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The Solution-Capable Equipment

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In the first 9 verses of chapter 3 Paul described the state of affairs between the time Jesus left and His Second Coming, and the picture he painted wasn’t a pretty one!  He warned us to beware of the difficulty we will face and described for us our crafty enemy.[1]  Timothy certainly faced a determined foe with a thought-out strategy, and we do as well.  Last week’s message was not easy to hear, because as we saw the enemy is within our midst many times.  I for one fight the temptation to give in to despondency, knowing that the enemy is strong and smart.

Think about it this way: Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.  It’s peak sits just a little over 29,000 feet above sea level.  As of the end of the 2006 climbing season, 203 people have died trying to climb it, while 2,062 individuals have made the ascent and lived to tell about it.[2]  Mount Everest is, to say the least, a daunting climb, a formidable opponent that can conquer even experienced climbers.  Certainly determination is needed to make it to the top, but even a determined climber will surely die if they do not have the right equipment to make it to the summit.

Likewise, the only thing that saves me from throwing up my hands in surrender is knowing that we, too, have weapons at our disposal in this spiritual war.  Paul gives Timothy two pieces of capable equipment in our passage to face the enemy and overcome him.  If we are to fulfill our vision to “raise up a godly generation one family at a time” we will need to make full use of every bit of equipment we have at our disposal!  A godly soldier needs more than just determination to win; we need capable equipment, so Paul reminds us that we have:

  1. Godly Mentors (2 Timothy 3:10-14).  I would imagine that Timothy was a little discouraged by his situation.  He was “on an island” so to speak in Ephesus, surrounded by opposition and badly outnumbered.  He was probably a little encouraged by Paul’s confidence that the church would eventually recognize the error of men like Hymaneus and Philetus[3], but that might take a long time.  What was he supposed to do until they were exposed as frauds?  For that, Timothy turns to his mentor in Christ.

Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, (2 Timothy 3:10)

The idea of “following” has changed a great deal between Paul’s time and ours.  Today, when we “follow” a news story we check in on it every once in awhile and see how it develops.  We might “follow” a TV series, meaning we watch it and see how the characters’ lives turn out.  In Paul’s world, though, there were no cell phones or internet.  The word translated “follow” is normally used of direct discipleship[4], and it includes the idea of first-hand knowledge at the least. 

Notice all the wonderful things Timothy gleaned from being discipled by Paul.  Right at the top of the list Paul says that Timothy followed his teaching.  Paul didn’t haggle and argue over words like the opposition did; he spoke plainly and taught the way of Christ.  Next Paul says Timothy followed his conduct.  Paul had a compassionate heart, meeting people where they were and leading them to Jesus.[5]  He knew first-hand how Paul lived his life.  Timothy also knew Paul’s purpose, his reason for existing.  Timothy watched Paul go after his goals.

The same holds true with the rest of the list. Timothy followed along and could speak firsthand about Paul’s faith, his patience, his love, and his perseverance.  What this tells me is that Paul modeled the behavior that he was instructing Timothy about.  He has called Timothy to suffer with him, to kindle his gift into flame, and to work hard to provide no stumbling blocks to his opponent’s repentance.  Now Paul reminds Timothy that Paul wasn’t acting the hypocrite; rather, Timothy had seen these very things in the life of his mentor.

The first thing a godly mentor does in our lives is model how to live for Christ.  Before a mentor can speak into our lives it is incredibly important that we see the truths of Scripture lived out in their own life.  We might listen to them teach or see how they handle a crisis; we might be along when they have to get on their knees and ask God for strength to make it through a day.  We watch them deal with difficult people, study the Word and live an authentic Christian life.  However it looks, godly mentors model the Christian walk for us.

persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! (2 Timothy 3:11)

Not only has Timothy followed what Paul did, but Paul reminds him that he has watched God work in his life.  Timothy was no doubt being persecuted for his allegiance to Paul, and suffering for his stance on the truths of the gospel.  Paul reminds Timothy specifically of some hard times that he suffered in three cities, events which we have recorded for us in Acts 13-14. 

Specifically what we see happen in those instances is the success of Paul’s preaching the gospel followed by opposition from false teachers.  This section describes Paul’s first missionary journey, and many people believed in Jesus and found eternal life!  Paul faced opposition every step of the way, but his devotion to his cause won many hearts and founded many churches.  It also earned Paul many bumps and bruises, but Paul’s focus here is on the success of the ministry and the deliverance God provided from the opposition.

Not only has Timothy watched Paul work, but he has also seen God work through Paul mightily in ministry and in life.  Godly mentors allow us to watch God at work in their ministry, allowing us to see God at work.  As they model the Christian walk for us and we see God at work in their lives it encourages us to walk the same path they are walking, confident that God can work in our lives as well to deliver us from persecutions and suffering.

