You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. … Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 14-15 (ESV)
In this classic passage on discipleship (especially vv. 1-2), what immediately catches the eye is the nature of a sincere follower of Christ (“faithful”) and the principle of multiplication (“entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also”). Regarding the latter, we may even find ourselves—if you’re old school like me—dusting off a rudimentary graphic of pencil-thin stick figures in pyramid-like formations; an image that captured the wonderful vision of a wise disciple-maker’s investment in a few good men, that in due time would reach a multitude.
This is all well and good, but lest we miss the forest for a handful of noteworthy trees, this passage actually centers on one of Paul’s primary themes: the vocation and activity of a serious disciple. In fact, the grizzled old apostle sews this particular thread throughout his entire epistle to Timothy. If you have a moment, reread the copied passage above and check out these additional portions in all four chapters of 2 Timothy (1:13; 2:23-26; 3:6-17; 4:1-5).
What did you see? Let’s compare observations:
- “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth...” A disciple is first a student who applies him or herself as she would for a final exam. Our mastery of the material matters, and the Word of God not only brings understanding, but it is our life, our spiritual sustenance.
- “…the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil” Our skillful “handling” of God’s Word includes the manner in which we discuss issues and teach. This form of loving others is as compelling as our grasp of the material and ability to effectively teach.
- “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” True disciples revere and submit to the Scriptures and are thereby qualified for ministry.
- “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded…” Cultural trends are often insidious and corrosive. Jesus said we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and unafraid (Matthew 10:26-39).
At Harvard, everyone is bright and most are driven. To survive and thrive in this high-stakes environment, students must aim high and apply themselves. Shoddy work is unacceptable, shameful. Short cuts and cheating anathema and akin to betrayal. The coveted reward? Respect (reputation) and opportunities (e.g. a financially lucrative job).
In the Kingdom of God, the student of Jesus is endowed with wisdom and with spiritual “sight,” and we are able to comprehend that our lives are infused with meaning. To survive in the high stakes battle of ideas—warring, if you will, for people’s souls—we must apply ourselves in life’s classroom and master God’s Word. Laziness will sideline us, and there are no shortcuts to growing in our knowledge (relationship) with God. Our reward? Incalculable.
Please pray that students would hunger for truth and that their quest would lead them to God; that many will apply themselves wholeheartedly to applying their biblical prowess in the church and in academia.
Ministry Director, Christian Union at Harvard
To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches. — John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407
Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in Business
ARTICLE (33 pages): “I Believe in Nature: An Exploration of Naturalism and the Biblical Worldview” by Kirsten Birkett
Birkett challenges the widely held belief that natural forces and laws are the only means by which human existence and the universe itself can be understood. Appealing to the Bible’s own response to such notions, Birkett shows the limitations of materialistic constructions and formulates an integrated framework of faith and science in its place.
BOOK (180 pages) The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers
Sayers observed that although we often succeed in teaching our pupil’s subjects, we fail in teaching them how to think - that they learn everything but the art of thinking. She recognized that a culture’s disinterest in learning had profound implications. In this short book (often combined with another short book, The Mind of the Maker) Sayers argues for a return to developing a “passionate intellect” in ourselves and our children.
BOOK (384 pages): Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach by Vern Poythress
This book attempts to kindle our appreciation for science as it ought to be - science that could serve as a path for praising God and serving fellow human beings. Through examining the wonderfully complex and immutable laws of nature, author Vern Poythress explains, we ought to recognize the wisdom, care, and beauty of God.