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Be Strong - Don't Be Distracted (2 Timothy 2), Part 1

From the series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker

Do you find it difficult to consistently walk with God amidst all the pressures and demands of life? In this program, Chip continues our series, Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker. He’s in 2nd Timothy chapter two, explaining how we can build strong spiritual roots to withstand anything that comes our way.

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Message Transcript

The big question I think as we open chapter 2, I put on the top of your notes: How can a person remain true to their calling, to their Lord, and to His Word in a hostile, anti-Christian culture while dealing with our own personal inadequacies and problems? It’s a long sentence, but I think the parallels in our day are very similar, don’t you?

I mean, in the world that we are living in, all the chaos, all the uncertainty. Vaccine, masks, diseases, economies, emerging countries, nuclear missiles. I mean, you can stick your head in the sand and stay glued to Netflix or whatever your favorite thing is and try and find a gated community to separate from all that is happening.

But if you come up for air, you are living in one of the most historic times in human history. And we have been here before and God has always taken a portion of His Church that is in tune that grasp what is going on, that don’t get distracted, that don’t get pulled into secondary things. And they step up and they do what followers of Jesus [have] always done.

They live the truth, they share the truth, they love people that are like them, they love people that aren’t like them, and they are counter-culture and they are counter-culture usually, unfortunately inside the Church as much as outside the Church.

Notice at the end of chapter 1, he gives a couple illustrations. He names two people and he says, “You know what? Don’t be like them. They drifted. Under pressure.” And then he says, “You know that slave? When everyone else was afraid, that converted slave, he searched all over Rome. And he found me.

And he didn’t, wasn’t concerned what the implications would be. And so, he is giving Timothy, he is giving him this truth and then he says, “Here’s a negative example; here’s a positive example.” And look at your text. What is the very first word of chapter 2?

He has put “you” in the emphatic position. “You, Timothy, I have talked about these two. You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.” And then he comes back to his theme. “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

And then he gives, in your notes I talk about three metaphors and just for the sake of all the English teachers, I understand they are similes, right? When you use “like” or “as” it’s a simile. There are a lot of us that didn’t know what a simile was, so I said metaphors.

“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him. And if someone likewise competes as an athlete, he is not crowned as a victor unless he competes according to the rules. And the hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider,” ponder, reflect – that’s the idea – “what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Christ Jesus risen from the dead, descendent of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to imprisonment as a criminal; but the Word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they may obtain the salvation for which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”

And then he goes and talks about: This is a trustworthy statement.”

Here’s what I want to do. I want to – the first section here, it’s Paul talking to this young pastor about his personal life. After he gets done with his personal life, the second section, he’s going to shift and say, “Now, this is your responsibility in terms of your teaching and what you do in the Church.”

And so, when I went through and I studied this, I thought, Okay, “You, therefore.” I think we skip over the first line. “Be strong, that’s in the grace, of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anybody remember where that, “Be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might,” where that comes up somewhere else? Yeah, Ephesians. It’s about spiritual warfare.

See, what he’s saying is, “Timothy, I just gave you a challenge. I invited you to suffer with me. And the whole world is falling apart around you. It’s illegal to be a Christian. I’m going to get killed and I’m asking you to follow in my footsteps.”

And so, the first thing isn’t, “Buck up, get more committed, make it happen, you can do it.” This isn’t a pep talk. This is, “Therefore, you be strong in the grace,” the favor of God that provides supernatural power that allows you to do what He wants you to do and become who He wants you to become, that is impossible out of your own self-effort.

And so, I sort of outlined this with, if I was kind of thinking of receiving this, Paul’s action plan for Timothy and for us to be strong in difficult times. Number one, make abiding in Christ your number one priority every day. Abiding in Christ the number one priority. Not what you do, not what you accomplish, it’s John 15:5. “If you abide in Me, My words in abide in you, you’ll bear much fruit. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and prove to be My disciples. A branch can’t…” right? “…it can’t bear fruit in of itself unless it abides in the vine. So neither can you unless you abide.”

All it means is staying connected. Your personal relationship with Jesus, your connection in saying, “I need You today and so, I need fresh manna from Your Word. I need You today so I’m going to ask and I’m going to sit quietly and listen to You before I rush in today. I’m not going to get up and find out how the stocks are doing and how much I have lost in the Wall Street Journal. And I’m not going to see what is said in Facebook. And I’m not going to turn on the TV while I’m getting ready. I’m going to pause and recognize there are so many distractions and what happens first in my morning and what happens just before I go to bed are the things that shape my day and shape my sleep.”

