We all like to make good investments. We like to “buy low, sell high” in the stock market, have a solid retirement plan, remodel and “flip” houses for profit, and maybe even sell those childhood baseball cards for a small fortune. We like to see a good return on our investment.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul tells Timothy about a different, and arguably, far more important kind of investment: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” I see 5 lessons to take away from this verse.
- Entrusting to faithful men what we have heard means first of all listening with intentionality so that we can rightly pass on what we have heard. After all, you can’t pass on what you don’t have yourself.
- This is no secret society or club of Illuminati. On the contrary, Christianity is the model of transparency. The things Paul wanted Timothy to pass on were not “secret knowledge” like the Gnostics professed to have, but rather teaching shared in the open with many witnesses.
- Discipleship is no light task. The Greek word used for “entrust” here, παράθου (parathou), means to set something close beside or before someone, or to deposit it with them for safekeeping. In fact, in some of Jesus’ last words on the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit”, the word translated there as “commit”is the same root word. This is not a passive endeavor for either the teacher or the student. It’s an active handing over of a serious trust to the future guardians of it.
- Real discipleship builds the deep roots necessary for multiple generations to follow. Notice the 4 generations of Christians mentioned in this one short verse: Paul (1) has faithfully taught Timothy (2), who is to teach faithful men (3), who will also be able (or competent) to teach others (4). Notice also that this is not describing Sunday morning with several hundred people listening to Pastor Timothy’s teachings directly, and maybe inviting others to come listen as well; this is intensive training such that those learning can then teach also. As Colonel Moore explained to his recruits in the movie We Were Soldiers after tagging their squad leader as “dead” in that training scenario, “You learn the job of the man above you, and you teach your job to the man below you in rank.” If your church’s pastor were suddenly thrown in jail, or martyred, would there be a line of mature believers ready to step up and face the same consequences? If not, think about what you can do to remedy that problem.
- Like money deposits, this investment should earn interest and bear fruit. Like the parable of the talents, God wants multiplication, but should at least to get interest on the deposit He has made in our lives. We have more ability to study God’s Word in our phones today than most pastors have in many countries, or had through most of church history. We have been given such a huge deposit of resources, will we just bury it and show God at the end of our days only what He gave us to begin with? How much judgement will we be under that we have more resources at our disposal than any other generation in history, and most of us do nothing with them? I say this not to guilt people into anything (for that motivation won’t last anyway), but rather to wake people to the opportunities at hand. Don’t let them slip by!
What are you investing in? Money that may not be worth the paper it’s printed on someday? Stocks that may crash? Houses that will deteriorate and fall (or get bulldozed for a new parking lot…)? God has a very different “portfolio” – one Paul invested in 2 millennia ago, and that initial investment is still paying dividends in the form of an unbroken line of believers, saved from their sin and granted life, thanks to those who were faithful and “able to teach others also”. Will you be one?
 2 Timothy 2:2, NASB.
 Luke 23:46, NASB.
 Matthew 25:14-29, NASB.
A friend and I met up for coffee the other day and talked a lot about discipleship and it got me thinking about some parallels between the Christian act of discipleship and the process of apprenticeship in the engineering field. For those not familiar with the process of becoming an engineer, it typically involves attending an accredited college of engineering, passing an 8 hour exam in the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE exam) the junior or senior year, graduating, and then apprenticing to a practicing Professional Engineer (PE) for a certain time (typically 4 years), and finally passing an 8-16 hour exam for licensure as a Professional Engineer. While there’s some variance from that in different states and different engineering disciplines, that middle step of being an Engineering Intern (EI) or Engineer-in-Training (EIT) is an apprenticeship and is typically an important step. This is where theory meets application, where the rubber meets the road. Formal apprenticeships aren’t as common in various fields as they used to be, but it can be a really good way to pass on knowledge and skills to successive generations. An apprenticeship to a master of a craft often distinguished a long line of masters from the average craftsmen.
What are the parallels between apprenticeship for engineers and discipleship for Christians?
- Both are intentional. They are not casual engagements lightly entered into. They have specific goals from the outset and require commitment and hard work.
- An engineering apprenticeship has a specific time frame with specific expectations at the end of that (i.e. take the PE exam and become a practicing engineer like their mentor).
- A disciple should be intensively trained for a time with the expectation that they will be a discipler like their mentor. Then at some point they have to “go into practice” on their own.
- Both are personal. They are typically one-on-one engagements or with small groups.
- A PE can’t mentor an entire class of EI’s very well. It takes commitment of time and resources. The PE should review the progress made by the EI, know them well enough to discern shortcomings and improvements, and council them accordingly, remembering that the same approach may not be applicable for every apprentice.
- Likewise, your preacher can’t disciple you and 1000 other people in 1 hour every Sunday morning. Discipleship is an individual investment. A sermon is just a block of instruction, while discipleship is more of a relationship.
- Both are long-term. Neither is a quick fix or short term process.
- For engineering interns, this is typically a 4 year process.
- For disciples, there’s no set time, but for Jesus’ disciples, it was a 3 year process.
- Both are developmental. Neither one should ever be static or stagnant. Rather, each is molding the person toward a future desired condition.
- For engineers, the EI should be taking on progressively more responsibility under the supervision of the PE, showing increased understanding of engineering concepts and a better grasp of engineering judgement, and working toward becoming a licensed PE.
- The disciple should be growing in their trust in God, knowledge of Scriptures, and discernment. They should grow to be a “workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” in the words of the apostle Paul to his apprentice Timothy.
- Both are cyclical. They form part of an ongoing lifecycle.
- With some exceptions, EI’s have to apprentice under a practicing engineer before they are eligible to sit for the PE exam. Afterwards, they will generally supervise an EI at some point in their career, thus contributing to the ongoing cycle of engineering training and the growth of the profession.
- Jesus’ last words to the original disciples were to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt 28:19-20).” Likewise, in Paul’s final letter, written to his disciple Timothy, he tells him, “the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim 2:15).” As my friend pointed out, in this one verse, we see four generations of disciples, from Paul, to Timothy, to faithful men, to the ones they would teach.
I think we have to each look at our lives and ask ourselves who we’re following, and who we’re raising up to take our place. Are we learning from good teachers or bad? Are we even trying to learn from somebody else, or are we each trying to go our own way? Maybe it’s time to lay down our pride and seek out a good mentor/teacher/role model, and in humility learn from them. Maybe you feel like you’re not qualified to teach anyone. But just like the engineer has experience the intern hasn’t gotten yet, the intern has experience the new graduate doesn’t have. We all have something we can share with someone lower down the chain from us and lovingly give them a hand up.