I was leaving church one Sunday when the pastor grabbed me, turned me around, and introduced me to a guy I’d never seen before.
The guy had just received Jesus as his Savior, and the pastor told me I should disciple him.
Well, of course I put a smile on my face and shook hands with him and tried to be polite.
But inside I was NOT happy. Why me? I’d only been walking with the Lord for a couple of years. What if I messed up? A precious Christian newbie assigned to me? Why didn’t the pastor ask someone else?
I took the guy’s phone number and got around to calling him hoping he would NOT pick up the phone. He did.
So – what was the plan? The only thing I could think of was to go to the gym with him followed by a time in the Bible.
We went to the gym and afterwards opened the Bible. The only lesson plan that came to mind was to start reading big John and ask some questions. So that’s what we did.
I was nervous ….. but it seemed to go OK.
He wanted to know what he should do next. Ummmmm. I suggested he read more in big John, and we’d meet AFTER he answered some questions I gave him…. HOPING that he wouldn’t answer the questions, and we’d never meet again.
Two nights later he called. He had done the assignment and wanted to know when we’d meet again. So we met again.
More time in big John. More Q and A. That’s the way it went week after week, month after month – him always the eager beaver rapidly doing his assignments and growing and always wanting more, and me – slowly – gaining confidence that I was doing the right thing.
Fast forward – within a year he wanted to go to Bible college. So with God’s help I steered him to a good one, and he’s been in the ministry ever since he graduated. And he ACTUALLY still talks to me.
What began awkwardly for me ended wonderfully. God gets the credit. I get joy. And I knew I wanted to do that again. I hope you’re in, also.
But wouldn’t it be wise to actually be prepared the next time around? So, where should we look in the Bible to prepare us for future discipleship opportunities?
A lifelong disciplemaker told me if I wanted to take discipleship seriously I needed to memorize and think deeply about and do 2 Timothy 2:1-10. Ten verses to sharpen our disciplemaking skills.
This is such an important topic let’s stop first and ask for God’s help.
We know you want us to excel in making disciples. Please free us from distractions. Please speak deeply into our hearts. We can’t do it without you.
We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.
2 Timothy 2:1
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,”
A little background: Paul had spent three years of his life in Ephesus pouring his energies into building a strong church. Imagine the privilege of having Paul as your pastor for three years!
When it came time for Paul to leave Ephesus he warned the church that it would be attacked.
Acts 20:29 – 30
“Savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock – even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
Paul’s words came true. The church was attacked and started to slide. So Paul sends Timothy to Ephesus with the assignment of straightening out the church.
1 and 2 Timothy are written to Timothy while he is on assignment in Ephesus trying to get this once powerhouse church back on track.
Eight times in 1 Timothy Paul talks about doctrine – so obviously there were doctrinal problems. Three times in 1 Timothy Paul warns about false teachers. 1 Timothy has major sections on qualifications for leadership and what it means to be a man of God – because the Ephesus church had leadership problems and quite a few other problems thrown in.
In addition, Timothy had problems of his own. You can’t read 1 and 2 Timothy without coming away knowing Timothy had a problem with timidity – or maybe he was just overwhelmed.
The Ephesus church had become such a mess that the assignment of traightening it out was intimidating. So Paul has to exhort him not to neglect the gift given to him – meaning either Tim is withdrawing from using what has been invested in him by God or is about to.
Also, Timothy was rather young at this time so Paul writes that no one should look down on his youth but be an example and also tells him to flee youthful lusts.
The encouragement for Timothy to be strong and take action spills over into 2 Timothy where Paul writes 2 Timothy 1:7
“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and sound mind.” Followed by :8 “do not be ashamed…..” :12 “I was not ashamed…..”:16 “Onesophorus wasn’t ashamed….” Get it, Timothy?
2 Timothy has almost no doctrinal teaching in it but approximately 25 commands.
Get it, Timothy, you already know what to do. Rise to the challenge! Straighten out this church! Do it!
And how will Tim get the job done? That brings us to 2 Timothy 2:1.
