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“Forming the Faithful”

2 Timothy 2:1-6
Bob DeGray
June 13, 2004

Key Sentence

In the church we are compelled to be both disciples and disciple makers.


I. Disciples Making Disciples (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
II. Models of Mentors (2 Timothy 2:3-6)


        In the early 17th-century Dr. Richard Sibbes wrote a book about Christ called The Bruised Reed. A copy in the hands of a tin peddler, was given to a boy named Richard Baxter. He became the greatest of Puritan pastors, and wrote, among other things, A Call to the Unconverted, which Philip Doddridge read in the early 18th century. He in turn wrote The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. William Wilberforce read that book, and it changed his life. He became a huge influence on 19th-century British culture and led the long fight to abolish slavery. Wilberforce, in turn, has been an inspiration for Charles Colson and Prison Ministries.

        This is one example of many that could be cited of the transmission of the gospel from person to person down through the centuries. There is no Christian alive today who is not connected in some way by a chain like this to the earliest believers. Their gospel and teaching has come down from hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth to this day, so that in every generation the truth about Christ hass been passed on, though at times only through a small remnant of believers.

        I sometimes wonder about our generation, though. We’re not only the most biblically illiterate generation in American history, but at times a generation with no role models or mentors. This is an issue of spiritual multiplication, discipleship. Today’s believers must nurture and train the leaders of tomorrow. Unless we reproduce ourselves in the next generation, the church will atrophy. And I’m not talking about simply raising faithful children, important as that is. We need to make disciples from among our peers who do not now believe. In order to make an impact for Christ the church needs to grow outward by spiritual multiplication.

I. Disciples Making Disciples (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

        Is discipleship, then, the most important ministry in the church? You could make that argument. Without discipleship, there is no next generation. The church is reduced to a remnant with little or no ministry. The importance of discipleship is spoken of often in the Scriptures. 2nd Timothy 2:2, for example, the great discipleship verse used by the Navigators, Campus Crusade and others, is a clear call to spiritual multiplication. This morning I want to study that verse in context, to see that in the church we are compelled to be faithful as disciples and disciple makers. 2 Timothy 2:1-6 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

        This is Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In the first letter he had outlined for Timothy the things needed to bring order and godliness to the church Ephesus. The second letter written some months or years later is a much more personal epistle, written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, and probably close to death. Yet, because Timothy was his disciple, one that he described as his own son, Paul continues to provide guidance, comfort, and encouragement for Timothy as he disciples those in Ephesus. These verses are at the heart of that guidance.

        How is Timothy to do it? First, by being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul isn’t asking Timothy to make himself strong. It’s a passive verb, literally,“Be made strong.” John Stott says: “Paul’s call to fortitude, is not a summons to Timothy to be strong in himself - to set his jaw and grit his teeth - but to ‘be inwardly strengthened’ by means of the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” It’ easy to fall into the trap of thinking that while salvation is by grace, living the Christian life is by works, by our own strength. No so, according to Paul: live by grace, be strengthened by grace, become a disciple by grace, make disciples by grace.

        So dependence on Christ is the starting point, but the mechanism of discipleship is the one so famously described in verse two: ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” ‘The things you have heard me say’ are the truths of the Gospel. Paul is describing the transmission of the whole gospel message from generation to generation of believers. Paul has carefully prepared Timothy for this truth. Listen to chapter 1, versus 8 to 14:“Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

        Timothy has already learned that his task is to guard the gospel that has been entrusted to him as Paul’s disciple. This began no doubt, in Lystra, where Timothy as a young man became a believer in Jesus during Paul’s first visit there. The discipling process continued throughout Timothy’s life, and traveling with Paul gave him the opportunity not only to hear Paul’s teaching but to see his way of life. So the first generation of discipleship in this verse is from Paul to Timothy.

        The second generation of discipleship comes when Timothy passes on the same message and way of life to faithful men, or faithful people. The word faithful here implies saving faith, but it’s more direct meaning is that these people are living faithfully, and are faithful in carrying out the tasks and obligations of the Christian life. In my terminology these are the sold out, radical believers, those who have truly put Christ first in their lives and their priorities. Timothy is to find such people and disciple them, passing along the teaching, discipline, and dynamic of the Christian life so that they too can live in a Christ-like way. But it doesn’t end there: if the process of spiritual multiplication is to continue these faithful people need to find disciples of their own and mentor them and pass on the faith. There are a total of three generations of discipleship here: Paul to Timothy, Timothy to faithful men, and then faithful men to other faithful men.