So, first and foremost, my number one priority is to abide in Christ. It means time with God. It means renewing your mind. It means probably having an exact time when you turn this off. It means that it’s not in your bedroom. It means that every time it buzzes that you actually turn off your notices. It means when the kids come around or the grandkids are around and you’re with friends, you might even have a fun little thing where there’s a little basket and you say, “Hey, it’s great to have you all here. I have put my phone in the basket. Could you guys throw it here? Could we have genuine, uninterrupted time with one another?”

I don’t know if you have gone to any restaurants lately and seen a family sitting around a table in a restaurant and all five people like this. Now, you know what? All I know is in God’s infinite wisdom and the creativity He gives human beings, I cannot figure out how in the world I can press a button, I’m not going to now, and say, “Hey, Siri, who was Nero?” And within less of a second I get Wikipedia’s everything on Nero, when he was born, all the rest. Or, “Hey, where’s the closest coffee shop?” Or, “Hey!” That’s an amazing and wonderful thing.

But there is, if the enemy can’t get you to just willfully sin and rebel, he will distract you and occupy your mind with such trivia that you will not abide in Christ. And is it a bad thing? Of course not. But you’re going to learn those three similes or metaphors, one of the key ones is discipline, self-control.

And so, I think that the application, if there’s one verse for me it’s Proverbs 4:23. It’s the core of your being. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” And your heart is always determined by your diet. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure. For that which the mouth speaks is that which comes out of the heart. The mind set on the flesh is death; the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth where your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Just do a little word study on the word mind. Your mental diet. “As a man or a woman thinks, so you become.” Your mental diet will determine who you are. Who you are sitting in this seat today is the combination of the things you have read, the things you have watched, the conversations you have had, and where you think.

And so, if you want to change, it’s not trying harder or bucking up. Romans 12:2, “Do not,” or literally, grammatically, it’s, “Stop allowing this world system to squeeze you into its mold or conform you, but rather start allowing,” passive voice, “your mind to be renewed so that your life could demonstrate what the will of God is, that it’s good, acceptable, well-pleasing, and perfect.”

And so, all I want to say is I think for Timothy, the first thing is, “Timothy, you need God’s grace. So, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all those things that you’re tempted to worry about, He’s going to take care of.”

Second is make personally investing in FAT people your number two priority. And some of you who maybe have been in a discipleship background or are familiar with the Navigators or Dawson Trotman, that bricklayer who discipled me was greatly influenced by the Navigators. It’s a parachurch ministry that focuses on discipleship. And we learned early on, invest in FAT people.

And that was not about size or weight. “F” was for faithful, “A” was for available, and “T” was for teachable. You don’t spend your time equally. You spend your time, you help everyone, train a few. Now, the ones that are inside your house, if they’re not FAT, you help them become FAT.

And what I would encourage you here is rather than sometimes we hear about discipleship and we get this idea that I’m going to start doing all these things out there as opposed to ask: What are the rhythms of your life? Who can you take a walk with and share what is happening in your life? Who becomes a workout partner? Who are some people that you grab coffee with?

I was with a guy that I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years and I pastored in a really interesting community called Santa Cruz for twelve. And it was probably the second year and someone invited him to church and he found out that I liked basketball. I think his wife told him that thinking maybe he’ll come to church.

And I was a gym rat. I mean, I’m like addicted to basketball. And I played up until my early sixties, until these back operations happened. And he came up right after the service and I was a young guy then, about forty. And he said, “I hear you play basketball.” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “Are you new?” He said, “Yeah, there’s my wife.” “Great.” He said, “Do you play?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Okay, I’d like to play sometime.” I said, “What are you doing at two o’clock this afternoon?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “Well, I play every Sunday afternoon. That’s how I wind down and here’s my address. I’ve got a great outdoor court.” Dave and I started playing basketball every Sunday afternoon with my sons and a few other guys. And it was two-on-two, three-on-three. We were soaking wet.

And I look back and I remember laying on the ground soaked with sweat or when he or I broke a nose, broke an ankle, we were very intense. We had lots of fun. But there were always injuries. And I look now twenty years, he’s a businessman, he has discipled his family, the rest of his family has come to Christ, his whole life was changed and I actually, what I needed was a workout. And I needed a friend. And he needed a friend.

And I look back and it was in that very normal time of doing that that he would share about a struggle in his marriage or he learned about spiritual warfare or he would say, “You know something? I’ve been listening to you and, you know, I just, you know, I grew up going to church now and then. If you put a five-dollar bill in, you’re doing okay. And, like, I felt a God moment I would maybe put in a twenty. And I started this tithing stuff,” he goes, “man, I started looking at the numbers, like, that’s a lot of money, Chip.” I said, “Yeah, and it’s not yours.” “Oh, yeah, that’s right.” And, but, all I can tell you is it was a life-on-life journey and that’s what people need.

