The Making of a Gospel-Centered Leader

2 Timothy

My sin—not in part, but the whole

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!17

That's the song of one who possesses a clear conscience. Is it well with your soul?

Next, Paul's love for Timothy in particular is expressed beautifully in verse 4: "Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy." Evidently, the last time Paul and Timothy were together there were tears—maybe before Paul was taken off to the Roman prison. Now he wanted to see Timothy that he might be "filled with joy." This is the picture of a faithful believer's confidence before death and a loving mentor's attitude toward his disciple.

How important is life-on-life discipleship to you? As a pastor, it is often easy to overlook or neglect this Pauline model. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy to invest in other men the way Paul invested in him. Do you have a Paul in your life? Do you have a Timothy in your life? Who is your spiritual son or your spiritual father?

What exactly do you do in a mentoring relationship? Verses 3-4 show us two essentials behind the act of mentoring: love and prayer. A true mentor must start here. From this starting point, I see some lessons for us who desire to mentor others. Paul helped Timothy in three areas: calling, character, and competency. In terms of calling, Paul encouraged141 Timothy to use the gifts God had given him to live out his calling (2 Tim 1:6). As for character, Paul urged Timothy to pursue godliness, endurance, love, and other Christlike qualities (3:10-12). As for ministerial competency, Paul coached Timothy on how he should respond to people appropriately (2:16, 23-26; 3:5), study the Word diligently (2:15), preach the Word faithfully (3:16-4:2), and do the work of an evangelist constantly (4:5). If you are an older leader, invest in a Timothy. Help him fan the flame of his calling, develop Christlike character, and grow in his competency.

A godly mother (1:5). Timothy not only had the privilege of a mentor, but he also had the gift of a godly mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois). In verse 5 Paul mentions the "faith" of all three individuals. He says Timothy, like these ladies, has a "sincere" faith, the genuine article. By Paul's statement, "I am convinced [this faith] is in you also," we are reminded of how every child must do his or her own believing. Timothy had the blessing of having a Christian mother and grandmother, but he still had to believe for himself.

While it seems that Timothy's father was an unbelieving Greek, these two ladies were vibrant Christians. Who knows? Maybe all three were converted from Judaism to Christianity through Paul's visit to Lystra. What we do know is that these godly ladies' faith was observable to Paul. Probably before they were believers, they taught Timothy the Old Testament (3:15), but now their understanding of these Scriptures was Christ centered. Timothy and these godly mothers came to know and love the fact that the Scriptures make us wise for salvation because they point us to the Savior Himself, who is the fulfillment of the Scriptures (see Luke 24:44).

From a parental perspective, having children is a wonderful gift. But with the gift comes responsibility. Are you teaching your kids the Scriptures? Do they see in you, mom or dad, a "sincere faith" in Christ? One cannot overstate the importance of living out the Christian life before watching children. I want to say to my kids, "[Follow] my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance" (see 2 Tim 3:10).

The Spirit and the gifts (1:6-7). Finally, and most significantly, God shaped Timothy into a leader through the presence and gifting of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul says, "Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you."

Judged by the surrounding context of 1 and 2 Timothy, Timothy was not a spiritual rock. He appears to be physically weak (1 Tim 5:23), personally timid (2 Tim 1:7), and relatively young (1 Tim 4:12). But142 God delights in using the weak and the ordinary in order to demonstrate His mighty power. Thankfully, God uses "clay jars" so that only He can get the glory (2 Cor 4:7)!

Knowing the reality of God's power in the life of Timothy, Paul urges him to "keep ablaze" his gift. What is this gift? We do not know for certain. It seems connected to the phrase "through the laying on of my hands" (v. 6; cf. 1 Tim 4:14). This phrase seems to refer to an ordination or commissioning in which Paul affirmed God's call in Timothy's life. If so, then this "gift" is probably related to the spiritual endowment necessary for the work of ministry. Paul is reminding Timothy that God equips His servants to fulfill their ministry by granting them spiritual power and gifting.

How encouraging it is to remember that God gives His people the authority and enablement to carry out their assignments! Not everyone will have a personal mentor or a godly mother, but God does invest spiritual gifts in every believer (1 Cor 12:7). The fourth stanza of Martin Luther's hymn captures the wonder of the Spirit and the gifts:

That word above all earthly

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through Him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also;

The body they may kill;

God's truth abideth still:

His kingdom is forever.18

Praise God, for the Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who is for us!

