In this article I would like to revisit the subject of discipleship in II Timothy. It is amazing to see Paul’s ministry, specifically the way that he led God’s people. Article 3 contains teaching on retaining the high standard of the Gospel as you serve God by serving the people around you through the process of making disciples. You can read that article here. As way of review:
- A good disciple retains the high standard of the Gospel by living It out day by day and investing It in others.
- A good disciple views the Gospel as a precious treasure that must be guarded as he lives It out and shares It with others.
- A good disciple is aware that not everyone who claims to follow Christ is a genuine disciple.
Today we want to turn to chapter 2 of II Timothy to see what else Paul wants to teach us about the process of discipleship. Let’s take a moment and read the text.
1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
There are 2 points I would like to consider as we learn how to be and make good disciples according to Paul’s plan. Most of chapter 1 deals with being a good disciple and then chapter 2 begins to address the issue of making good disciples.
I. Entrust the Gospel to faithful men (1-2)
Now that you have learned how to be a good disciple based on chapter 1 (receiving the Holy Spirit, being transformed, choosing to follow your mentor, choosing to value the Word of God, learning how to obey day by day, moment by moment), you need to seek out people in whom you can invest your life so that they become good disciples of Christ and seek to make disciples. Christianity is not for spectators. If you want to be a spectator, go to a ballgame. If you want to be a Christian, put your work boots on because you are going to get your hands dirty, if you follow Biblical Christianity. If you want to keep a pew warm and be a happy hearer of the Word then James chapter 1 has a strong message for you. As a good disciple you are to take the message of the Gospel and the method of discipleship that you received from your mentor and actively seek out people in whom to invest. This is one of the things that I love about Good News church in Moldova. Everyone comes knowing that spectators are not allowed. The only spectators in the church are the non-Christian visitors. Everyone else who is a born again believer is plugged in to intentional discipleship, being taught how to be good disciples and then encouraged to make good disciples. Those who come to Christ through sports, turn around and make other disciples through that same sport, teaching people how to study the Bible and live it out on a daily basis. Those who come through English, get trained (discipled) and then go out and make more disciples using English as a tool. The same works for the computer ministry, journalism etc. The above 2 verses are what led us to invest in public school teachers. What better disciple-maker is there in the world than a public school teacher? They have constant access to students whom they impact for life. If they teach these kids the Word of God then the entire country can be changed in a generation or two. Those who want to do evil understand this and that is why they fight tooth and nail to get God out of public schools so that they can impose their agenda. (liberalism, homosexuality, cohabitation, sexual promiscuity, pagan nature worshiping religion etc) Do you actively seek to make disciples who will also actively seek to make other disciples? Do you know how to make a disciple? If not, then you first need to be discipled. If you have the desire God will bring a spiritual leader into your life to lead you in the process step by step.
II. Be ready to suffer hardship just because you make disciples (3-6)
Once you start attacking enemy territory (trying to disciple people is an attack on the enemy, Satan who wants to keep people from being discipled and efficient for the Lord) then you will be persecuted. It should not be a shock because Jesus warned His disciples about it. If you are not being persecuted for your faith then you are not actively sharing your faith and seeking to make disciples. Making disciples and persecution go hand in hand. Not a day goes by in Moldova where I do not get a prayer request from one of our disciples or church members who asks that we pray because of the persecution that they face either from their own parents or the parents of their disciples. I have witnessed this persecution first hand, many times in the different villages of Moldova. One summer we were leading a back yard Bible club in a village and one of the priests in the villages got word of our actions. He went straight to the police and the chief threatened to put us in jail if we did not stop the camp. We were meeting on public land and were not doing anything wrong so we decided to stay. The priest then came with some “boys” to take care of the problem. He told them that he would forgive all of their sins if they would flip our car over and set it on fire. Before they took action, we began to share the Gospel with the boys and by the end, they decided that they were more interested in what we had to say than what the priest could “offer” them. Paul explains how we can overcome this persecution over and over again because it will never stop as long as we are seeking to make disciples.
- Suffer as a good soldier. You are always on call. You are always ready for action. You are on active duty at all times. When you stop working then the problems start. As a soldier you have a specific calling and cannot get entangled with the activities of everyday life. Does this mean that you have no life? No. It means that as you go through your daily activities all of it is to be used to make disciples. When at work, you are surrounded by people who want to talk. Use those conversations to share the Gospel and teach. When you take your kids to their different activities, there will be other parents there as well who need advice on raising kids and fixing marital problems. Use that time to share the Gospel, build relationships, and ultimately disciple others. If Paul did not use prison as an excuse to stop preaching and teaching then we really have no excuse. Remember that your goal in life is not to raise a family, make lots of money, and have fun. Your goal in life is to please your Master, Jesus Christ. When you live your life to please Him then you will raise a family and have fun doing it because your priorities are in the right order.
- Suffer as a good athlete. Know that you are in a race to win. You are not here to beat everyone else in your Christian walk. We do it as a community. You are racing against yourself. You have to race to finish, that is your main goal. But you have to remember that you have to race according to the rules, God’s rules, which are found in His Word. This is why we have to be connected to the source, God through His Word. If you want to compete according to the rules then you need to know them. If you want to be able to endure persecution time and time again then stay connected to the Word of God. If you do not stay connected to the Word of God then you do not have what to share with your disciples. Making disciples means teaching them to obey the Word of God. You have to know in order to teach It.
- Suffer as a good farmer. As believers, we are to have the work ethic of a farmer. When it is time to plant, he works day and night. He then tends to the crops on a daily basis. Then when it is time to harvest, he once again works day and night. Is this the kind of work ethic you have as a Christian in the area of making disciples? If not, why not? As you serve, know that you will be rewarded with fruit. As you suffer for the Gospel because you are making disciples, know that those disciples will one day mature in their faith and begin to make other disciples. You will rejoice when you see that happen. There is no greater joy than seeing a person who “gets” it and begins to live by it. That makes the suffering and hardship worth it. It is like a woman who gives birth. It is painful to give birth but once you see the fruit of the labor and pain, you forget them and focus on the joy of new life. Have you ever raised up a disciple who began to make other disciples? If not, why not? That is your calling as a Christian.
Just imagine what would happen to our churches in North America if every church began to follow this pattern of discipleship as set out in II Timothy. What would happen if people saw themselves as active servants instead of church going spectators? How would our homes be transformed, our communities, our work places, our country? What will you do about it? May the Lord help us obey Him and not merely be hearers of the Word who deceive themselves but be active doers of the Word who change the world.