This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
The theme for this talk is indicated once again by the title on the outline. “Discipled by God.” So this is a talk on discipling. But it’s more for those being discipled than for those doing the discipling. I have put the word or the words “by God” in because I think it’s very important that we don’t leave God out of the process of discipling. True discipling always proceeds from God. Isaiah 54 verse 13 states this, and it’s addressed to, I believe, the church, God’s people:
“All your children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of your children.”
That I think is the basis for my title, “Discipled By God.” All your children, without exception, shall be taught by the Lord. And great shall be the peace of your children. I want to suggest to you that the process of being discipled should give you great peace. And if it isn’t producing peace in you, you probably need to question whether you are in the will of God or whether you are being discipled by God.
Probably before we go any further I need to just repeat that definition which is there. What is discipling? Discipling as I understand it, is training and equipping a person for God’s service. As I understand the people I have in front of me in some way or another, nearly all of you are here to be discipled. So this concerns you in a very practical way.
Notice I did not say teaching but I said training. There’s a difference. Teaching is imparting knowledge or instruction. Training is going further. It’s making people do what you’ve taught. See, in a school teachers teach children, we hope, but at home parents do what? Train them, we hope. Most parents today are falling down on their job. But it’s a parents’ job not merely to tell a child what to do, that’s easy enough, like comb your hair before you come to the meal table, but it’s the parents job to make sure the child does it. That is not so easy.
Not only is discipling training, but it’s equipping a person. A person who has been properly discipled not merely should know how to do the job but should have the equipment with which to do it. If you study the ministry of Jesus you’ll see that He very specifically equipped His disciples. Before He sent out the first 12 disciples, not merely had He trained them, but He equipped them. He gave them power and authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of diseases. That was their equipment. To have sent them out only trained but not equipped would have not succeeded.
See? That’s why on our previous talk we dealt with some of the equipment. Which was what? What’s the word for the equipment? Charismata. That’s right. You’re all becoming scholars of Greek, I see that.
Now I want to point out that there’s a lot of discipling going on in the world, not all of it in the church but some of it in the church, which is merely on a human level. It’s merely humans teaching others what they know. And I want to say that does not produce the results that the church needs. We have to be very clear even if we’re taught by human beings that it proceeds from God. And the result of that teaching should always be to build us in our personal relationship with God. If teaching is merely on the human level it will produce one or the other of two things. If it’s in the church it will produce a sect, and if it’s out of the church it will produce a cult. And we have to acknowledge that the church today is full of sects and cults. The reason being that God has not been involved in the process of producing those people. It has originated only on the human level.
If you turn to Acts chapter 20 verses 29 and following you find some words that Paul spoke to the elders of the church at Ephesus. Which was a church which had grown out of his ministry. He was speaking to men that he loved, men whom he had raised up, men who held positions of responsibility in the church. But he gave them a very solemn warning, he said:
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. [You know of course the wolf is the enemy of the sheep.] And also from among yourselves [that’s from among the elders] men will rise up speaking perverse or distorted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
There I think you have both types. The people that come in from outside are the people that produce cults, and the people that rise up from within the church and within its leadership are the people that produce sects. Sects are groups of Christians that have somehow cut themselves off from the whole body of Christ and become something on their own.
The word “sect” is taken from the Latin word for “to cut.” It means something cut off. The word “cult,” interestingly enough, is taken from the Latin word ?cultas? which means “a system of worship.” And that gives us the word “culture.” Which is interesting because it tells us that culture is the product of a system of worship. And we are full today in the world of strange cultures. Which are cults which have proceeded from people who are not inspired and directed by God.
So I want to say this most emphatically, and I say this on the basis of personal experience, you need to be very sure that in being discipled the ultimate source of your discipling is higher than the human level. And I believe the mark will be peace. All your children should be taught by the Lord, great will be the peace of your children.
All right now, if you want to be taught by God, you’ve got to fulfill His requirements. Like when you enrolled in the present school that you’re in, if I know anything about it, and I think I’ve filled out some of these forms for people, you had to fill up a form saying who you were, where you came from, what were your qualifications. You probably had to have a recommendation from some minister or pastor. That was the qualification for being enrolled in this school.