2 Timothy 2:1 Grace is the fuel of ministry. Grace is God doing for you what you can’t do for yourself.
Do you know God has never once changed the oil in my car? I can do that myself. God has never fixed my computer. Computer techies do that. But saving me from my sin? I can’t do that. So God’s grace did that for me. And fighting the sin monster in my heart? I need grace to do that. And tackling challenging ministry assignments? Can’t do that on my own. Grace – I need you.
And yes, Timothy, Ephesus is a challenging, almost overwhelming assignment so fuel your Christian life on grace and get to work. Be empowered by grace. In your own strength you’re not going to make it.
Matthew 28:19,20 fits in nicely here.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I can remember the first time I read the last part. The ending really encouraged me. How cool that God will be with me all my life. That is true.
But when you look at it in context it means more than that. We are commanded to make disciples and baptize them and teach them. But we can’t do that on our own. We need help. So this is God’s pledge to be with us every step of the way as we make disciples, teach and baptize. Grace in action.
Timothy, fuel your ministry on grace. Be strong in grace! “Stop any drift towards weakness, recommit to ministry.”
Maybe right about now you see you’ve got something in common with Timothy. Maybe the mission field in which God has placed you seems too tough to handle – be it family or school or work place or neighborhood. Maybe Paul’s words to Timothy are for you. Don’t give up. Fuel your life on grace…..and watch God work in you and through you.
So with your tank fuelled on grace what is the plan? How about a master plan? A blueprint. The big picture of what ministry is all about.
2 Timothy 2:2 Here it is.
” 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.”
Yes, Timothy is to show love to all. And yes, Timothy has much housecleaning to do in this messed up church. But what action step should he take to move the church forward?
If you want a three word summary of this verse those three words would be “deep and wide”.
Timothy, go deep with faithful people, people who are hungry and able to teach, people who are committed to passing on the faith to the next generation.
And what is supposed to be passed on to that kind of person? “What you heard from me” would be all the truth Paul taught him.
“for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
All of us have our favorite books of the Bible, our Bible heros, our favorite doctrines. Fine. But the people we are discipling need all of God’s truth. It is not our place to say that some doctrines are not important and don’t need to be passed on.
Sure, go ahead and talk about God’s love, mercy, wisdom and heaven. But don’t forget sin, wrath, judgment and hell. Go deep in your teaching to those you disciple. Teach the whole counsel of God.
And what are those faithful people whom you teach supposed to do? Go wide. Look for faithful people to pass on all the faith to. They in turn will go wide in looking for others to pass the faith to.
We’ve all seen relay races with each runner carrying a plastic baton. They race around the track passing the baton to the next runner, who runs and passes it on to the next runner. That is this verse: passing on the faith we’ve received to the next generation who in turn will pass it on.
There is a chant that this verse triggers: “I want to be a link in an unbroken chain of reproducing disciples. I want to be a link in an unbroken chain of reproducing disciples.”
I received the baton of faith. I MUST be conscientious in passing it on to others.
What is God’s vision statement for my life? Right here.
2 Timothy 2:2
Find some faithful men and pour myself into them, people who want to be a link in an unbroken chain of reproducing disciples. Going deep, going wide.
Let’s be sure we don’t miss something here. The Ephesian church is a mess.Timothy has a lot of nasty spiritual weeds to pull. But on the positive side, don’t put disciplemaking on the back burner. Make it a priority – NOW! Now is always a good time for disciplemaking.
With that master plan for ministry firmly in mind what will help us get it done? How about some key attitudes to help us do it?
Key Attitude #1
:3 The attitude of a soldier.
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
You want to implement the master plan of :2? Great! Think like a soldier. How will that help you? Well, you commit to implementing the master plan of :2 to make disciples and you have put yourself at the center of spiritual battle on planet earth. Do you think for one second Satan is going to sit on his hands while you try to build some spiritual Schwarzeneggers? Not on your life.
You commit to making disciples and you have just put a target on your back. Disciplemaking is war. Think of all the flack that Jesus got from religious leaders. Think of the patience He needed to deal with slow learners.
