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. 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. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 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. 2 Timothy 2:1-10
As I type this, I’m honestly a bit grieved, yet joyful and hopeful. It’s a weird contradiction of sorts but one I trust many Christians will identify with. Another legend of the faith, Ravi Zacharias, has passed and for some reason, this one hurts a bit more than others. Not that I don’t (or can’t even) personally identify with most of these Christian men and women who have passed on in recent years. But a big part of my heart identifies with the message they are preaching and into that, a part comes to love and cherish the words and teachings they have expounded. Words that shed light on the Gospel itself. To know the flow of words from Ravi have now ceased is sad but what an impact and what a legacy that outlives him for years to come.
Into thinking about all of these “giants” (Ravi, Billy Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, et al) the world seems a less brighter place with their absence. Many of the evangelists, apologists, and preachers I grew up listening to, reading, and observing are passing onto their great reward. It reminds me of two things: one, I am getting older. And two, the baton is being passed onto younger generations who are called forth to carry it.
I don’t know if my lifetime will see another Ravi Zacharias or Billy Graham. But I know beyond looking for that presence, we are called to preach and to proclaim the Gospel. God has always had a practice of raising up a voice in the days in which no voice was found. Today I want to look at a simple passage (2 Timothy 2:1-10) as part of Paul’s baton being passed onto his protege Timothy. Paul had run his race well. He wanted Timothy to move forward in confidence and entrust the Gospel to a willing vessel. Let’s dive in once again!
1. Be willing to give instruction
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
Paul was in a Roman prison writing his letter to Timothy, awaiting his fate. He certainly had time to reflect and also pour into the lives of those he had influenced. Timothy was one such life. In these verses, Paul is telling Timothy to take the message and pass it along to others. He is saying “what I have been given, you must now distribute as well.” It is a charge and a command and it is imperative that Timothy spreads this message, rather than keeping it to himself.
We often come to points in our walk with Christ in which it is easy to be complacent and even stagnate a bit. When we get into those moments, it is good to remind ourselves of what our mission is. We were not placed on this Earth to just accept Christ and then exist as if nothing else changes. No, we are called to go out and preach the Gospel. Baton passers recognize this and after going forward, they prepare others to do the same. We know the race ends at some point and it is our time to finish and someone else’s to begin and carry on the call.
2. Be willing to endure suffering
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. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 2 Timothy 2:3-6
We see from Paul’s writings that he is not one to sugar coat the aspects of being an ambassador for Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Paul recounts some of the trials he has faced: beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, being hungry and thirsty and without elements for basic survival. Throughout his life post-conversion, things never got easier for Paul. In fact, one would imagine a black cloud over his head wherever he went, knowing opposition was right around the corner. Still, Paul did not shrink back from sharing Jesus.
Paul’s list to Timothy compares this life in Christ to three things: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. In each example, the person must endure to get to the end. The soldier keeps his eyes on his commanding officer. The runner competes according to the rules and maintains integrity. The farmer works hard so that he sees a harvest. Each one is an example for us as well. We have to endure suffering with a mindset that there are no short-cuts or quick fixes. We have to keep locked in on Jesus. And we will gain a harvest if we do not faint.
3. Be willing to remember Jesus
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 2 Timothy 2:8,9
If Paul were to address us today and leave us with a parting thought just as he gave Timothy, I believe his words would be the same: “Remember Jesus. Remember to preach the Gospel.” I know for my own part, I can get so caught up in the doing of life in ministry. I can become consumed with the details and the day-to-day things that I forget why I am doing all of this in the first place. It’s in those moments that Jesus has to reawaken me, give me a fresh set of eyes, and help me to see Him again for Who He really is.
I think Paul, recognizing his time was short, had enough motivation to lay things out clearly one last time for Timothy. It is believed that 2 Timothy was his last letter and that Timothy was like a son to Paul. What father wouldn’t want to give his son the words that he believed in and that would guide his child into life and freedom? Paul stated “Remember Jesus” and for me, it’s a point to say to my own soul, remember and do not forget. Life’s worries come crashing in and can easily drown out His voice. But step back and reconsider again Jesus Christ: His life, death, and resurrection.
As I reflect back upon Ravi and his legacy, I’m absolutely convinced that he faced hardships, suffering and trials along the path after following Christ. I know he faced opposition as he went up against various heavy weights of post-modern thought and atheism. Still, none of it caused Ravi to go off-course and to forget his primary objective. He lovingly challenged and pointed people to the Gospel. His heart was about something greater than this life — it pointed to the one to come.
Perhaps like me, you feel the challenge to pick up the baton and run. To carry the burden of the Gospel forward because so many who have been carrying it are no more. We are not alone: we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), so we must run for the glory of Him Who sent us. Timothy’s life would not have been the same without the impact of Paul. Our lives are impacted by many who have touched and ministered to us. Let’s pick up their baton. Let’s run and let’s finish well!
I love you guys and I love running the race with you. God bless.
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
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