        Whole books have been written on what discipleship looks like, and we don’t have time today to go into all of that, but I do want to focus on one key truth: discipleship is communicated by example. We’ve already seen that Paul was the example to Timothy of living out and communicating the truths of the Gospel. We’re about to see three other examples from daily life in Roman times that have parallels in our own time. But before we even get to that I want to make one further observation: you are or should be everywhere in this process. You should be seeking to be discipled by a Paul, seeking to be a disciple like Timothy, and seeking to be a discipler like Timothy or the faithful men he taught. At any moment in your Christian life it’s a great blessing if someone is giving you spiritual input, guidance, and teaching. At the same time there ought to the someone, or more than one person to whom you are giving spiritual input, guidance and teaching.

        This is how discipleship and spiritual multiplication works: you multiply what you’ve been given by giving it to two or more others. In modern terminology this means you should be looking for a mentor and looking for a protege, and probably also looking for a peer with whom you can have mutual accountability and discipleship. I can almost guarantee that there is somebody in this room who would be willing to meet with you regularly in this kind of relationship. And the two of you will be effective when you follow Timothy’s model: he had input of the truth and how to live out from others, and he passed on what he had received, not from his own strength but by the grace that come from Jesus. Like Timothy we in the church are compelled to be both disciples and disciple makers.

        So what have we said so far? That the important ministry of discipleship in the church is fueled by God’s grace; that it is a generational ministry by which the doctrines of the gospel and the living of the Christian life are passed from one believer to another over time; and that you can and should be involved in discipling relationships whether as the mentor, a protege, or as a peer.

II. Models of Mentors (2 Timothy 2:3-6)

        We’ve also said discipling happens by example, as in Paul’s example to Timothy. In the last several verses were going to see three more examples that show us three key characteristics of disciples. 2nd Timothy 2:3-6 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

        The soldier, the athlete, the farmer - each of these is a model of discipleship and from them we can discern at least three of the characteristics of Christian disciples. We start with the soldier: “endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” One of the things that we need to model as mentors and to learn as disciples is endurance. We need to be able to stick with the Christian life when trials and difficulties and hardships come. Paul uses the metaphor of a soldier, which is one of his common pictures of the Christian life. In his first letter he had told Timothy to ‘fight the good fight’ and he frequently calls his co-workers ‘fellow soldiers’. In Ephesians he compares living the Christian life to ‘putting on the full armor of God’. Here he cites the endurance of a soldier as a quality to be modeled and emulated. Whether it’s the endurance of the Roman legions, or the endurance of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division at the Battle of the Bulge, soldiers make a name for themselves by enduring. So do disciples, and disciple makers.

        This image of the soldier is so compelling that Paul actually draws two conclusions from it. First, endurance, and second, single-mindedness. Verse four: “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer.” The Roman soldier was forbidden by his code from engaging in civilian occupations. In the same way, a good soldier of Jesus has single-minded devotion to Christ, the ability to focus, to shut out distraction. He is sold out for Jesus, fully devoted. The single-minded disciple is in the world but he does not get “entangled” in it. He avoids anything that will hinder focused dedication to his master. Paul put it this way to the Philippians: “but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”

        It shouldn’t surprise us that a soldier who endured hardship and has single-minded devotion to his commanding officer is also a great mentor. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson, 45, of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 101st Airborne Division, a native of Thomson, Georgia died on November 23, 2003 in Mosul, Iraq when hostile forces attacked the vehicle he was in. I found the following tributes to Command Sgt. Major Wilson on a memorial web site. By the way, for those who don’t know, Command Sgt. Major is about the highest rank a noncommissioned officer or NCO can reach in the U. S. Army. Listen for the qualities of endurance, single-mindedness and mentoring in these tributes:
        "I am MSG Lon Kindler, I served under CSM Wilson at Ft.Campbell Ky. I will never forget the mentorship that CSM Wilson provided to every soldier, NCO, and officer he had contact with. In my many years serving in the military, I have had great mentors that I have worked under, but CSM Wilson was the best. The one thing you could expect from him daily was that he would let you know the Army has a standard, and this was his standard; he would not accept anything less. If you ever wanted to know what the definition of a caring leader was, all you had to do was to look in CSM Wilson's direction and you’d find your answer. I can honestly say that CSM Wilson is the one leader I have had the privilege to serve under that I will never forget. He will always be a hero in my eyes and also many others.”

