“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:1-7).
Paul is writing to Timothy. Paul is in prison in Rome. This is the second time he has been in prison and he is just days away from being executed. How do we know that? Later on, in this letter Paul says, “I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race.” So, this is Paul’s last will and testament, this is the last letter that he will ever write, and he writes it to Timothy. Who is Timothy? Timothy is Paul’s spiritual son. Paul has discipled Timothy since he was a young boy, as they travelled all over Asia minor together. Now, Timothy is in his thirties and he is a pastor in church in Ephesus. So, Paul writes this letter not only to encourage Timothy but to give him some much needed advice. In verse 1, the first thing Paul says, “Timothy, I want you to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This is 1 of 25 times in both first and second Timothy that Paul says, “Be Strong”. Why? Because, even though Timothy was discipled by Paul, he is not Paul, he is not as bold as Paul, he is not as courageous as Paul, he is a little bit more shy, he is a little bit more timid. And Timothy has committed his entire life for disciple making, he is a pastor, he is tired, he is weary, his church is kind of falling and he just needs a word of encouragement. First thing Paul says, “Timothy, be strong.” Paul is not saying about becoming physically strong, but he says, “be strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.” In Greek, that word “be strong” is a present, passive, imperative. It means to yield to be fully dependent upon. So, Paul says, Timothy, in order for you to gain strength, and in order for you to overcome what’s in your life, and in order for you to get out of bed every single morning, you have to yield to submit to the grace of Jesus Christ. Grace is defined as unmerited favor. It’s an idea that we’ve been freely given eternal life, through Jesus Christ, separate from who we are and what we can and cannot do. Paul is saying, Timothy, your strength doesn’t come from you, there is nothing physically you can do to gain strength, but rather it comes from the fact that in your shortcomings, in your failures, in your sins, God has paid the bill for you. If you don’t understand that what impact that has in your life, you are going to miss it, there is so much freedom in it, that at the end of the day, no matter what we do, Jesus’ blood has covered all of that. And that is where we gain our strength. Here is what it means, if you are a healthy disciple of Jesus, you should be abiding in the power and grace of Jesus. What is ‘to abide’ means? It means to reside, take up root in, and it implies three things; being connected, being dependent, and it’s a constant state. So, abide in Jesus means, that we are dependent upon Jesus, we are connected to Jesus, anytime, anywhere, any place, all the time. It’s not something we slip in and out of, it’s not something we go back and forth between, it not only happens during the difficult season of life but those times of success and when things are going well. Paul says a healthy disciple of Jesus abides in Jesus. How do we abide? One of the ways that we can abide is through devoting ourselves to prayer. Another way is through reading, meditating and memorizing the Word. When we read the Word, we become more like Jesus, which is the goal of any disciple. As we read the Word, we commit those Words through our hearts, our minds and those Words transform us, renew us, revive us and sanctify us. Paul says, your strength and my strength come from abiding in Jesus Christ. Abiding in Jesus is not optional, we cannot face whatever come in contact with us, without the person of Jesus. And we certainly cannot make disciples without abiding in Jesus. Here is my challenge to you- find time and abide, take ten minutes and begin to read the Scriptures. Start in the gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Why? Because gospels tell us about who Jesus is, how He lived His life, how He loved, how He engaged, how He behaved. Start by reading the gospels. It will take some time for us to develop this habit because it’s unnatural for most of us, and it takes discipline, hard work and intentionality. If you have to schedule a reminder on your phone, do that until it becomes a habit. There is nothing more important that you will ever do in this earth then abiding in Jesus Christ. Abiding in Jesus is not optional.
Second characteristic of a healthy disciple is to make disciples. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (verse 2). Paul says to Timothy, “take what you learned from me and teach them to other people.” I think some of us think that discipleship is optional or it’s ony for super holy Christians, it’s not. Discipleship is for everyone. A disciple of Jesus is a coworker with Jesus. You don’t have to take my word for it, you don’t even have to listen to Paul. Let’s see what Jesus says how a disciple of Christ looks like. In Matthew chapter 4:18,19, we see that Jesus is walking along the sea of Galilee, He looks out and He sees some men fishing, so, He extends the invitation to these men to become His disciples. Here is the job description, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” He doesn’t say be active church goers, He doesn’t say be perfect attendant Christians, He says fishers of people. Begin by abiding in Jesus, become a student of the Word, you can take what Jesus is teaching you, what Jesus is revealing to you and you can teach it to other people. Start with becoming a student of the Word. Discipleship is not optional.
Third characteristic of a healthy disciple is someone who will endure suffering. “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (verse 3). Paul understood this. Paul has been beaten, left to dead, shipwrecked, bitten by snake, and he is just days away from being executed. He says, Timothy, following Jesus and making disciples will cost you something. We live in a world where it is going to become increasingly difficult to be a Christ follower. The moment you signed up to be a Christ follower, you received a target on your back. Your marriage will come under attack, your children will come under attack. That’s why it is important to be abiding in Jesus. I know many men and women, the moment they professed Jesus, they followed Him in believer’s baptism, here is what happened- their families and their friends cut them off completely, they did not even show up for their baptism. Being a disciple cost them their families. Being a disciple of Jesus will cost you something but here is what I want you to encourage with. Paul says, “for great is your reward in heaven.” Keep your eyes on the prize because when we are sitting in the feet of Jesus none of these are going to matter anymore. It’s all going to be worth it.
In verses 4,5 and 6 Paul says that being Christ follower will require focus, determination and dedication of a soldier. What I love about the men and women in our arm forces is they will not stop; they will not quit until the mission is finish. Paul says, it will be hard, it will be difficult but stay focused and follow Jesus. In verse 5 Paul says, it will take discipline of an athlete.
Finally, he says this, it’s going to require that you be as persistent and you work hard as a farmer does, waiting for the harvest. Farmers wake up early in the morning and go to the fields and sow the seeds and then wait and pray and hope for a harvest. That’s the picture of you and me, lets do the hard work and live rest up to the Holy Spirit. So, here is the test- do you abide in Jesus? Do you make disciples? Are you willing to endure suffering? That’s what a disciple of Jesus looks like.