Now I want to tell you very gently and lovingly that you can be enrolled in this school but not enrolled in God’s school. Because God is choosy about His students. Not everybody who’s enrolled in a Bible college is a student of God. Not everybody who attends a seminary is a student of God. In fact my observation is, very few of them are. So what does God look for? The answer is, primarily character. Before anything else. And I am suggesting to you three aspects of character which are basic. Number one, commitment to obedience. I don’t believe God disciples the uncommitted. As long as you’re merely experimenting, or paddling in the water I don’t believe you’ll get much from God.
There was a young lady who asked me to fill in a form for her to attend one of these schools that you’re in. Because she knew me, I had some relationship with her. I filled it in but she’s never come. She still hasn’t made it. And I’m inclined to think her problem is lack of commitment. Only the committed qualify for God.
Let’s look at two Scriptures in John. John chapter 7 verse 17, Jesus says:
“If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak on my own authority.”
What’s the key word? “If anybody wants to do His will.” I would prefer to use the word, “wills” to do His will. “He shall know.” God teaches those who are committed to do His will. He does not teach the uncommitted. That’s why multitudes of Christians attend church for years and never really learn anything. Because they’re not committed.
John 13 verse 17 Jesus said to His disciples:
“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
Listen friends it’s not what you know that makes you happy, in fact it can make you very unhappy. It’s only what you know and do that makes you happy. Doing it that makes the happiness.
I heard a story about a little girl in a family that was invited to family devotions. She said, “I’m not coming.” They said, “Why?” And she said, “I already know more than I do.” That was very wise, see. You don’t learn more than you do. If you know, you’re happy if you do. It’s the doing that matters. That proceeds out of commitment.
The second requirement is humility and the fear of the Lord. Psalm 25, just a few verses. Verses 8 and 9:
“Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He teaches sinners in the way. [We need to remember that it’s God’s grace that He’ll teach us at all. Because we start as very unpromising material. We’re sinners. Our lives have been warped and corrupted by sin. Why should God bother with us? Because He’s good and upright. But we need to bear in mind it’s His grace all the way through.] The humble He guides in justice. And the humble he teaches His ways.”
An alternative translation is “meek.” So God teaches the humble. And I really don’t think He teaches any other people. At least if he teaches them it’s in a very different kind of way. He gives them severe lessons. Some people have to learn things the hard way. They’re the people who won’t learn out of humility. And then in verse 12:
“Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.”
Fear of the Lord. It’s basic. If you’ve never studied it, I recommend you study the fear of the Lord. It’s a fascinating study. You get a concordance and read through it. Most of the passages about it are in Proverbs. I don’t think there is anything that carries with it greater promises of blessing than the fear of the Lord. The book of Proverbs says about it, just one example:
“He that has it shall abide satisfied and shall not be visited with evil.”
Think about that. Be always satisfied and never visited with evil. What’s the qualifications? The fear of the Lord. It’s a rich subject. That doesn’t mean slavish fear. It means awe. Reverence. I think about it like this.
I’m on top of a beautiful mountain, gorgeous, something like some of the mountains in Hawaii, on one side there is a steep cliff, at the bottom there is the ocean. And somebody has put kindly a railing to keep you from falling over. So you can stand up on this cliff and you can view the gorgeous scenery all around you and be lost in delight and excitement. Then you turn around to the cliff and you look there and you lean over just a little holding on to the rail. But you know if you leant much further you’d end up at the bottom. And something tightens in your stomach. For a moment you have this sense of fear. That to me is like the fear of the Lord. He takes you up into this beautiful mountain and He shows you everything. It’s all for you to possess and enjoy but remember there is a cliff. God has put a guard rail there but if you are presumptuous and lean out too far you’ll end in disaster.
And then the third requirement I see is endurance and patience. Now we need a little verbal study here. Because if you’re reading the King James, which I love, in the King James the word for patience is “longsuffering.” And in the King James patience means endurance, you see? But in the modern translation patience means what we call patience today, and endurance means what we call endurance.
Now they’re not the same. Endurance is active. Patience is passive. It says in Hebrews 12:1:
“Run with endurance [or perseverance] the race set before you.”