        Next: "I served with CSM Jerry Wilson in Alaska when he was the First Sergeant of A Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. I was the Company Commander. Words can not express the deep appreciation I have for this man who was a giant of a soldier. Jerry Wilson was my friend, my brother, and my mentor. During my 25 years in the Army, from Private to Lieutenant Colonel, I've NEVER met a more dedicated, caring, and capable man. I know from the stories he told and the stories I've heard from others that he has touched the lives of hundreds of soldiers and personally made the Army a better organization by his presence. He will be missed, but he will not be forgotten." Lieutenant Colonel Larry R. Larimer

        "I first met him as Sergeant First Class Wilson 14 years ago. He was my military science instructor in ROTC at Central State University. I was an 18 year old college student on ROTC scholarship with no real interest or connection to the military. For a young kid from California, ROTC just wasn't "cool". Wake up too early, work too late. Missed parties, you name it. Try as I might, CSM Wilson would not let me fail. In fact, through the next 4 years CSM Wilson was somehow able to instill in me pride in something I had nothing but disdain for – the army. He taught me leadership, responsibility, and dedication. He taught me how to be an officer. To this day, after 11 years in the US Army, having been around some of the best soldiers and officers in the world, I have never met one better than CSM Wilson. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He was simply the best." Captain Raheem Muhammad_Terrell of San Jose, California.

        "I worked for CSM Wilson, as his Fire Support NCO when I was stationed in Alaska. CSM Wilson is a very great leader, mentor and friend to the soldiers he serves. He is an inspiration to all of us who wear the military uniform. I remember him being a soldier’s soldier, always putting us before himself...Thank You CSM Wilson." SFC Jackie B. Dunn of 3_7 FA, Schofield Brks, HI. You want to be a good disciple? You want to be a good disciple maker? Be single minded, and endure.

        Paul goes to draw another illustration, from athletics: “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.”

        If anything Paul likes illustrations from athletics even better that he does illustrations from the military. At the end of this letter he will say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Paul is the model for disciple makers. And the quality of athletics he highlights is the discipline to train by the rules. A Greek athlete who wanted to compete in the Olympics had to embark on a rigorous training program, and had to swear on oath he had done so. Those were the rules. In the same way those who want to be disciples have to be willing to accept the ethical and moral and lifestyle implications of living for Jesus. And those who want to be disciple makers need to communicate these values.

        Offensive lineman Vernon Carey has spent the past four years as a key contributor to the Miami Hurricanes football team. The 6_foot_4, 335_pounder has received national recognition while helping the team advance to the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl over the past three years. He was taken 19th in the 2004 draft and will be playing for the Miami Dolphins. Carey says “Sometimes it takes someone other than a parent to get through to a person. Somebody who's been to where you want to be and been successful at it. For football, and life, that someone for me is Felix Williams, whom I consider a mentor and a third parent. I've known Mr. Williams since high school, and he's kept me on the right path through my life. He was an inner_city kid just like me, grew up in the same town as I did. He made it out, went to Florida A&M University, was an All_America cornerback, played all four years and went on to the NFL and played three or four years before hurting his knee.

        Mr. Williams is the vice president of Gold Coast Distributing Company. I met him when he saw me as a young kid in his neighborhood, and I guess he saw something in me and took me under his wing. He gave me summer jobs in high school and that kept me off the streets. I set up displays for a potato chip company inside grocery stores. Sounds easy, right? It's not __ I had to wake up at 4 a.m. and drive as much as 4 hours. Then we had to build the display at the front of the store and we had to do it before they opened for business. In college, he transferred to the warehouse. These jobs really introduced me to another world. I don't think I could have ever experienced anything like that without Mr. Williams' help.

        Naturally, Mr. Williams has also helped me make important decisions about my football career. He helped me decide on where to go to college and has guided me through the whole process of being a student_athlete. He taught me to do something I love and play the game to the best of my ability. My mentor has done so much for me, I feel like one way I can repay him is to someday do something like this for young kids. Somebody showed me the right way and I learned from it. There should be more people like him out there.” A mentor teaches his protege the discipline to play life by the rules.


