Following Jesus and making disciples will cost you convenience. Toward the end of his life, the Apostle Paul sat down to write his final letter to Timothy, his young disciple. In this letter, he encouraged Timothy to keep making disciples and investing in people. “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2.1-2 ESV). Timothy wasn’t a child anymore; he was a seasoned veteran in ministry, but this was Paul’s term of endearment. Paul is opening up his heart to Timothy in this tender letter. He continues, “What you have heard and seen from me…entrust to faithful men who will teach others also.” The word “entrusted” literally means “to place beside” or “to put into someone’s care.” Paul was saying, “I’ve been entrusted with the Gospel,” (2 Timothy 1.12 ESV), and “Timothy, you have been entrusted with the Gospel,” (2 Timothy 1.14 ESV). “Now you must keep entrusting the Gospel to other people; to faithful men.”
Just like runners in a relay, Paul had run his lap, and he was handing the baton to Timothy, telling him to be sure to hand it off to someone else who will run their race too. That is exactly what Timothy did. You know how I know? Because we are here talking about Jesus today! The Gospel came to you because someone received the Gospel, ran their race and entrusted it into your hands! Now this is one of the most popular passages in the Bible describing what we call “disciple making”. Robert Coleman, author of “The Master Plan of Evangelism”, wrote, “the test of any Christian life is the multiplication of that life in others.” The result of disciple making is multiplication. Paul mentioned four generations: Paul, Timothy, faithful men; others also. That’s how a movement is made. Missiologists tell us that when a movement gets to the third and fourth generation, it’s unstoppable! Look, you can live your life in one of two ways: as a spiritual consumer – taking in religious goods and services, thankful for what Jesus has done, but always looking for someone else to feed you, inspire you, challenge you and help you. Or you can live your life as a spiritual investor – walking with God on your own, mature and established and investing your life in other people; showing them how to do the same! God wants you to invest your life! That’s why you are here! This is the work Jesus has called us to do! Now you may ask, “If investing your life is such a big deal, why don’t more people do it?” There are hazards along the way that keep a person from investing their life, and Paul identifies each one and gives us a picture of how to overcome them.
Don’t be distracted
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him,” (2 Timothy 2.3-4 ESV). A good soldier doesn’t get distracted from his mission. He is laser-focused on what he was trained to do, what he was commissioned to do; and what his superior officer has commanded him to do. It’s the mission above everything else. He’s not entangled with the things civilians are worried about; he’s not entangled with ancillary issues. Paul was saying, “Timothy – be like the soldier. Don’t be distracted! Don’t get entangled in other interests.” Some people are so busy worrying about their hobbies, their favorite sports team, their work, their career or their family that there is no room to invest their life in others. They are more concerned about pleasing themselves and other people rather than pleasing Jesus.
Don’t be disqualified
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2.5 ESV). Paul had in mind the Olympic and Isthmian games. In the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the Russian Olympic Track and Field Team was disqualified because of illegal drug use. They failed to play by the rules, and they were eliminated from the competition. In the same way, it’s not enough to be trained to walk with God, you have to live in a godly way that others can follow, or you will be disqualified. I’ve known people over the years who were incredible people, knew the Bible, were great speakers and leaders, but they disqualified themselves because of moral compromise. That’s what Paul said in (1 Corinthians 9.25-27 NLT), “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” Paul was telling Timothy, “You’ve been trained, but watch how you live. Don’t loosen your standards, don’t cut moral corners, don’t skirt around the moral edge. Don’t let moral failure disqualify you from being used in a big way.”
Don’t be discouraged
“It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops,” (2 Timothy 2.6 ESV). I grew up in a farming community. Some of my good friends were farmers. My earliest jobs were working in the fields.And what I learned as a young man is that farmers work hard. They endure the heat, cold, rain, droughts, wind. They toil long days and often into the night. Their work is often mundane and tedious, and they don’t see immediate results. They have to wait. They realize that they can only do so much, but ultimately, God is the one who brings the growth. They know that if they don’t quit, they will eventually see a harvest! Disciple making is like farming. When you disciple another person, sometimes you don’t see immediate results. You keep showing up; keep loving; keep challenging; keep modeling. You wonder if anything is getting through. But all the while, it is God who causes the growth. To the church at Corinth Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” (1 Corinthians 3.6 ESV). And so you keep going! You don’t quit. You keep investing, and you know a harvest will come.
It is often inconvenient to invest your life in others. They will demand more time than you think, more energy than you have, more prayer than you can imagine, and more love than you can muster. But if you invest in them anyway, if you don’t get distracted, if you don’t get disqualified, if you don’t get discouraged; God will do wonders through you that will bring Him great glory!
Photo Credit: Álvaro Serrano