Earlier this week, David Needham, my former teacher at Multnomah Bible College, passed into the presence of the Lord at the age of 94. During the past few days, I have been reflecting upon his profound influence on me. Here are eight things I learned from my beloved teacher.

1. Awe in the Presence of a Glorious God. Everyone who knew David Needham remembers how utterly awestruck he was at the majesty of God. My friend, Steve Payne reflected, “My enduring image of Mr. Needham is him praying with his eyes open, gazing up to heaven.” My own view of God expanded exponentially just by listening to him pray. If you’d like a taste of David Needham’s awe of God, read his reflections on the attributes of God in Close to His Majesty: A Road Map to God.

2. Modeling Humility. The second thing I learned from David Needham is probably a consequence of the first. When I was a new college teacher and David Needham was nearing the end of his teaching career, I sought out his advice. During our conversation, he admitted to me that God had used his ministry to increase humility in his students. Yes, I can testify that this indeed was the case — despite the fact that I cannot remember him ever teaching explicitly about humility. My assumption has always been that the source of his humility was his awe of the greatness of God.

3. Loving God’s Word. Not only was David Needham committed to the authority of Scripture, but his love for God’s Word was obvious — almost palpable. The biblical book I associate most closely with David Needham is Isaiah. He organized the early parts of his Theology Proper (=Character of God) class around Isaiah 40. About half of his Old Testament Prophets class was spent in the book of Isaiah. A few years ago, I rejoiced to discover that David had self-published an ebook on Isaiah based upon his Old Testament Prophets teaching notes. As I read, I imagined myself as a college student learning to love Isaiah for the first time.

4. Prayer Walks. When I was a 20-year-old college student still struggling to learn how to incorporate prayer into my life, a classmate told me that David Needham regularly took long prayer walks. “What?” I thought, “you can walk and pray at the same time?” That was life-altering for my prayer life. Because of his example, I have been prayer-walking for the past 40 years.

5. The Importance of Analogies and Stories. I learned from David Needham how a well-placed analogy can increase a student’s understanding and how a well-timed story can help a student properly respond to the teaching of the Bible. David Needham employed a lively (overactive?) imagination in his teaching to illustrate, illuminate and elucidate.

6. Zeal and Wisdom. I recently told a group of college students about my own struggle with zeal and wisdom; that is, I wrestle with how to give emphasis to both without neglecting either. I have known few people who successfully find this balance. David Needham was a man who effectively combined vibrant spiritual passion with astute practical wisdom.

7. Mentoring. As a 20-year-old, I asked David Needham whether he ever spent one-on-one time with younger Christians. He replied that each year he prayed that God would provide a couple such relationships. Best of all, he offered to meet with me for one academic year. Those meetings are among my most precious memories. He did, however, always put the onus on me to come up with our topic. “Ask whatever you think would help you grow in your life with Christ.” So I did. I asked him every biblical, theological, spiritual-life, and relational question I had, (and I had plenty). At the end of every session, we (literally) got on our knees and prayed. Today when I meet with students one-on-one, I often follow the pattern I learned from David Needham.

8. Finishing Well. In a few months, I will turn 60. It is unlikely (statistically) that I will live to 94 like my beloved teacher. But as I have neared 60, I find myself looking to examples of committed Christians who are on the path ahead of me. I am oh-so-thankful for the faithful example of David Needham — in a generation when so many, including older Christians, seem to be losing their way. Like him, I long to remain faithful to the end.

During the final months of his life, David recorded 25 two-to-three minute video reflections in which he discusses “Our Joyful Prospect of Heaven” (produced by my former classmate, Duncan Sprague). The purpose of these videos is to help Christians finish their lives well and prepare to meet Jesus. Do you know someone who would benefit by listening to what he called Sunrise Promises?

My beloved teacher, mentor, and, yes, friend, is now with Jesus — looking into the face of the one upon who he has longed to gaze upon for nine decades. Oh may we receive encouragement from his godly example! May we live our lives in awe of an awesome God, model humility, love God’s Word, pray while we walk (even walk while we pray), work hard in teaching and preaching, pursue both zeal and wisdom, guide others in the way of Jesus, and by God’s grace finish well.

This post and other resources are available at Kindle Afresh: The Blog and Website of Kenneth Berding.