The gifting of the Spirit not only encourages us and inspires worship, but it also inspires hard work. Paul reminded Timothy of his personal responsibility in becoming a gospel-centered leader. He told him (1) to develop and use his gifts (v. 6) and (2) to maintain spiritual discipline (v. 7).

First, we see that the gift is like fire. This Greek verb anazopureo ("fan into flame" or "rekindle") is in the present tense, emphasizing ongoing action. Paul was urging Timothy to keep the fire alive—indeed143 ablaze—by making full use of it! He was to do this, then, by exercising his gift passionately. God gave Timothy gifts to be used and developed.

There is no room for sluggishness in the Christian life. Rest? Yes. But laziness, passiveness, and timidity should not characterize the believer. Jim Elliot's prayer captures well the spirit of this verse:

Are you using your gifts passionately? Often I talk to Christians who are "waiting on a church to call so they can preach" or for some other ministry job to open up before they begin serving. While I understand their thought, we need to be careful not to overprofessionalize the ministry. If God has gifted you for gospel proclamation, then go proclaim! Maybe you do not have a brick church building to preach in, but there are people everywhere! Go preach to one, or two, or three. As Martin Lloyd-Jones says, go "gossip the gospel"—go share it with one person in a coffee shop, in a park, or in your neighborhood (Lloyd-Jones, Preaching, 24). Better yet, go overseas and gather up some kids in Africa and tell them the good news. You need to be developing and using your gifts, even if it is not in a glorious setting. Fan it into flame! That requires work, effort, and intentionality.

Second, Paul tells Timothy to maintain discipline, "for God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment" or self-discipline (1:7). Paul here addresses Timothy's shyness and weaknesses and reminds him that his fear did not come from God. What comes from God is a "spirit" of power and love and discipline.

There is a discussion on whether or not "spirit" should be translated as "Spirit" with a capital S (meaning Holy Spirit) or as "spirit" with a lower case s (implying an attitude). While Paul may have referred to "a spirit" (not the "Holy Spirit"), that does not mean the Holy Spirit is not in view here. The word "for" in verse 7 alludes back to verse 6, where the reference is to the Spirit's gifting in Timothy (Paul also made a connection with the Spirit and gifts in other places, like 1 Cor 12:4). Additionally, the words "love" and "power" are used especially for the work of the Spirit elsewhere in Scripture. Boldness, not cowardice, is a mark of the Spirit's work in believers (Acts 4:31).144

The object of Timothy's fear remains unclear. Perhaps it was evangelism, proclamation, or pastoral leadership. Whatever its cause, we know that this fear did not have to be paralyzing to Timothy. Interestingly, even Paul faced fear. When he planted the church in Corinth, the Lord appears to him in a vision and says,

Do you see this? The Lord tells Paul to fight fear with His promises. He promises to be with him, to protect him, and to use him to bring people into the kingdom. Now Paul is directing Timothy to the same source of hope. He says essentially, "Timothy, in your fear, remember that God is with you, in you, and for you; His Spirit produces the power you need to endure and the love you need to minister. Be disciplined. Be diligent. Be brave, for God is with you."

Who has not experienced timidity and fear in ministry? If you have ever been a part of a church plant, you understand the fear of the unknowns. If you have ever done street evangelism, perhaps you know this feeling. If you have ever been in a tense meeting where people oppose you, even gang up on you, perhaps you have experienced timidity. Remember: fight fear with the promises of God. The Spirit of God empowering the people of God is sufficient to accomplish the mission of God.

Therefore, there is no excuse for not performing our mission with diligence. God has given us everything we need. The Spirit and the gifts are ours! God has given us spiritual gifts to execute our ministries and Spiritual power to enable our ministry.

How then is a gospel-centered leader formed? From this passage we see the mysterious combination of God's provision and man's humble responsibility. For Paul, clearly God appointed him and enabled him, but his appointment did not mean Paul was to be passive. No! He was to proclaim the promise of life actively! In the life of Timothy, God provided a mentor, mothers, and (most of all) the Spirit and the gifts to make him into an instrument for noble purposes. But Timothy had the responsibility of using these gifts. What about you? Do you recognize the gifts God has given you? Are you resting in His promises, relying on His power, and serving Him with passion?145

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