Your Most Important Task
Your Most Important Task
‘Great leaders all have one thing in common. They know that acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task,’ writes John Maxwell in his book, Developing the Leaders Around You. He urges his readers, ‘Find the best people you can, then develop them into the best leaders they can be.’
Paul is condemned and in a dark, dank dungeon with just a hole in the ceiling for light and air. He is in ‘chains’ (2 Timothy 1:16), ‘like a criminal’ (2:9). He is lonely, bored and cold (4:9–13). Death is inevitable. According to tradition, he was condemned to die by beheading under Nero’s persecution.
This (2 Timothy) is probably his last letter. Paul chose to write to an individual rather than to a church. Timothy was a leader whom Paul had found, trained and developed. Paul was probably in his sixties and Timothy in his early thirties.
As Paul becomes aware that he is handing on the gospel to the next generation, his greatest concern is that Timothy should guard it (1:11–14). The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of the generations before me and the more I realise the responsibility we all have to pass the baton on to the next generation.
The right foundation for the next generationPsalm 119:81-88
This psalm is both a personal reflection on life and also a resource produced by the psalmist to help others build their lives and leadership on the right foundation.
In particular, he sets an example of faith in God’s word: ‘I have put my hope in your word… All your commands are trustworthy… I have not forsaken your precepts’ (vv.81b,86a,87b).
Lord, help me to be faithful in spite of all the ‘pitfalls’ (v.85) and persecutions (v.86). Help me to do all I can to train up the next generation of leaders.
The way to develop the next generation2 Timothy 1:1-18
All of us can have spiritual children.
Paul probably had no natural children but he had spiritual children. He describes Timothy as ‘my dear son’ (v.2). He had led him to faith in the Lord (Acts 16:1–2). For fifteen years Timothy had been Paul’s companion and had accompanied him on his second and third missionary journeys (Romans 16:21; 1 Thessalonians 3:2 and Philippians 2:19–20). Now Timothy is in a position of leadership in Ephesus.
Paul mentored, trained and discipled Timothy and passed wisdom on to him. He sets a model and example of how to develop the next generation of leaders.
‘The son I love so much’ is how Paul describes Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2, MSG). Paul constantly thanked God for him (v.3). Paul was a passionate and emotional man – when people said goodbye to him there were often tears of emotion: ‘I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful goodbye, and look forward to a joy-packed reunion’ (v.4, MSG).
Pray for them
‘Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers’ (v.3). Praying for other people is not a waste of time, it makes a difference. Intercessory prayer is an act of love.
Believe in them
‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’ (v.5). Paul trusted Timothy with responsibility at a young age. The people who influence us are the people who believe in us.
Minister to them
‘I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands’ (v.6). Previously Paul had written, ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you’ (1 Timothy 4:14).
They may have prayed for him for the gift of evangelism or ordination to leadership in the church. It may have been to be filled with the Spirit and possibly to receive the gift of speaking in tongues or prophecy. We do not know exactly what it was, but it shows the importance of prayer ministry. This is why we lay our hands on people, for example, in the ministry time at the end of practically every church service at HTB.
Timothy needed encouragement. Encouragement is like oxygen to the soul. Timothy was young. He had physical weaknesses (‘frequent illnesses’, 1 Timothy 5:23), and he was possibly a shy and introverted character.
Paul writes, ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear)’ (2 Timothy 1:7, AMP). We are not cowards if we feel afraid. In fact, there can be no courage unless you are scared. Courage is doing what you are afraid to do, and not allowing fear to rule your decisions.
To overcome your fears, God has equipped you with the Holy Spirit and with ‘power, love and self-discipline’ (v.7b).
Paul urged Timothy to ‘stir up’ (v.6, KJV), to ‘fan into flame’ (v.6) the gift that he had been given. Other people can help you but at the end of the day you are responsible for your own spiritual development. Stir yourself up. Fan the flames of your faith through worship, prayer, Bible reading, community – or whatever it takes.
‘Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you’ (v.14). The good deposit is the gospel of which Paul has been appointed a herald, apostle and teacher (v.11).
The gospel is all about Jesus (‘our Lord’, v.8). It is about a relationship with him: ‘I know whom I have believed’ (v.12). We have been saved by grace, ‘not because of anything we have done’ (v.9). Jesus, our saviour, through the cross and resurrection, ‘destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light’ (v.10).
Paul urged Timothy not to be ashamed of their friendship, nor to be ashamed to testify about the Lord (v.8). They had the gospel to proclaim and to guard (vv.9–14). Paul was confident that he had chosen the right person to pass it on to the next generation ‘with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us’ (v.14).
Share with them
‘Join with me in suffering for the gospel’ (v.8). Even though Paul served God ‘with a clear conscience’ (v.3), he did not escape suffering. He was in ‘chains’ (v.16). He had been badly let down by other Christians: ‘You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes’ (v.15).
Yet one person stood out. Don’t run away from those who are suffering, but be like Onesiphorus who, Paul says, ‘often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains’ (v.16).
Lord, help me to pass on the baton to the next generation – to pray for them, love them, believe in them, minister to them, encourage them, entrust them and share with them.
The importance of developing the next generationJeremiah 48:1-49:6
One of the problems highlighted again and again in Jeremiah is the weakness and wickedness of the people’s leaders. Here we see the awful consequences of how wrong things can go without the right leadership.
‘Doesn’t Israel have any children, no one to step into her inheritance?’ (49:1, MSG). The inheritance was open but there was no one who grew into it.
The antithesis of God’s way of leadership is pride and arrogance – the great sins of Moab, ‘the extremely proud one – his loftiness, his arrogance, his conceit, and the haughtiness of his heart’ (48:29, AMP).
Pride and independence are often regarded as good qualities by the world – but they are a great sin in the eyes of the Lord because they lead us away from him. Pride and independence say, ‘I don’t need you.’
Proclaiming judgment against Moab and Ammon, Jeremiah says, ‘A curse on those who are lax in doing the Lord’s work!’ (v.10). ‘Moab has always taken it easy – lazy as a dog in the sun, never had to work for a living, never faced any trouble, never had to grow up, never once worked up a sweat’ (v.11, MSG).
Hard work is more important than innate talent. As Thomas Edison famously said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.’ Developing the next generation will involve hard work.
There is an important principle. We should apply the same standard to the Lord’s work as we do, for example, to our secular jobs (provided we are committed to them!). In most secular jobs, there is a requirement of 100% efficiency and commitment. I am always so impressed by our volunteers who turn up with such regularity, love and commitment. It is amazing to see their dedication year after year. For many, it is a lifelong commitment to service.
Lord, may I never be lax in doing your work. May our generation be a generation that guards the gospel, develops leaders and passes it on to the next generation.
2 Timothy 1:5
‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.’
And they, in their prayers and example, passed on their faith to Timothy.
It is wonderful to see faith passed down three generations. Well done Lois!
Verse of the Day
‘God did not give [you] a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:7).
Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin, Edison: His Life and Inventions, Volume 2 of 2 (Harper & Brothers, New York. 1910), p.607.
John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You, (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2012) pp.2–3.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.