        The last model for disciple making is a farmer. Verse 6: “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” Farming is hard work today and it was especially hard in Paul’s day. The farmer’s life involved early, long hours, because he couldn’t afford to lose time; constant toil (plowing, sowing, tending, weeding, reaping, storing); regular disappointments (frost, pests, disease); and patience, as everything happened in less than slow motion. In the same way being a disciple and making disciples is hard work. It requires strain, struggle, and diligence. But notice that the hard worker will be first in line for the reward, which will far outweigh the toil. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

        Is farming really a picture of disciple making? Yes, because in farming knowledge and truth and right behavior are passed from hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth over many generations. Today in agriculture, especially on smaller farms, mentoring programs are extremely popular. Experienced farmers share what they’ve learned with beginning farmers. Blueberry farmer Barbara Norman is the proud owner of a 53_acre farm in the southwestern Michigan town of Covert. She’s lived here all of her life on a farm that her grandfather passed to her.

        Covert is prime blueberry country. With sandy soils and a high water table the blueberry bushes thrive. One of the largest and most profitable farms is owned and operated by “Doc” Anderson. “Doc” has taken Barbara under his wing, passing along his know_how gained through years of experience. Barbara listened to Doc and sought assistance to optimize and protect the natural resources of her farm. But Barbara is not only a pupil of the experienced farmers in her community; she is a teacher as well. Her enthusiasm is infectious; she wants neighbors and friends to experience the benefits of farming as she does. Teachers in the Covert School District ask Barbara to talk to their students about farming, and careers related to farming. The students go out to her farm so they can see first hand what it takes to be a farmer. She has established herself as a community leader, mentor and role model through her caring compassion and love of her fellow human beings.” Even a farmer can be a disciple and a disciplemaker, with a strong value for hard work and diligence.

        So what have we seen? That the strength to be a disciple or a discipler comes from God’s grace; that it is an essential, generational ministry by which the truth of the gospel and the living of the Christian life are passed from one believer to another over time; and that you can and should be involved in discipling relationships whether as the mentor, a protege, or as a peer. Some of the character qualities you want to develop both to be a disciple and to make disciples are the endurance and single mindedness of a soldier, the moral commitment of an athlete and the hard work of a farmer. It’s not an easy job description - but your sold out attitude as you live for Jesus and learn the truths of the faith and pass them on will make a difference for eternity.

        An ordinary Christian named Edward Kimball was concerned about one of his young Sunday school students who worked at a shoe store in town. One day Kimball visited him at the store, found the student in the back stocking shoes, and led him to Christ then and there. Dwight L. Moody eventually left the shoe store to become one of the greatest preachers and evangelists of all time.

        Moody, whose international speaking took him to the British Isles, preached in a little chapel pastored by a young man with the imposing name of Frederic Brotherton Meyer. In his sermon Moody told an emotionally charged story about a Sunday school teacher he had known in Chicago who personally went to every student in his class and led every one of them to Christ. That message changed Pastor Meyer's entire ministry, inspiring him to become an evangelist like Moody. Over the years Meyer came to America several times to preach. In Northfield, Massachusetts, a confused young preacher sitting in the back row heard Meyer say, "If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?" That remark led J. Wilbur Chapman to respond to the call of God on his life.

        Chapman went on to become one of the most effective evangelists of his time. A volunteer by the name of Billy Sunday helped set up his crusades and learned how to preach by watching Chapman. Sunday eventually took over Chapman's ministry, becoming one of the most dynamic evangelists of the 20th century. In the great arenas of the nation, Billy Sunday's preaching turned thousands of people to Christ.

        Inspired by a 1924 Billy Sunday crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, a committee of Christians there dedicated themselves to reaching the city for Christ. The committee invited the evangelist Mordecai Ham to hold a series of meetings in 1932. A lanky 16_year_old sat in the crowd one evening, spellbound by the message of the white _haired preacher, who seemed to be shouting and waving a finger at him. Night after night the teenager attended and finally went forward to give his life to Christ. The teenager's name? Billy Graham, the man who has communicated the gospel of Jesus Christ to more people than any other man in history.

        You and I need to feel compelled to be both fervent disciples and fervent disciple makers, passing along the truths of the gospel and how to live it, because with this kind of single minded, faithful, hard-working ministry, God can use you to touch eternity.