Philip, have I been with you so long and you still don’t get it?
Think John 6:66. You gotta turn to it.
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
If there is one verse I wished I had known when I started disciplemaking this is it. I paid a heavy price for not knowing it.
This verse needs to be underlined in your Bible. Circled. Put a star out in the margin. Bend over the top of the page. Memorize it. You will need it.
Here we have what is probably the most crushing disappointment of Jesus’ ministry between his baptism and Judas’ betrayal.
The Greek in which this was written makes it clear they left never to return. Guess what…if Jesus had followers who dumped Him it will happen to you. And that just crushes you. You invested preparation time and face time and prayer time, pouring your life into people, loving them, encouraging them. You saw so much potential in them, and they turn around and walk away, and you never see them again……
which is why John 6:67 is monumental.
:67 And Jesus said, “HELP, I’M SURROUNDED BY IDIOTS”.
:67 And Jesus said, “I will water down my message so it isn’t so offensive”.
:67 And Jesus said, “I need a vacation”.
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
What is Jesus doing? EXACTLY what we need to keep doing: He keeps right on making disciples. And so should we.
When I took my first course in making disciples I was told I would be amazed at how much encouragement I would have to give out particularly to those who are the only Christian in their family. Guess what? Looking back on my discipling efforts I can’t believe how much encouragement I’ve had to give out.
And just like a soldier – you will take some hits and so will the people you seek to disciple, and you will be the soldier who swoops in to help your injured comrades, bringing them to safety, helping them to heal. You will be the one who gives them more training so they can get back into the battle.
Soldiers come home from battle with scars and wounds and maybe a few injuries thrown in. So will you. Do not be surprised. Expect it. Some spiritual toughness is needed by all of us.
Thinking like a soldier is so important that we’ve got another verse to help us. 2 Timothy 2:4
“No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.“
There have been times I’ve gotten together with old friends, and they mention some TV program. I never heard of it. The conversation turns to sports, and I know a little about how the season is going for the soccer team, but nothing compared to all the details my friends know. Then the conversation turns to hobbies, and I’m amazed how many hobbies they have time for while I frequently forget to water my plants.
And I come home and feel a little out of it. I ask myself – where have I been? They know all this stuff that I don’t know. They’ve been doing all this stuff that I haven’t had time for. What have I been doing?
Then I am reminded of this verse, and I get it. If you saw soldiers boarding a plane to go fight a war and they are carrying tennis racquets, surf boards, hockey sticks, ice skates you’d scratch your heads. They are supposed to be focusing on the war. There is nothing sinful about that sporting equipment, but that stuff needs to be pushed to the side so they can fight the war.
Similarly, to say “yes” to discipleship automatically means we say “no” to many other things, many good things that keep us from our own personal growth and focus on making disciples. For me to say “yes” to discipleship means I’ve deliberately ignored the TV, deliberately set limits on how much time I spend watching soccer, and said “no” to many hobbies.
Soldiers, focus. Disciplemakers, focus.
By the way, you can easily find pastors and missionaries – actually some pretty famous pastors and missionaries who justify their ignoring their own children with this verse. “I am working for God, raising kids is worldly stuff, so wife, you raise them.” And the kids grow up angry at God because they think He hijacked their dads. That is sick and tragic and perverted. The Bible doesn’t give anyone any excuse for not being a hands-on parent.
Want to be a disciplemaker? Think like a soldier.
And think like an athlete. Key Attitude #2
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”
We are talking discipline. We are talking about playing within God’s rules.There is a direct link between this verse and 1 Timothy 4:7b
“Exercise yourself for godliness”
Exercise is from the Greek word for gymnasium. This is a command to spend time in God’s gym. Exercise yourself. Spend time in God’s gym regularly if you truly want to be transformed into Christlikeness – building in spiritual roots like daily Bible reading, prayer, Scripture memory, service, giving, etc., if you expect to have any impact on the lives of others.
OK, I have decided I really want to get in shape. I really do. So who will go to the gym and exercise for me? I’ll pay you! Don’t I wish! I’ve got to exercise for myself.