That’s active. Patience is much harder. It’s waiting. It’s standing back. It’s letting things happen. It’s leaving God to take the initiative. You find most of the great servants of God had real tests of patience. Think of Moses. Forty years on the backside of the desert looking after some sheep. Abraham promised a son. Waited 25 years. Till he was a hundred years old. David, anointed for the kingdom, spent the next ten or dozen years a fugitive running from the existing king.
And in our lives too, brothers and sisters, there are certain things that come only to the patient. If you’re impatient you preempt God. You take the initiative out of His hands.
Let’s just read about Abraham in Hebrews chapter 6. Verses 11 and 12. Now I’m reading from the New King James which has adjusted longsuffering to patience:
“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end. [That means endurance and patience until the end.] That you do not become sluggish but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. [Some people tell you all you need is faith, that’s not true. You need faith and patience. And then about Abraham in verse 15:] So after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise [twenty-five years later].
Now there’s hardly one of us here that at some time or other in God’s dealings with us He will not demand that we exercise patience. And it’s part of the condition of being discipled by God. You see a teacher sets the schedule not the pupil. You don’t decide as God’s pupil when He’ll teach you what. He decides the when and the what. And all the time He’s not merely imparting information, He’s shaping your character.
All right now, one other important truth. The path to leading is serving. This is very succinctly stated by Jesus in Matthew chapter 20. Verses 2628. This arose out of a quarrel amongst His disciples as to which of them was going to be chief in the kingdom. Jesus didn’t reprove them, He just instructed them. He said in verse 25:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. [That’s the world’s picture of authority.]
I spent 5 years training African teachers for African schools in Kenya. And I found out that the African teachers’ picture of authority was carrying a big stick and shouting. And the classrooms were so built that there was no complete dividing wall between that and the next classroom. So you’d have one teacher shouting in one classroom and another shouting in the other. They almost drowned one another out. I had to deal with them and say, “Listen, authority has got nothing to do with carrying a big stick or shouting. In fact, if you need to carry a big stick and shout you don’t have authority.” It’s totally different. The key to having authority is being under authority. If you’re under authority you have authority. So this is what Jesus told them:
“It shall not be so among you [you will not think and act as the world does. This is one of the big problems of the church. So much authority and leadership in the church is on a worldly pattern] but whoever desires to become great among you let him become your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you let him be your slave. [Notice if you want to be great you’ve got to become a servant. But if you want to become first you’ve got to become a slave.]
In other words, the higher up you want to go the lower down you’ve got to start. That’s the way to promotion. I have a series of tapes which I call “The Way Up Is Down.” He that humbles himself shall be what? Exalted. It’s sure. It’s guaranteed. That principal works throughout the universe.
Some years ago a young man of about, a little over 20, who had had a wonderful, miraculous encounter with the Lord, came to me and he said, “Brother Prince, I want to serve you.” Well, I thought this over and I thought I really don’t need him. I’m doing all right on my own and I enjoy being on my own and I’m not so sure I want somebody around all the time watching all the things I do when I’m not preaching. So I said, “I’ll think it over.” I was preparing to say, “Thank you but no contract,” but the Lord spoke to me and said, “If you don’t let that young man serve you, you’ve denied him the path to promotion.” Because there is no other way to promotion. But serving. So I agreed.
He was a gifted young man but he worked his way through college working as a waiter. And I tell you the people who have served as waiters and waitresses know how to serve. He was remarkable. He normally anticipated my needs before I knew I needed them. He gave me many lessons. Today he’s in a position of leadership. He got there by serving.
Listen if you young people can find some older Christian working for the Lord that will let you serve them you’d better be grateful. Because there aren’t many. I have had hundreds of young men come up to me and say, “Let me carry your suitcase,” and I have to say, “I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t fit in, I’ve got people to carry my suitcase.” But I’m always grieved because I realize that that motivation is from God. And that there is no other way to promotion in the kingdom but to serve. O.K.
