Spiritual Succession and Spiritual Secession

by Paul Gilbert

We’ve had a big week thus far! Pastor Lance and I kicked things off this past Sunday with our prospective Vision Messages at each campus, and then hosted lunches for guests and newcomers. It was great seeing so many new people desiring to find out more about our church family and get plugged in. Sunday morning was followed by Monday night, where our pastors, elders, and fellowship group leaders gathered to set our leadership course for the coming season. And, finally, all of our children’s and student volunteer leaders pow-wowed on Wednesday night for training and synergizing. Frankly, I am quite exhausted, but in the good kind of way – we are set for a great ministry season ahead!

One of the things we talked about with our different leadership groups, and which I want to share with you, is this: how do you define success? What makes for a successful life? Bob Dylan said "a man can consider himself a success when he wakes up in the morning, goes to bed at night and in between did exactly what he wanted.” I have no doubt that if we polled all of you, we would get more spiritually and Biblically-oriented answers than that! Yet, the question is still before us: how do we define success? More importantly, how does the Bible define success? That’s the metric we should really be interested in.

When we get to the end of our lives, we all want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What makes for a good and faithful servant in God’s eyes? The Apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, helps us out here:

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. (2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

Paul’s main point in this passage can be boiled down to this: Spiritual success, in God’s eyes, will be marked by spiritual succession. Let me explain what I mean.

It was almost 20 years ago that the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta, GA, and I can still remember the Olympic Torch winding it’s way through Olympic Stadium. Who would be the one to light the flame, thus kicking off the 1996 Olympic Games? Of course, it was Muhammed Ali, one of the greatest boxing champions in our history. It was great seeing "The Greatest" do his thing in that moment! One of the things that many people were not aware of, though, is that the Olympic torch had been traveling across the United States over the previous year as runner after runner carried it over roads, mountains, streams, and desserts, to finally hand it off to Ali. The torch was passed only after much careful planning, hard work, and sacrifice.

When Paul charges Timothy to entrust the things that he has heard from Paul to other faithful men, Paul seems to be drawing on this imagery of a torch being passed. And, the torch that Paul is referencing here is no less than the gospel itself. Timothy’s life, he says, will be judged a success to the extent that he passes on the truth about Jesus Christ – God’s Word – to those who are coming after him.

"Spiritual Success is Marked by Spiritual Succession."

Let me ask you a question: What is your torch? What is the thing that you are sacrificing, working, and striving to pass off to those whom God has given you influence over? Passing the torch of success, love of sports, travel, inheritance, a comfortable life, and hobbies can all be good things, but these things will one day pass. There are only two things, the Bible tells us, that will last forever: God’s Word’s and people's souls. Just as Paul passed the gospel torch to Timothy, he calls Timothy to entrust these truths to other men. He understands that this is the true measure of spiritual success.

I want to call us this year to consider who our “other men” are. Who are those people that God has strategically placed in our lives to influence through His Word? In addition to our spouse and children, every Christian needs to have one or two Timothy’s, people we are pouring into. You don’t need a program or a detailed plan – just a desire to see others grow in God’s Word. That’s the measure of spiritual success that we all, by God’s grace, can strive to obtain.

The kickoff to the fall season is a great time to put II Timothy 2:2 into action. You can do this by aligning yourself with one of the ministries at Four Oaks where you have a chance to invest yourself. Take the time to read about some of those opportunities below. Note especially our needs in children’s ministries – what a great place to pass the gospel torch on to the next generation!

Praying II Timothy 2: 2 for you,

Pastor Paul