And just as an athlete needs to play by the rules, so do you and I – our spiritual rules would include regular confession of sin, submission to the Holy Spirit, and commitment to truth.
An athlete can’t do his own thing. Neither can a disciplemaker.
And don’t forget to think like a farmer
2 Timothy 2:6
” It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.”
Key Attitude #3 we are talking hard work.
Hard work is laboring to the point of weariness and exhaustion. If you were expecting any glamour in disciplemaking, think farmer and the glamour is gone. Instead think long hours, late nights, ferocious prayer, drained energy, with much emotion thrown in.
At harvest time my uncle’s tractor ran 24 hours a day. When he was totally exhausted my aunt would take over while he got a few hours of sleep and then he was back at it again- with ears constantly attuned to the weather forecast-because the crops needed to be brought in before the storm hit.
A GRUELING LIFESTYLE!
I saw a picture once of a glamorous, beautiful movie actress, hair perfect, nails perfect, expensive jewelry, beautiful clean dress driving a tractor. That is called a photo shoot. Be assured that won’t be you -if you take discipleship seriously.
So there you have three key attitudes essential to the success of the master plan.
Just in case we are tempted to rush through these verses 2 Timothy 2:7 awaits us, a most unusual verse.
“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
You’ve got to wonder why this verse is here when it would fit in so many other places in the Bible. But it is here. Why? Timothy, don’t rush past what Paul has just written. Process these words deeply. Put serious thought into what he’s just written. Let it sink in.
The master plan of :2 is God’s ONLY plan to grow the church. There is no plan B. Multiple generations of reproducing disciples is the only way to grow the church and to strengthen the church to spread Christianity so the church will survive and thrive.
And the soldier, athlete, farmer attitudes make the master plan of :2 happen. Paul is not sugarcoating what it takes to do the master plan of :2. Nothing short of total commitment will produce generations of reproducing disciples.
Of course Paul wants Timothy to go for it. And us, too. But realize what you’re getting into. Do not let the rough side of disciplemaking take you by surprise. And maybe, just maybe the rough side of disciplemaking will drive us to seek the grace offered in :1. Then for sure we’ll do our best.
Well, so far we’ve looked at the fuel on which ministry runs – the grace of :1, the master plan of :2, and 3 key attitudes necessary to implement the master plan.
But Paul is so intense in wanting discipleship to happen that he throws in motivation. Tell us again why we should throw ourselves into disciplemaking?
2 Timothy 2:8 Motivation
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the seed of David, as preached in my gospel,”
There are a lot of ways in which Jesus can be described. He could be described as the one who healed lots of people, or gave great speeches, or died a horrible death. The possibilities are endless. So why give us the resurrection as motivation?
Everything that Jesus did was important, but take a look at Romans 1:4.
“declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”
Nothing confirms and affirms His identity and power like the resurrection. If there had been no resurrection, Christianity would never have happened, and you and I would now be on our way to hell. The resurrection separates Jesus from everyone and everything putting Him in a class by Himself.
2 Timothy 2:8 also describes Jesus as the seed of David – meaning Jesus is also man.
So why do disciplemakers need to hear this? When you disciple people you aren’t encouraging people to commit to Muhammad who didn’t rise from the dead or Buddha who didn’t rise from the dead or some cult leader. Jesus is not another flake, some con artist, some lying politician, someone who will let us down.
We serve the only God-man and are seeking to grow followers of the living God. We are on the truth side. The resurrection is bulletproof. Jesus’ credentials can’t be challenged.
What is the application to us? If God is this powerful, be assured we disciplemakers are on the winning side. He defeated death. No one can mess with the power of God.
What is the application to us? This God-man Jesus suffered also – a servant is not greater than his master. If they hated Him, they’ll hate you. Yep, there will be some suffering along the disciplemaking path, but look whom you are suffering for?
