9. Week Nine: Passing The Baton
And what you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.
2 Timothy 2:2
We’ve focused on a long-distance race as an illustration of the Christian life. But there’s another type of race that also has a great parallel—the relay. Its success depends on each runner passing the baton well, ensuring that the succeeding racer has the baton. As we consider our present era between Jesus’ first coming and his return, we realize that the continuation of the faith depends on how well the next generation takes hold of it. We’re responsible to pass it on to those who follow us, who then pass it on to believers younger than they are.
Paul’s life story reveals his whole-hearted investment to raise up a new generation of faithful Christ- followers and encourage them to do the same—as he tells Timothy in this week’s Soul Food verse. That’s our focus for this final week’s study.
From the time Paul began his first mission trip, he trained younger men—whom we might call apprentices, protégées or mentees today. In that day those who learned under a teacher or rabbi were his disciples.
As you know, Paul and Barnabas took a young man named John Mark with them on their initial journey (Acts 13:5), but Paul refused to allow him on the next trip because he had abandoned them and had left for home in the middle of their travels (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). After Paul’s ensuing disagreement with Barnabas over it, he left instead with Silas. Together they picked up Timothy (Acts 16:1-3) and later Luke along the way.
Paul’s letters name many others who worked and/or traveled with him, as we saw in week six’s study. Because it’s most likely that the great majority of these leaders came to faith under Paul’s preaching, we can safely assume that they all matured under his teaching—in person and/or by letter.
Paul discipled whole congregations and mentored future church leaders. Among the latter were Titus and Timothy, younger men whom Paul sent out to report on and then pastor church plants. Paul continued mentoring them as church leaders by writing them personal letters. If our timeline is correct, he likely wrote his first letter to Timothy and the one to Titus at some point after his release from the Roman imprisonment described at the end of Acts. (He also wrote Philemon during this time frame, but with a different purpose.) Paul’s final epistle was his second to Timothy, written while he was imprisoned in Rome not long before his execution.
The book of 2 Timothy is one of my favorites because it feels so personal and reveals so much about Paul. It touches on almost everything that we’ve camped on these past few weeks: Paul’s call, boldness, focus, sacrifice, dependence on the Spirit, investment in the church as community and perseverance through hardships and persecution.
It’s the perfect book to end our study because it’s the end of Paul’s race and summarizes so much of his passion. His job of passing on the gospel and entrusting it to the next generation was complete.
Although you’re likely not a pastor, this epistle speaking to a pastor applies to us all. Principles of mentoring work in any situation—with our children, grandchildren or younger believers facing the same life challenges that we’ve faced. And Paul’s message about the gospel speaks to everyone.
That’s why we’re going to read the whole letter.
Read The Questions Below So You Have Them In Mind, And Then Read 2 Timothy 1-2, Journaling Your Thoughts.
- What stands out to you about Paul and Timothy’s relationship? Why?
- What truths about God does Paul use to encourage Timothy in a time of extreme persecution? How do those truths encourage you where you are today? Why?
- What encouragement or challenge from Paul to Timothy concerning the gospel or your faith speaks to you today? Why?
*** If an older or more mature believer has built into your faith and spiritual growth, write or call her, thanking her for specific ways she’s invested in your life.
This section will complete our quick study through 2 Timothy. Then we’ll celebrate what God has done through the study of his Word.
Read 2 Timothy 3-4, And Write Down Your Thoughts On These Questions:
- Often people want others to focus only on the bright side of things, but Paul doesn’t. Why might Paul have thought it wise to mention potential hardships to his protégée?
- What does Paul teach you about the Christian life as he speaks to Timothy?
- What is God saying to you from his Word?
*** Read and comment on these few verses in Paul’s letter to Titus as he exhorts him in his work in the church in Crete: Titus 1:4-5; 2:1, 7, 11-14; 3:1-10. What stands out to you?
Before we move to the third part of this week’s study and leave our focus on passing the baton behind, here’s a final story from a woman who benefitted from the investment of an older, more mature believer and then became a mentor to others.
Early in my Christian life, Martha Binion, who had been instrumental in my salvation, encouraged me to read the Bible daily and to memorize scripture. She mentored many women individually and in small groups. She had a strong walk with the Lord which she developed through daily Bible reading, praying and memorizing in an organized way. I could see that she was modeling what she was asking me to do, and I admired what I saw in her.
She introduced me to an organization called Bible Memory Association which sent me a little booklet of verses to memorize each week; there was also a plan for children which both of my girls took part in. We were required to say five verses each week to someone, and we chose a neighbor. We were given small rewards by the organization as an incentive, which was quite appealing to the children. This was an excellent way to get the Good News into the neighborhood.
Martha met with me and a friend weekly. We went through a series of small books about basic Christianity. Later she led a Bible study at my house which was attended by some of my neighbors. Some years later she asked me to lead a Bible study. She really took a risk trusting me to teach women who were older and much more spiritually mature than I was, but it proved to be an enormous time of growth for me.
Later I met a young woman named Cindy at a women’s retreat who asked me to meet with her a few times but our meeting actually continued for years. She was going through some difficult things which were way beyond my experience, but I basically just listened to her, prayed with her, and encouraged her to study the Bible with me. Meeting with Cindy was a first step to meeting with many others.
I don’t know exactly how God has used me in their lives, but I do know that I have grown spiritually and gained friends that I never would have had otherwise. I’ve met women at various times—before work, during lunch, and early on Saturday mornings. Together we’ve gone through structured Bible studies or books of the Bible, or other times we’ve just talked about what’s going on in our lives and what we’ve seen God doing.
I never thought of myself as a mentor. I was just a person spending time with someone!
Your final assignment is a quick review of what God has taught you from Paul’s life before we end our study together.
Review The Lessons In This Study Or The Journal You’ve Kept, And Respond To These Questions:
- What have you learned from the life of Paul that was most personally meaningful to you? Why did it impact you?
- What do you think at this point about Paul as a person and as God’s vessel? Why? Have your thoughts or feelings about him changed? If so, how?
- If persecution ever lies ahead of you, what will you remember from Paul’s example?
- What specific change will you make in response to what you’ve sensed is God’s voice guiding or convicting you? Write it as your prayer.
I love these words from the conclusion of Rediscovering Paul:
Paul was a disruptive force in his world. Many in society didn’t like him and many in the church didn’t either. He pushed the church beyond the known and perhaps comfortable constraints of Palestinian Jewish Christianity. If we’re not careful he might push us beyond our comfortable Western churches as well. Paul stood for the gospel even if it meant standing up to Peter . . . (Gal. 2:11). He stood firm to the end even as an executioner’s blade removed his head. . . .
Rediscovering Paul is not easy; but it is a journey worth taking. Perhaps the goal is too ambitious, maybe the best we can hope for is to have a better handle on Paul and his message. Nonetheless, you are ready for the next step: Imitate Paul.1
May the Lord give each of us grace to be as bold and invested as Paul was, persevering by the power of the Spirit to the end of the race.
1 Capes, 413-414.