Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who want to live in a godly way in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil people and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.2 TIMOTHY 3:10–14 (NASB)
Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit have a sincere desire to make a lasting difference in the lives of others. They are also some of the most pleasant people you can meet. They want their lives to count. I’ve noticed several other admirable traits among such people. They are not motivated by money or possessions, nor are they interested in impressing people, nor driven by applause, nor afraid of risk, hardship, or even sacrifice. For them, the only thing that matters is that their lives count for eternity.
You may wonder how to cultivate this kind of attitude—an attitude defined by the desire to create a legacy that impacts God’s kingdom. Such a life does not just happen; such lives sprout from being rooted in your identity in Jesus, from the good works you produce, and from knowing why you do what you do. These three characteristics—who you are, what you do, why you do it—correlate to the people you choose to pattern your life after. Those who make a lasting difference choose their mentors carefully. Consider Timothy’s mentor, the Apostle Paul.
Although Timothy seems to have had a passive personality, he was able to influence the early church through Paul’s mentorship. Timothy’s legacy continues to influence us today.
Think about your ministry and consider: “Do I want to make a lasting impact?” If your answer is yes, then you must consider what lies ahead. You do not know how God will use you for His kingdom. Yet suffering is certain in the Christian life, and therefore your ministry will include hardship. Second Timothy 3:1 states that difficult times are ahead. The word difficult may be understood as savage: put bluntly, there will be savage days in your ministry.
To endure difficult days, we must cultivate qualities unlike the savage character of people we’re often called to serve. This savage character is described by Paul in verses 1–5, as he prepares Timothy for ministry in the last days. And rest assured, we are living in such days. Extremely difficult days have arrived! So, in preparing for ministry, we are wise to associate with people who live in submission to God and who rightly divide His Word for practical application. Pattern your life after Christ-like mentors, people who love well and teach God’s Word well: parents, older family members, mature friends, trusted counselors, professors, teachers, and pastors. These reliable people have guided us, reproved us, and affirmed the spiritual gifts within us.
In verses 10–14, Paul is tactical in his encouragement of Timothy, reminding Timothy of their pasts, their futures, and Timothy’s present. First, Paul looks back as he mentions the example of suffering that he set for Timothy. Then he looks ahead as he reminds Timothy that suffering is inevitable in the days to come. Finally, Paul looks at life as it was and encourages Timothy to remain steadfast and obedient.
Reflecting on your desire to make a lasting difference for God’s kingdom, remember your teachers and your mentors, and hear Paul’s message resonating through what they taught you. As you remember your teachers, reflect on their examples of suffering and endurance. Stay realistic as you look ahead and prepare for the tough times you will surely encounter in your own ministry. Don’t forget that you will pay a price for your decision to create an impact. Nevertheless, do not allow fear to deter you. You will make a lasting difference because you are a conqueror in Christ and you have been called for such a time as this.
About the Contributors
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now Chancellor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.