A Message on Relationships and Discipleship from 2 Timothy 2:1-7
by Bob Lowman, Jr.
Do you realize you’re part of a chain that started a long time ago? Have you ever taught a Sunday School class or led a men’s or women’s ministry group? Have you worked in student ministry or with children at your church? Maybe you have someone you meet and pray with regularly. Have you at any point in your life had someone who invested time in you as a Christian – teaching you, praying for you, encouraging you in your walk with God?
If you are a Christian, and said “yes” to any of these possibilities, you are part of a chain of Jesus’ followers, His disciples from the day He spoke Great Commission until today. We form a great, unbroken chain of disciples from the founding of the church until now.
This message is from God’s Word for the church, and it is about relationships and discipleship. We in church are the only ones who can really deal with and help solve the crisis we face in North America. What crisis? We live in a nation where biblical truth and Spirit-led living is largely unknown by those who claim to be part of the church.
We must make a serious adjustment in what we do as Christians and churches. Our task is not just to make converts – we must be actively pursuing our responsibility to make disciples. We must commit ourselves to investing in the lives of others in disciple-making relationships.
Southern Baptists have made a fresh commitment to a Great Commission Resurgence, which has at its heart our job of making disciples. We cannot, we must not neglect this responsibility church. We can’t assume it’s going to happen. We must intentionally practice this God-commanded activity.
A Powerful Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-7
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 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. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 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. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (NASB)
In the church and in our culture, we need relationships that lead to discipleship. We need relationships that encourage discipleship. We need relationships that are discipleship.
It will help to get some fresh definitions of what we’re talking about. A relationship is a personal connection between two or more people. Discipleship is the process of learning and growing as devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
We need relationships that are discipleship: two or more people growing together as devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
What does God have to say about this through the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2?
Paul calls Timothy “my son.” Was he Timothy’s biological father? No – but he called him son because they had a significant relationship that was at its core discipleship.
We cannot overestimate the value of one-to-one relationships in the process of disciple-making in the church. How many sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters do we have in our churches? Not biologically speaking, but spiritually speaking. How many people in our churches, younger and older, need relationships like that with someone who can help them along the way of faith?
In God’s design of life and faith, we have vitally important roles to play in the lives of those around us. We have a chain to connect with and stay linked to in the process of Christian living and disciple making.
Next, Paul tells Timothy in verse 1: “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Not just “be strong,” but know the true source of the strength you need! Every time I hear someone say: “Believe in yourself,” my response is, “And what will that get you?” I must go beyond myself in order to find the help that I need to live life as I ought. The only way I am going to get real help is to believe in the only One who is able to help me face today and every day: His name is Jesus.
So, Paul told Timothy in verse 1: “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Be strong in something that is not of yourself! Our world is longing for help and strength – it’s found in the grace of the Lord. We all have issues we must wrestle with. No one has an easy life – no one. We need help and God wants us to allow Him to help others through us. That’s why we must have a relationship with Jesus before we can really help others.
Next, Paul says in verse 2: “What you’ve heard from me in presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men.”
What do you “entrust” to someone? You entrust something of value, something that is worth much to you. Our words are treasures – God’s Word is a powerful treasure, so these words you have heard, entrust them to faithful people. Share them with people who believe so that they can benefit from this treasure also. What you’ve learned, share with others who need to know.
While evangelism is vitally important and must be a priority, that is not Paul’s goal here. He tells Timothy to share what he’s learned with faithful people, with people of faith, men and women who want to follow Jesus.
There’s a reason for this instruction: if we in the church will have relationships that are discipleship with one another, we will be preparing one another to be and do all Jesus calls us to be and do, including those who still need to know Him as Savior and Lord.
There is a powerful idea here: Paul says Timothy heard him in presence of many witnesses. Can you feel the energizing possibilities of what Timothy is hearing? If there are many witnesses, imagine the multiplied ministry of all these hearing and preparing to build relationships that are discipleship.
Paul says to entrust God’s truths to these who will be able to teach others.
The Greek word for teach here is didaske, which is the same word used in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.
The way we make disciples is by going, baptizing and teaching. This is about disciple-making, helping others become disciples of Jesus, people who are followers of, students of, witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This reveals the multiplying power of the Gospel! If one person goes out and leads other individuals to Christ, but does not disciple them, train them, teach them, this is only addition to the Body of Christ. But if one person goes out and leads someone to Christ, and then invests in them so that they can also lead others to Christ and disciple them, this is multiplication.
What we must realize is that our work is not done until new believers are able to make disciples of others.
In the church and in our culture, we need relationships that lead to discipleship, we need relationships that encourage discipleship, we need relationships that are discipleship.
Paul knew that this task was not was not easy. He tells Timothy to “Suffer as a good soldier” (verse 3). We must be ready to persevere in the spiritual struggle we face. As John Piper said, “You’ll never know what prayer is for until you learn that life is war.” It is warfare out there, and the enemy of our souls does not want us to be about the life-long task of making disciples.
Then, Paul encourages us with three pictures of what the discipleship relationship looks like: soldier, athlete, farmer. What is he really saying here?
First, we must be ready to follow the leader. In verses 3-4, the soldier must do what he does to please his commander. We do what we do to obey and glorify Jesus, the Lord of all we are. Like soldiers, we have to give up worldly security and endure vigorous discipline as we follow our leader and commander.
Second, we must be ready to follow the rules. In verse 5, he mentions the athlete who doesn’t win unless he competes according to the rules. God has given us specific instructions by His Word and by the Holy Spirit, and we must be actively obedient to what He says. Like athletes, we must train hard and follow the rules. If we want to win, we must do it right.
Third, we must be ready to follow through to the harvest. In verse 6, he talks about the farmer who should be the first to get a share of the crops. For a farmer who plants to be around for the crops to be distributed, he must persevere until the harvest comes. Like farmers, we must work extremely hard and be patient as we await results.
So, we keep going despite suffering because of the vision of victory, the goal of winning, and the hope of harvest.
This priority of relational discipleship, the process of disciple-making is hard work, challenging work. It’s a long race, but we must persevere until the end. There are generations being lost because we don’t have Christians who will take the time to share faith, hope, and love in discipling relationships. This ought not to be!
In case you are not sure what all of this means, look at what Paul tells Timothy and us in verse 7: “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” We do not know everything we need to know, but in relationships that are discipleship we can help one another hear from the Lord and understand what His plans are for us.
Gabe Lyons, author of the book, The Next Christians, had a lunch meeting with Billy Graham a few years ago. As they discussed the importance of disciple-making, Graham said: “In our day, God reached people through crusades and large meetings, but today I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things.”
This reinforces the truth that we need to invest in relationships. We need to invest in relationships that allow us to make disciples. It will take time, it will take energy, it will take patience, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit. But it’s worth it!