Pass on the Baton
Below is taken from the YouVersion Bible app plan, "The Bible in One Year with Nick Gumbel" (Day 175) with my commentary inserted (in italics).
In Acts 16:1-15 we read about the beginning of the Apostle Paul’s mentoring relationship with Timothy. Specifically, we see how Paul trained Timothy. At the end of the devotional we are told about Paul’s final letter to Timothy (2 Timothy) In 2 Timothy 2:2 we see the culmination of the mentoring / training relationship where Paul expects to see four generations of disciples. This is one of the great blessings of a spiritual mentoring relationship – becoming a spiritual great-grandparent.
Paul recognized he had a responsibility to train up others. He found Timothy – ‘a fine young man’ (vv.1–2, MSG). Timothy was discipled, trained, and taught by Paul. Paul was a mentor to Timothy. They are a great example of what we all should be doing. Find a Paul from whom you can learn and find a Timothy to whom you can pass it on.
As with so many, I would say that every major strategic step or decision I have made has been inspired and encouraged not from a pulpit in a crowd of thousands but rather by someone within arm’s reach. There is no doubt that preaching can make a big impact, but we often overestimate the amount of truth that is assimilated between the pulpit and the pew. In my life, truth shared in proximity has been a key to my own personal growth. This seems to have been the key for Timothy.
Is the Sunday gathering the most important component of discipleship that occurs throughout the week?
It was through Paul that Timothy had become a Christian and they became very close friends. Paul was older than Timothy and he described their friendship as being like that of a father and son (Philippians 2:22). Paul described Timothy as ‘my son whom I love’ (1 Corinthians 4:17).
They went through a great deal together. ‘They travelled from town to town’ (Acts 16:4). They even spent time in prison together. During all this Timothy would have been watching Paul and being trained up as his successor.
Are you willing to be this invested in the life of another believer?
It is not enough to hope that the ‘Timothy’s’ are watching us. We must strategically position younger disciples to have significant opportunities to lead. Paul bestowed on Timothy real responsibility. He could trust him because he knew him so well.
I have been told by pastors that they are unwilling to let newer believers’ disciple other new believers because they don’t know what they are going to say. Is this a function of lack of training and not spending time with the disciple at the beginning of their faith walk?
Paul involved Timothy in the work right from the start. They took decisions together (v.4). Through their ministry together, ‘Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size’ (v.5, MSG).
Timothy learned about the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When they tried to enter Bithynia, the Holy Spirit ‘blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either’ (vv.6–7, MSG).
This is an important lesson in life. I can think of at least five occasions in my life where I have felt that I should go in a particular direction ‘but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow’ (v.7) the plan to succeed. As I look back now, I am so thankful the Spirit stopped plans which, in hindsight, were clearly not the right ones.
God then led Timothy and Paul in a new direction: ‘During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”’ (v.9). Not surprisingly Paul took this as clear guidance that they were to go to Macedonia: ‘All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans’ (v.10, MSG).
In Philippi, Timothy would have watched Paul on the first Saturday that he was there, going down to the river where there were a group of women praying (v.13).
As Paul spoke about Jesus, Lydia, a rich merchant woman, was converted. She invited Paul and those with him to come and stay in her home. It must have been an extraordinary and wonderful experience for them both to see how the ‘Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message’ (v.14).
The final letter attributed to Paul is 2 Timothy. To the very end of his life, Paul’s priority was encouraging and releasing the next generation. Let’s make it ours too!
Final question: In your church, is discipleship a “program” or part of your Body’s “DNA”, where it’s just as natural to spiritually mentor another believer as it is to share our faith with those who don’t yet know Jesus?
Lord, help every ‘Paul’ to find ‘Timothy’s’ who they can train up. Help every ‘Timothy’ to find a mentor like Paul who will pass on all their experience to them. Amen