The official spoke a few quiet words to the Canadian 4x100m relay team. That is all it took to turn victorious smiles into knitted brows. The Canadian team’s race performance was under review by PanAm officials. At the end of that process the Canuck sprinters were disqualified because one of them had run outside of the lane. No gold, no glory. Relays are not won by speed alone, but by how the team runs and how they pass along the baton.
The Apostle Paul has been running a good race, but he knows the end of his earthly life is near. God’s gospel mission is bigger than Paul. After him there must be others that carry on proclaiming the good news of Jesus. In 2 Tim 4:1-8 Paul gives Timothy a solemn charge to take the baton of faith and to run the next leg in the gospel relay.
Although Paul’s admonitions are intentionally relevant for Timothy’s personality and current responsibilities, still there are three principles that we can apply to all younger believers moving into gospel ministry.
Sprinters don’t wait for the baton to arrive, they begin to accelerate as they see it approach. So too younger believers must be engaging in ministry now, preparing to receive the baton that will be passed them by the generation that has gone before them [see v.2a]. All of us can imagine a different context in which ministry would be more fruitful. However, all of us only have our present church and community, with its difficulties, to engage in gospel ministry. The ‘here and now’ are sufficient for younger believers to grow in ministry experience and discernment of their spiritual gifts. This means those of us who are farther ahead in the journey must make room for them to grow and develop.
Sprinters must handle the baton rightly. Speed is not everything. Paul urges Timothy to apply his giftedness and engage in preaching, but to do it with great patience [see v.2b]. God’s gospel mission never devalues individuals. Rather God loves the whole world and desires that all would trust in Jesus as Lord and Messiah. Younger believers not only need experience and a good understanding of how God is gifting them, but they must also develop a servant’s heart for people so that they can be faithful agents of God’s mercy and grace.
The Canadian PanAm relay team found out the hard way how important it is to run the race between the lines. Paul urges Timothy to keep his head [see v.5], to be a clear thinker and not to be distracted by selfish fancies or deceived by popular falsehoods. Scripture, God’s revealed truth, is key in helping all of us know where the lines are. Scripture teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains us in righteousness so we are equipped to run the gospel relay rightly. All of us, and younger believers particularly, must regularly incline our heart and head toward God’s Word.
If you are a younger believer what challenges do you face as you anticipate engaging in God’s gospel mission?
If you are an experienced believer, what challenges do you see in making room for younger believers to become more engaged?
Looking for a Bible reading plan that you can use to re-boot your Scripture reading? Here is one that is divided into two-week chunks. My encouragement is be realistic in your goals and regular in your practice.