Now. God may disciple directly or through a more experienced servant. This is an important principal. When God chooses a person to initiate something new He disciples that person directly. That’s obvious isn’t it? Because there is no existing pattern. There’s no one doing the job the way God wants it done who can disciple the next one. I believe as a matter of fact in my own life God for much of my life had to disciple me directly because there was no one qualified to do it. I think in a way the ministry that God has given me is discovering or recovering and applying biblical truth. And consistently through my experience I’ve been forced into areas of truth which the church had largely ignored. And consequently there wasn’t anybody to teach me. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant but that’s my overview of my life.
God put me in the desert for 3 years, the deserts of North Africa. That’s really a pretty scriptural place to be discipled. About 6 weeks after I met the Lord my unit in the British army was sent to the Middle East. I spent the next three years in the deserts of North Africa. Believe me, you haven’t seen deserts till you’ve seen the deserts of North Africa. There’s a lot about a desert. You find lots of God’s people had to go through the desert.
Tell you some things about a desert. It strips you of non-essentials. You come down to basics. There’s about 4 things you need. Number one, water. Number two, food. Number three, covering. And number four, transportation. That’s it.
Now I had lived a very complicated life. My mind was full of all sorts of complicated philosophical theories and concepts. But three years in the desert changed me. I couldn’t attend church because there were no churches. There wasn’t any pastor. I only had one thing. My Bible. I read it through many times. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to go to church, I just couldn’t go to church. So I got to know the Bible. I have to say one thing. When I did start going to church I discovered there were a lot of things in the Bible they weren’t telling me in church. From that day onwards I’ve always judged the church by the Bible and not the Bible by the church. Many times I cried out to God and said, “Get me out of here.” But He wouldn’t get me out until He put me through that basic discipline.
My first wife Lydia was Danish. If you know the Danes, they are the most outspoken race in Europe. And my wife was the most outspoken Dane in Denmark. And she used to say to me, “If you’d come straight from the university I never would have married you. If you hadn’t spent those years in the British army.” It didn’t do everything for me but it did a whole lot. It brought me down to earth. I no longer lived in a world of philosophic theory. I had to deal with backward people. Who didn’t think the way I thought. That didn’t speak English the way I spoke it. Who didn’t have an academic background. Who used horrible language. It did me a lot of good. I didn’t enjoy it. For one year in the desert I was responsible for what the British army calls “a squad of stretcher bearers.” I was myself a corporal with two of these things here.
See I’m a little embarrassed because my present wife was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines so she outranks me. Anyhow I was in charge of 8 stretcher bearers and 2 drivers who drove the truck we traveled in, which was a three-ton truck. For one year we lived in that truck. We went up and down the desert. I took place in the longest retreat in the history of the British army, 750 miles from a place called ?El Agala? to a place called El Alamein. Retreating 750 miles is an experience in itself. In the middle of that we ran into a British mine field because we had retreated so fast we had caught up to our own mines. We had to get off our trucks and had to get out in the middle of the night. Because it was a vehicle mine you could walk through it safely.
The next time I was in charge of the canteen. I was in charge of the canteen because I didn’t drink beer and I didn’t smoke cigarettes and could be trusted with those things, understand? I thought to myself, when we got there, we’ve got all this chocolate, all these things on here, it’s a shame to leave them in this mine field. So I summoned the men that were around and said, “I’ll sell to you on credit.” And I stripped the truck and it took me months to get them to pay. Well, that’s just one of those things that I never would have gone through at Cambridge University. And I was in a different milieu amongst different people. But it was part of my being discipled by God.
Now let’s look at some examples of people who were discipled directly by God. I think the list is rather interesting. Now here’s a list of people discipled by God as I see it and I suggest that you consider whether you agree with my estimate. Moses. He spent 40 years in Egypt as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Apparently heir to the throne of Egypt. And it says he was instructed in all the wisdom of Egypt. Egypt was a very intellectual place. They had things that were more or less universities. They were run by the priests. So he was highly educated. Then he went out and tried to deliver one of his brothers and you remember his own people turned against him. And he had to flee, and spent the next 40 years in the desert. Forty years is a long time. Let me tell you that. Looking after a handful of sheep. What was God working in Moses? I would say patience. And believe me when you read the record of how he had to deal with the children of Israel he needed all the patience he could get. In fact, his one mistake was impatience. When he got angry when they asked for water and he struck the rock and he said, “Must we bring forth water to you rebels?” And that cost him going into the promised land.