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, (2 Timothy 3:12-14)

Lastly in this section of mentorship Paul uses his time with Timothy and their relationship to teach some principles for Timothy to use in ministry.  When we make a commitment to follow the Lord with everything we have we will face the same kind of opposition that Paul faced.  There will always be those who want to pull us down!  What Paul does here, though, is use his relationship with Timothy to encourage him to hang in there and stay true to what he knows to be the right path.

A godly mentor is absolutely essential to facing opposition and living a life committed to Christ.  Mentors model authentic and healthy discipleship for us.  They let us into their lives to see God work in them and through them.  Because of our relationship mentors can speak into our lives and help us see ourselves and our struggles in a light that we may never see without them.  Biblical mentorship is absolutely critical to overcoming our flesh, the world, and the devil.

Paul’s advice to Timothy to “go with what you know” is given because Timothy knows who he learned to walk with Christ from.  The pronoun “whom” is plural in the Greek text; Paul had more people in mind than himself who taught Timothy, mentored him, encouraged him, and taught him about being a faithful disciple.  Certainly Paul had Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice[6] in mind, and it is certainly possible that Paul knew of other mentors in Timothy’s life who were godly and devoted to helping him grow.  A godly mentor doesn’t care if they get the credit for mentorship; they just want to help and encourage us to grow!

  • Do you have a mentor?  Is there a Christian who is farther down the road with Christ helping you see the path ahead clearly?  Are you cultivating relationships now so that when the hard times come you have someone to lean on for help? 
  • Are you seeking out mentorship?  In my opinion the best mentoring relationships spring up spontaneously.  One of my mentors was “assigned” to me in life[7], but the two other men who I interact with in mentoring roles allowed me to hang around them long enough to become their protégé. 
  • Look around and find the people in your life who have the walk with Christ that you admire, who live authentic lives in relationship with Jesus and with His people.  Then get to know them; ask them for advice, see what they’re into, take them to lunch!
  • Also, notice that Paul gave Timothy advice expecting him to follow through on it.  When a mentor or potential mentor gives you some of their time and some wisdom, use it!  The surest way to make a potential mentor take notice and want to help you is to listen and follow through on their advice.

I can’t tell you how much a godly mentor has meant in my life, and Paul shows us here that godly mentorship is a vital (if often overlooked) tool to overcome the work of Satan in our church.

2. God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  After his discussion of mentorship Paul turns his attention to another crucial piece of the discipleship puzzle: God’s Word. Our toolbox has more in it than just God’s people in it!  The adage goes that if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer you tend to treat every problem like it’s a nail.  We can see at the end of Chapter 3 that as important as godly mentors are to our success as disciples, the Word of God is the tool without which we will fail as disciples.

and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15)

Paul dives right in to a discussion of God’s Word that goes hand-in-hand with godly mentorship.  Where else would a godly mentor lead us than into God’s Word?  Paul begins by reminding Timothy about the “sacred writings,” a phrase that Jews of Paul’s day used to describe what we call the Old Testament.  We know that Timothy’s mother was a Jew from Acts 16:1, and it looks to me like she followed the command of Deuteronomy 6:7 and taught her son about the Lord from his childhood. 

If we look carefully we can also see Paul’s idea of the purpose of the Hebrew Scriptures.  He tells Timothy that the Bible he grew up with is able to give him wisdom.  That wisdom, according to Paul, leads Timothy to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.  Here are Mirriam-Webster’s first two definitions for wisdom[8]:

wis•dom \ˈwiz-dəm\ n

1             a: accumulated philosophic or scientific learning knowledge

                        b: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships insight

Wisdom, then, can be described as taking in all the data available (in Timothy’s case the Old Testament) and from it discerning the inner qualities and relationships that lead to placing trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life.  Many of us can look at our Bible and see a whole lot more wear and tear on the last half of the book (the New Testament) than on the first half (the Old), but Paul would be upset with us for that!

The Old Testament gives us insight and wisdom, helping us see our condition and our relationship to God.  The Old Testament can show us all the prophecy that Jesus fulfilled, and can give us an appreciation for what God did for us in sending His only Son to die in our place.  It can lead us straight to Jesus!

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Now Paul widens the scope a little bit.  He doesn’t use the technical term for the Old Testament, leaving room for the gospels, the epistles, and Revelation to make their way into God’s written record.  Paul gives us a short but incredibly powerful treatise on the source, nature, and purpose of the Word of God in our lives, and we must slow down a little to take in all that he says about it here.

First Paul says that “All Scripture is inspired by God.”    We use the word “inspired” when we discuss the Bible, but what does it mean to us as Christians?  Is the Bible “inspired” like Shakespeare was “inspired” to write his plays, or like Mother Theresa “inspired” people to care about others and dedicate their lives to service?  In a word: no.