2 Timothy 2:8 starts with the word “REMEMBER”. Why? Because Satan tries to get our eyes off Jesus, off His credentials, off His power, off His care. And that’s when we get discouraged, might want to quit. So REMEMBER! Keep your eyes on Jesus! On His deity! On His power! On His victory! On His resources! There is no stronger motivation to take disciplemaking seriously.
Paul makes it clear he is remembering the God-man and letting the God-man motivate him.
2 Timothy 2:9-10
“for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Paul’s disciplingmaking efforts have landed him in chains. Disciplemaking EARNED Paul some real scars, some real pain, discomfort. Was Paul ever tempted to say, “God, I’ve suffered enough. Why don’t you go after that guy in the back row who doesn’t read his Bible and is late for church and doesn’t serve you?” That doesn’t happen. When Paul tells us to remember Jesus Christ, he is telling us to do something he is doing, something that has motivated him to go the limit for God.
Timothy, you might wind up in jail. You might die for the faith. But your efforts do not die with you. Yep, you can be in chains. Nope, the results of your efforts cannot be chained.
Your body might be stopped,but the ripple effect of your labors will go on and on and on.
These verses we are looking at reek of hard work. Reek.
:1 It takes effort to reset our default position to rely on God’s grace instead of our flesh. Dying to self does not come naturally.
:2 the teaching required to make the master plan happen must be accurate and clear and passionate. We are talking serious study and prayer and study and prayer. Truth has got to be understood and passed on accurately. Throw in some sweat and patience and late nights to make that happen.
:3 soldiers get injured, get battle fatigue, sometimes fight alone.
:5 being an athlete comes with aches, pains, strains, and possible injuries.
:6 farmer – think stinky, sweaty, exhausting labor to the point of exhaustion.
The chains of :9 tell us we might wind up in jail – like Paul.
The list of disciplemakers who wound up in jail is long. Your name might one day be added to the list. And just in case we’re leaving anything out –
:10 says Paul endured all things. Gulp
What’s the first takeaway from these verses? In overkill – the message is doing the master plan of :2 might drain you to the max – even cost you your life.
But there is the second takeaway – discipling reeks with rewards -worth everything you can give it, exceedingly rewarding.
Where are the rewards?
:1 comes with rewards. You rely on the grace of God as you seek to serve God, as you seek to make disciples and grace ceases to be just a word in a book – but rather becomes a personal encounter with God. You will see how great, how strong, how mighty is God’s grace to strengthen you. Some people talk about grace. Disciplemakers know God’s grace from personal experience.
:2 comes with rewards: You take this blueprint seriously, you disciple people who turn around and disciple other people and on and on goes that chain- just think of the generations of believers who will be raised up. What is one of the benefits of delaying the judgment seat of Christ until after the rapture? So you can see the ripple effect your life has had from your time on earth until church history ends. You will see your great-great-great-great-spiritual-grandkids – all because you took disciplemaking seriously.
:3 comes with rewards: Soldier wins battles, and you will win some and so will the people you disciple.
:5 comes with rewards: athletes win races and become spiritual winners just as you will when you serve in step with the Spirit.
:6 comes with rewards. The hard working farmer produces an incredible harvest. And who sees the harvest first? The hard working farmer who hovers over his crop just as a disciplemaker sees people slowly, steadily grow. How much fruit will result from your life of disciplemaking?
Those rewards are totally awesome – but those rewards are insignificant compared to the last 2 words of :10. Look at the ultimate reward your investment in discipling others leads to!
This is the time for spiritual fireworks. Those two words make me think I’ve just stuck my finger into a spiritual electrical socket. The future of everyone you lead to Christ is to radiate the glory of God. The future of everyone you nurture in the Lord is to radiate the glory of God. Radiating His attributes. Being like Christ. Forever. That makes me a little lightheaded.
Where does the master plan of :2 lead? To eternal glory. This is the end of the road of all your discipling efforts. It doesn’t get better than that. Hard work – richly rewarded. Disciplingmaking is worth everything you can give it.
How will you invest the rest of your Christian life? Time to fuel your Christian life on the grace of :1 and grab God’s master plan of :2 and run with it until you die?