It’s very interesting about Moses just to see God’s dealings. Here’s the man that’s going to lead God’s people out of Egypt. And he’s going to inflict on Egypt the greatest defeat of their history. And God says to Pharaoh, “Listen Pharaoh, I want you to take care of this baby, take real good care of him. Feed him, train him, instruct him in everything you know because I’m going to use him to destroy your nation.” You can never outwit God.
Then there’s David. David was anointed king, spent the next 10 or 12 years and he said, “I’m like a flea, or like a partridge in the mountain. I’m just a fugitive.” You see, I don’t believe there was anybody that knew the pattern of kingship for God’s people. So he had to learn direct from God. What did he learn? Well amongst other things he too learned patience. I think if you want to understand the process of David’s disciplings you need to read the Psalms in light of that thought. Here’s a man being discipled by God to be king of God’s people. One thing that nearly all servants of God have to go through is the experience of rejection. There’s very few that haven’t at some time of another been rejected by the very people that they’re going to lead. So if that happens to you, dear brother or sister, don’t sit down and cry too long, get up and get on with the job.
It’s true even in secular history. So many times the leader that God has in mind has been rejected. Like Winston Churchill was just set aside. Menachim Begin was set aside. But they became the leader of God’s choice.
Then John the Baptist. John the Baptist it says was in the wilderness until the days of his showing to Israel. How was he discipled? In the wilderness. You know the hills of Judea you know that’s pretty tough. It’s kind of challenging terrain. God doesn’t usually make it too easy for the people he disciples.
Jesus. He was discipled directly by the Father. You need to read the Gospels in the light of that understanding.
Paul. He didn’t go to the previous apostles to be discipled. He went into Arabia. Where was that? Where was Arabia? Desert, that’s right. And there he got the revelation of what he calls “my gospel.” Isn’t that amazing that a man could say, “my gospel.” Let’s look at the pattern of Jesus just for a moment. In John 5 verses 19 and 20. Jesus is speaking about His ministry:
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, most assuredly I say to you the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show him greater works than these that you may marvel.”
So Jesus never took the initiative. He only did what the Father had shown Him and instructed Him to do. He was the perfect disciple. You follow the career of Jesus, never one time did He ever take the initiative out of the hands of the Father.
And then in verses 26 and 27 from the same chapter:
“For as the Father has life in himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself; And has given Him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of man.”
Everything He had proceeded from the Father. And John 14:9 and 10:
“Jesus said to him, Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority but the Father that dwells in me does the works.”
So Jesus says, “Both my words and my deeds proceed from the Father. I initiate nothing on my own.” And if you want a picture of this in Old Testament prophecy turn to Isaiah chapter 50 for a moment. Verses 4–6. This is a prophetic preview of Jesus. He’s speaking in the person of Jesus. Isaiah 50 verses 4–6:
“The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary; he awakens me morning by morning, he awakens my ear to hear as the learned. The Lord has opened my ear and I was not rebellious nor did I turn away.”
So we understand that Jesus began the day listening to the Father. He got His instructions for the day from the Father. How many of you’d agree that that is a good way to begin the day? That’s right. Incidentally the way you begin your day is going to have a lot to do with the kind of day you have. There’s a Greek proverb that says, “The beginning is half of the whole.” You begin the day wrong and you will have a bad day. You begin the day right and you’ll have a good day. Jesus is our pattern.
And then let’s look at the pattern of Paul for a moment and see how he was discipled directly by God. Galatians chapter 1 verses 15 and 17. This is part of his personal testimony:
“But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me [I like that. Not to reveal His to me, but to reveal His Son in me] that I might preach him among the Gentiles; I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood of other human beings; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
So Paul says very specifically he got his primary discipling not from the previous disciples or apostles but direct from God. In a place of seclusion, in Arabia. It’s very obvious, when you consider Paul’s ministry that the other disciples would never have been able to accept the revelation of the gospel for the Gentiles. Even when Paul received it they had difficulties with it many times.