The phrase “inspired by God” literally says “God-breathed.”  That tells us that without overriding the author’s background, personality, and style God superintended their writing so that every word of the original copy is the very Word of God[9].  When we read our Bible we can rest knowing that it is God’s Word, written for our benefit and absolutely true and trustworthy on every area it touches, whether it is spiritual, ethical, moral, or physical.  Each and every word is God’s Word and completely without error.  Paul also tells us that God’s Word is profitable for:

  • Teaching: This is a positive term that refers to instruction in doctrine.  The Word of God is useful for teaching us truth about who God is, how we can have a relationship with Him, how we can live for Him, and what our future holds with Him.
  • Reproof: This is a negative term, and could be translated “rebuking.”  When we haven’t learned about God or His character, the Word of God corrects our error and convicts us of our falsehood.
  • Correction: When we get out of line, God’s Word straightens us out and puts us back on the right path.  The idea here is of someone who has wandered off the path and being placed back on the correct road.
  • Training in righteousness: Once we are on the path, God’s Word trains us how to stay there.  It’s not enough to be kept from error; we must also know how to act correctly and live in a manner that brings glory to God.

Now that we have seen the source (God) and the nature (useful) of the Word of God, Paul ends this section by giving us the purpose.  God didn’t give us His Word without reason; He didn’t make it useful for us to get all we can, can all we get, and sit on the can!  In verse 17 Paul tells us that the purpose of the Bible is for us to take it in and be equipped by it. 

Verse 17 begins “so that the man of God may be adequate.”  The word “adequate” comes from the word that means “well fitted for some function.”[10]  God uses the fourfold nature of the Bible (i.e. useful for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness) to transform us from the inside out and make us proficient and capable of performing the task to which He has called us.  Paul says that the task is that we be “equipped for every good work.”

None of us is supposed to be a specialist!  Though we each have a spiritual gift and a part to play, when we immerse ourselves in God’s Word it prepares us to serve and do good work whenever and wherever it presents itself.  We aren’t supposed to have only one particular skill; to use a baseball term, we are called to be a “five tool player.”[11]  A disciple who lets the Word sink into their heart is ready and able to serve Christ wherever He needs them.  He can stand for truth and fight the enemy (with love and gentleness!) on whatever battlefield they are called to. There is no getting around it: Bible study is the nourishment that feeds us spiritually to go out and serve our Lord when and where He needs us.

  • How is your intake of our only infallible guide to life?  Are you feasting on God’s Word, or are you spiritually malnourished?
  • Are you counting on Sunday’s sermon to get you through the week?  Church on Sunday is not enough!  Sunday might be the entrée for your spiritual nourishment, but it takes more than a 30-minute study to make it through the week and be equipped to serve.  Our Wednesday night family night will help, too, but even with that it takes time during the week to be equipped to serve God.
  • Are you taking time every day to read a little of God’s Word?  Just like financial investing, even a little bit can pay huge dividends if you allow “spiritual compounding” to multiply the benefit.  It doesn’t even matter where, because all Scripture is profitable and will help us build our character.
  • Do you sometimes feel like you read the Bible, but it’s not getting through?  Find a translation that speaks to your heart and is appropriate for your reading level and language skills, and start small!  I would rather read a single verse and “chew” on it spiritually all day than try to read a whole book and get lost.

Paul has led us to a great place of blessing today.  If we feast upon the Bible and let God’s Word fill our souls, and seek out godly mentors who can help us see how to apply it in our lives, we have all the equipment we will ever need to walk with Christ and stand firm against His enemies.

All Scripture quotations, unless indicated, are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, and are used by permission.

All materials copyright © 2000-2007 John P. Correia.  All Rights Reserved.

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[1] Please see the sermon entitled “A Crafty Enemy-2 Timothy 3:1-9” for the details of Satan’s device, disguise, and downfall in the church.

[2] Figures obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Everest (accessed 8/8/07)

[3] See 2 Tim 2:17.

[4] See Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, (referred to by the acronym BDAG) s.v. παρακολουθέω for a discussion of this word.

[5] See 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 for Paul’s description of his evangelism philosophy.

[6] We are introduced to Lois and Eunice in 2 Tim 1:5.

[7] Dr. Fred Chay was “assigned” to me as a mentor during my time at Phoenix Seminary.  Though I am now a graduate we have maintained our relationship, much to my advantage!

[8] Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh ed. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

[9] I ascribe to the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy.  Please see http://www.reformed.org/documents/icbi.html (accessed 8/7/07) for the text of this statement.

[10] See BDAG, s.v. ἄρτιος.

[11] If a player in the major leagues has all five tools (hit for average, hit for power, run the bases, play defense, throwing arm) he is a valuable commodity indeed!  Those kinds of players are rare, and are compensated handsomely.  Probably the greatest example of this in today’s game is Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, a great infielder and hitter who can also steal some bases.  Derek Jeter (also of the Yankees) is also a five tool player.  I’m not a Yankees fan, but with a huge budget the Yankees are one of the few teams in baseball that can pay to have more than one such valuable player on the roster!  A player doesn’t have to have all five tools to make it to the Hall of Fame (Tony Gwynn, a 2007 HOF inductee, never hit for power), but the few that have all five tools are rare indeed.

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