptive picture of how the world would view these followers of Christ, and Jesus wanted them to be prepared.
These last few years of my studies have been a time of stretching in my life. In some ways it feels as if I stumbled into my doctoral program, but at the same time I know it’s been the leading of the Lord. Along the way, I have observed this entire system of post-graduate education. The system is very much based upon the teacher-student relationship. For example, in Manchester there are the New Testament scholars who came there years ago just so they could be students of F.F. Bruce. The question in doctoral studies is often, “who is your advisor?” In other words, “who are you a disciple of?” The reality is that as you continue in your studies you discover that you have a desire to glean everything you can from the mind of your Teacher. You also realize that you will never ever catch up with your advisor in your lifetime!
As I near the end of my doctoral studies I have come to appreciate on a deeper level, the student-advisor relationship. There are times that you meet with your advisor and hold your breath until you make it back to your room before you let out the tears! You may have spent weeks on your work and when you take it to the teacher, he/she finds all kinds of flaws in what you have produced. It can be heartbreaking and you wonder if you will survive. But then you remember that your advisor has your best interests in mind; he/she is wanting you to produce a good work and therefore is not willing to allow you to move forward with something mediocre which may, in the long run, be an embarrassment to you. You take the advice and you work hard to make the adjustments so that you can produce a better work, but also so that you can please your advisor. And of course, there ARE moments when your advisor will say to you, “YES! Well done!” In those moments, your heart is warmed because your advisor that you are finally understanding and “getting it.” I am grateful that I will be able to say that I was a student of Dr. Tom Noble!
At the same time I am grateful to say that I am a student of the great Master, Jesus Christ, and if he is called the “lord of the flies” — then I am also happy to be called one of those flies that hangs around the dung. I want to be able to sit at the Master’s feet and study and learn from him all the days of my life. I want the correction and the reproof from him, no matter how painful so that I may be able to produce a good work! And may I forever be known as a student of my Master — no matter what nasty names the world may call him and therefore me.
Lord, please help me to sit and learn from you today. Amen.