See when God wants to start something new He has to disciple the person directly. Because if He puts it in the hands of existing leaders they’ll put out somebody like themselves. Don’t be afraid, brothers and sisters, if God chooses to put you in His own personal school. It’s an honor, and it means He’s got something for you to do in your particular area that nobody in your area is competent to teach you. Now don’t let that make you conceited. But just be realistic about it. On the other hand, if God gives you the privilege of being discipled by a more experienced servant, then thank God for that and thank God for that servant and be a good servant to that servant.
You know one of David’s first two wives, Abigail, she made one of the most beautiful statements. It’s one that always touches me to my heart. When David sent his servants to invite her to be his wife she said, “Let thy servant be a handmaid to wash the feet of my Lord’s servant.” To me that’s the perfect picture of the attitude of serving. I’m not even going to wash my Lord’s feet. I’ll wash the feet of my Lord’s servants. And you know washing feet is always taken through the Bible as the picture of humility and service. Ephesians 3:1–7, we won’t turn to, we’ll leave the other because we’re running a little behind time. But if you’ll look at those scriptures for yourself you’ll see that they reinforce the fact that Paul was not discipled by the previous apostles.
And then we come to those who were discipled by another servant. I put up about 4 or 5 examples there. Again I invite you to consider whether you agree with me. Moses discipled Joshua. Joshua was Moses’ servant. And he spent his time with Moses. And when the time came for Moses to move on he laid his hands on Joshua and transmitted to him the spirit of wisdom that he might take over the leadership. That’s really a perfect example of discipling by a human. Elijah discipled Elisha. It says Elisha poured water over the hands of Elijah. That’s the act of service. He followed Elijah everywhere he went. He wasn’t like the Bible school student who just came out to watch. He was committed. The Bible school students are called the sons of the prophets in the Old Testament. Elijah on the other hand just appeared. To me he is one of the most fascinating characters of the Bible. He just appears. He suddenly comes before king Ahab and says, “From now on, Ahab, I’m taking over the rain in your kingdom. There will be no more rain until I pray.” He is such a dramatic character. He couldn’t leave this world in any ordinary way he had to go in a chariot of fire. What else could he do?
Then there’s Jesus and the 12 apostles. Very obviously Jesus carefully disciples the 12 apostles. He trained them, he equipped them. He set them a pattern.
And then we looked at Paul being discipled by the Lord but Paul in turn discipled Timothy and others. So there are some examples of both.
Now in closing I want briefly to run through with you the discipling process of Timothy. As a pattern. There are 7 stages. It’s not certain that all of us will go through all these stages. But I think in a certain sense these 7 stages are the perfect pattern of discipling. First of all, he learned the scriptures in childhood. There’s no substitute for that. Second Timothy chapter 1 verse 5:
“When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded it is in you also.”
And in the same epistle chapter 3 verse 15:
“That from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Now not all of us have that blessing. But really it is the most tremendous blessing. Now I did not grow up in what you would call a Christian home but I went to schools where I had to go to church every day. Much against my will most of the time. But one thing happened, I got to know the text of the Bible. I set it aside, I abandoned it, I dismissed it. Ten years after that I had a personal encounter with the Lord, was baptized in the Holy Spirit and you know it was just as if I had read those verses in the Bible the previous day. They came back instantly. And the people who knew me couldn’t understand why I could quote the Bible to them. So I had a part of that blessing.
Then he gained approval in a local church. Now that is extremely important. And I think it is something that many of you need to give some attention to. Acts 16 Paul comes to Derbe and Lystra:
“And behold a certain disciple was there named Timothy the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed but his father was Greek; he was well spoken of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.”
He had earned a good reputation in his local church. Really there’s no substitute for that. I realize that sometimes local churches aren’t what they ought to be. But I’ll tell you it’s worth making a lot of personal sacrifices to take your place in a local church and prove you’re willing to serve. I am pretty sure that most of you who came here had to have a recommendation from a pastor. That is very, very right.
Years back when my first wife and I were working in Jerusalem, a lady from Sweden was recommended to come out and help us. My first wife was very discerning and she said, “I really don’t want her.” But the mission in Sweden that supported her wanted to send her. So we said, “Send out some references so we will know what kind of a person she is.” Out came a sheaf of references. But as my wife looked through it she said, “There is one reference missing, there is nothing from her own church.” Well, she came and she was a disaster. And I learned that lesson. If a person can’t be recommended by her own church you had better be careful.
