We generally do one of two things with our money: We spend it or we invest it. Money we spend, we never see again. Investing money wisely will ensure that it multiplies.
We do the same thing with our lives. We spend them or we invest them. A life that is spent selfishly is gone. But a life of investing in others will bear fruit for eternity.
The apostle Paul preached to large crowds and established churches as he traveled across the known world. These were important activities, but he also invested his life in individuals. The well-known words that Paul wrote to Timothy at the end of his life capture this sense of investment. Navigators cite them often when talking about passing on spiritual truth and investing in the next generation of 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 (2 Timothy 2:2).
But what are those “things” that Paul referred to? What things need to be entrusted to reliable people so that they can teach others? In order to understand that, we need to look at what Paul wrote later in his letter to Timothy. If we want to see disciples who are able to pass on what they’ve learned to future generations, these are things we need to focus on.
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them (2 Timothy 3:10,11).
1. Teaching. Timothy “knew all about” Paul’s teaching. Paul shared with him what he believed. It’s important that our convictions—the truths we believe in—be accurate and biblical. If we believe right, we’ll live right. Our outward life is a reflection of our inward conviction. We teach the Word of God formally and informally — investing in small groups and one-on-one. And we pray it into peoples’ lives. And we model our teaching by the way we respond to the issues of life.
2. Way of Life. It’s impossible to divorce lifestyle from doctrine. They’re intimately related. We have to let people into our lives. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Where do you live?” He didn’t give them an address. He told them, “Come and see.” Jesus didn’t change lives just by what He taught—but also by the way He lived. Are we approachable?
3. Purpose. Where are you going? What are your life goals? When you reach the end of your life, how will you define success? Paul knew his purpose in the Kingdom of God. Our long-term goals determine our short-term goals. How are you planning on investing your life? If you have something worth giving your life to, maybe it’s worth someone else giving his or her life to it as well.
4. Faith. Faith is only as valid as it’s object. Where is your faith? We would rather learn about faith under blue skies with warm sun and fluffy white clouds. But Jesus taught His disciples about faith at midnight on a boat that appeared to be sinking in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. A little bit of faith in the promises of God will carry you a lot further than a lot of faith in anything else.
5. Patience. Your patience—your inner quietness of spirit—with yourself, with your spouse, with your children, with your colleagues, with God, and with your circumstances, is a reflection of what you believe. There are times of waiting and praying. It doesn’t fit our definition of the abundant life of a Christian. But we need to learn patience. Growth in a disciples’ life isn’t a straight line like an arrow showing profits for a successful business.
6. Love. One way to check out how you’re doing in the area of love is to read 1 Corinthians 13: 4–8 and substitute your name each time you come across the word love. Try it for seven days. Love confronts, and cares, and gives. Love is involved with other peoples’ “dirty feet.” Jesus spent the precious hours before His crucifixion washing His disciples’ dirty feet as a demonstration of love. If we want to prepare disciples for service, we have to get involved with their dirty feet. People will not care what you believe until they believe that you care. You cannot disciple a person you do not love.
7. Persecution and Suffering. If you read the account of the persecutions Paul endured in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra (see Acts 14) you see that in Antioch and Iconium Paul preached the Gospel and some believed and some didn’t. Then he encounters angry mobs and barely gets out of town in time. In Lystra, the pattern is repeated and the mob stones him. But how does Paul describe the persecutions years later? “The Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:11). Some of us have no room in our belief system for failure. We don’t like to fail. We don’t like to be weak. But my failures are as much a part of my discipling another person as my successes, my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, and my love.
Paul invested his life in Timothy. Timothy knew all about Paul’s teaching, way of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, and sufferings. If you want to reach the next generation of disciples, you need to trust God to bring someone into your life with whom you can share all these “things” that He has entrusted to your stewardship.
Adapted from Skip Gray’s message Multiplying Disciples in Discipleship Library.