We have sort of created this thing where it’s just this little group where you take them just through this study and, yes, all that is a part of it. Timothy, what I want you to do, yes, you have to preach. Yes, you have to visit people in the hospital. Yes, there are administrative duties. But no matter what, you have to make disciples. You have to look for: Who are the faithful people? There are always people near your world that are spiritually hungry. There are some spiritually hungry people that aren’t even believers, but they are looking, they are asking.

So, who are the spiritually hungry people and how do you invite them into your life? And here’s the deal. It’s a huge commitment. Because when I said the danger and deception of distractions, we all have a rhythm. Some of your rhythm, and please don’t take this: Stop doing this or start doing that.

You just have a rhythm like you watch the news every night. Or you know what? On Saturdays you watch this football game and that football game. Or you’re a lady and you always go and do these things. And at some point, you have to stop and say, “Are those rhythms producing the outcome of my life that I want.”

I was twenty-eight years old, and my entire life changed when I had three kids, was in school, in seminary, and I met with Prof Hendricks. And he rearranged my focus and I remember writing down the kind of person I wanted to be, the kind of pastor, the kind of dad, the kind of husband. And I literally wrote it down.

And he said, “If it’s not in your schedule, it’ll never be in your life.” So, I put it in my schedule and when I looked at it, I didn’t have time to do anything else. And I thought, That’s impossible. And I remember asking God for help and we did an experiment in our house. My kids were, you know, younger. And we just decided, for a couple weeks, what would it be like to not turn on the TV during the week?

Well, it was great for my kids, but it was killing me. I mean, you can’t go to bed until you have watched the news and heard the monologue, right? When I grew up, my parents, you watch the news – Johnny Carson, and then you go to bed. So, that means you go to bed at eleven or eleven thirty and then you get up at six thirty, seven, whatever. Well, after four or five, six nights, you know, my kids are young, hey, we have sung, we have read, we have prayed, we have shot basketball. It’s eight thirty. My wife is an early-to-bed-er. I mean, like, really early-to-bed-er. It’s like nine o’clock and I’m going, I mean, you can only read so much, right? So, oh, what the heck. I guess I’ll go to bed. So, I go to bed at nine or nine thirty. I’ll wake up at five or five thirty. I just bought two hours. It was like, Oh! So, I started to do all the things that only I could do early. And then I apply that to kind of my work and said, “You know, before I have meetings…”

Like, even now I have a green zone. Five a.m. to ten a.m. I don’t open my email, I don’t talk to people. If there’s an emergency and someone texts me, great. But from five to ten, what I know is that’s my, that’s when I am going to accomplish the most. I can have meetings and relationships other times. Here’s all I’m saying. If you’re going to invest in people and you’re going to abide in Christ, we feel like we don’t have the time. Just all I’m saying is don’t, you know, some of you will go, Oh, does that mean I can’t watch football games? No, no, no, no!

What it means is what if you looked at where your time is going and where your relationships were and said, “My first priority is abiding in Christ and number two is I’m going to personally invest. I’m going to make my life one where I reproduce my life.” Face-on-face, person-on-person, life-on-life.

Notice then he goes on and he says, “Develop a never-give-up attitude by actively meditating on three specific metaphors.” And we read them. The first one I believe is the singular focus of a soldier. Why would he use that term? Because soldiers are in a battle.

The number one thing, and this is Chip, this isn’t, like, Bible. This is just my personal perspective. I believe the number one thing that has done the most damage in Christianity and especially in America is the subtle belief that Jesus came to make me happy and make my life work out. And so, what we have created in the Church is consumers.

It’s about: What did you do for me lately? Is this program working? Am I happy? Is this all that? And God, what have You done for me lately?

Instead of, “What in the world would God have us do in light of all the needs and the hurts and the struggles and the fears that everyone is going through?”
First of all, the focus of a soldier, it’s a battleground. Guarding what goes into your mind, not getting distracted. Not getting distracted by, we’ll develop it a bit later, secondary things. Important, but they are secondary.

Second, the continual discipline of a victorious athlete. He uses the word for a crown. There are a couple words in the New Testament for crown. One is for, like, for a king and the other was a wreath if you were a victorious athlete. And he uses that. It’s running a race, it’s discipline.

And here’s what has happened: hostility in the Church, in families, in the culture. He says, “No.” You need to be like that athlete. We’re all tempted, but you have to be disciplined. What you do, what you think, who you’re with.

And then I love the last metaphor – simile – is the patient perspective of the farmer to [combat] discouragement. See, the hard-working farmer understands perseverance, patience, endurance – the Christian life isn’t for wimps.