Third, Timothy was sovereignly and supernaturally called and appointed. And I want to emphasize that in every persons’ destiny as a Christian there should be an element of the supernatural. I don’t believe we can plan our way simply on the natural plane. At some point God has got to intervene. This is my will. This is the man I have chosen. This is what I have chosen for you to do.
Let’s look for a moment at some Scriptures there in Paul’s writings to Timothy. And you’ll see what an important part was played in Timothy’s life by prophecy. 1Timothy 1:18:
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you. That by them you may wage a good warfare.”
Timothy was in a difficult place. He was having problems. And Paul said, “I want to remind you of the prophecies which went before you. I want to remind you that God has chosen you, God has placed you in the right place. Don’t give up.” How many of you would agree that we need that many times? Many, many times I’ve thought back to words God has given me and if I hadn’t had those words I wouldn’t know whether I was to hold on or not. First Timothy 4:14:
“Do not neglect the gift that is in you which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”
Word “gift” there is charisma. I believe the elders of the church in Lystra, where Timothy was from, together with Paul, laid their hands on him when he was sent out with Paul, and a prophecy came saying “Yes, I’ve chosen this young man to travel with Paul. I have a future for him.” And he became an apostle. The charisma there was, I personally believe, apostleship. And then just one other scripture in 2Timothy chapter 1 verse 6:
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God [charismata] which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
So there was a supernatural element in Timothy’s destiny. I would never settle for less. I don’t believe our natural reasoning can work out a way. Jeremiah says, “It is not in man that walketh to direct his way.” We have to have at some point something that’s higher than the natural level. Nowadays when I’m seeking the will of God about something, one of the things I ask myself is, “Where is the supernatural in this?” I have been in so many situations when Christians have sat and discussed and planned and reasoned and nothing significant was accomplished. Because they did it all without the supernatural intervention of God.
The next stage, he served as an apprentice with Paul. We’ll just read one scripture. Philippians chapter 2 verse 22:
“But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”
That’s how he proved himself. By serving Paul. I just want to tell you young people you cannot have a greater privilege than serving a senior servant of God. Thank God, fall down on your face and thank Him, if God does that for you. Then he served as Paul’s delegate. You see that’s one step further. First of all he was with Paul, he watched what Paul did, he helped him. Then Paul could send him to other places and say “Here’s Timothy. He represents me. He’ll tell you what to do. It’s the same as if I told you.” First Corinthians 4 verse 17:
“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”
Paul had come to the place where he had trusted Timothy to teach what he would have taught. He’d seen Timothy, he’d been with him long enough, he trusted him. He could release him to go on his own. And then the next stage he was released to his own ministry. Paul, about to be taken into the next world. He was about to lay down his life. I tell you, Second Timothy has become such a wonderful epistle to me. I just turn back there again and again. It’s a masterpiece of writing apart from its spiritual context. And I think the tears always come to my eyes when I read these words. The fourth chapter verses 1–6. Notice the word “I charge.” This is a divine charge:
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ [that’s pretty solemn isn’t it? Somewhere else and Paul says “the elect angels.” We need to bear in mind that we are being watched by heavenly hosts. Their eyes are on us. We’re not just an insignificant group off in a corner somewhere. The whole attention of heaven is directed toward us.] Preach the word. Be ready in season, out of season; convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. [Verse 5:] But you be watchful in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist [he wasn’t an evangelist, he was an apostle but he could do the work of an evangelist] fulfill your ministry. [And then he goes on:] For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, the time of my departure is at hand.”
Paul says, “Timothy, I have invested everything I have in you. I’m going, you carry on. You be faithful.”
And the last stage, we can just do it quickly. He trained others as he himself had been trained. 2Timothy chapter 2 verse 2. That’s an easy scripture to remember:
“And the things that you’ve heard from me [Paul’s writing] among many witnesses commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
You see there are 4 generations. Paul, Timothy, the faithful men taught by Timothy and the faithful men taught by the faithful men taught by Timothy. You see? That’s God’s way of continuing His work.