“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (2 Timothy 3:10–14, ESV)
What does it mean to make disciples? If you have spent much time in church, you have most likely been exposed to the great commission. These last words from Jesus as he returned to the Father include the directives to make disciples, baptize disciples, and teach disciples to obey Jesus.
The essence of discipleship is following me as I follow Jesus. Paul has personally invested in Timothy and discipled him through a variety of circumstances. Paul speaks words of grace over Timothy as he acknowledges that Timothy has followed well after him. He has received, learned and put into practice Paul's teaching. Paul can see the evidence of grace through Timothy's conduct, faith, patience, love, and steadfastness. Paul reminds Timothy that the life of a disciple is not a life of ease, rather it is a call to die, to be persecuted, and to suffer. Paul outlines some of the persecution and sufferings that he had endured. He reminds Timothy that he had suffered in Timothy's hometown of Lystra. He also points Timothy to the reality that it was the Lord who rescued him and sustained him during this affliction.
God is not a cosmic genie that grants wishes based on your behavior. Karma and paying things forward do not alleviate suffering in the world. Paul declares to Timothy that the suffering Timothy had observed in Paul's life should not be looked at as unusual. It is quite the contrary. If one desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, they will be persecuted. The idea that Jesus takes away all your problems in this life is a false gospel and is contrary to the witness of scripture. Jesus told his followers that the world would hate them just as it had hated him and Paul echoes this truth telling Timothy to expect to suffer. People and circumstances will go from bad to worse while deception continues in relationships.
Stay The Course
Paul's exhortation to Timothy in light of suffering, persecution, deception, and false teaching was to hold fast to the truth. Paul wanted to make sure that when he departed from this life into the next that Timothy would understand that things were not to change. Paul's presence or absence did not alter the truth. Timothy must have faith and cling to the truth that is revealed in scripture. Paul wanted Timothy to find encouragement in the awareness that he had seen, heard and learned all these things from his grandmother, his mother, and Paul. These three figures bore witness to the same conviction that God is exactly what the Scripture declares him to be and that in that knowledge and through faith that Timothy too would be a part of this chain of witnesses.