A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
By: The John Ankerberg Show
Good morning. It is my privilege to be able to share the Word of God with you for the next several weeks.
If you have your Bible, and I hope you do, turn if you would to II Timothy Chapter 2, II Timothy Chapter 2. While you are turning there, let me say what a privilege it is for me to be able to share the Word of God with you. I count it a privilege. I thank Pastor Robby for the opportunity. During the month of July, we have begun a series called Career Opportunities. And what we are trying to do during this series is to show you several truths and several ministry principles. And what I am going to do for the next three weeks is, I am going to walk through the book of II Timothy.
II Timothy is an amazing book. It is Paul’s last letter to his son in the faith, Timothy. And he is writing to admonish him to guard the gospel. He is writing in Chapter 2 to help Timothy to see what a gospel worker looks like. What does a godly leader, what does a faithful, gospel worker look like. And what he does is he writes in such a way that he shares several word pictures in II Timothy 2.
How many of you know this little adage, a picture is worth (what?) a thousand words. A picture is worth a thousand words. And that is exactly what the Apostle Paul does in Chapter 2 of II Timothy. He shares word pictures that help us to see what a Christian is and how he ought to live. What a gospel worker is and how he ought to live. That phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words, really comes from an old Chinese proverb that translates literally a picture paints a thousand characters. And the meaning behind the proverb is simply this: with a picture or an illustration, you can convey an idea or a truth with a thousand times more clarity than mere words. And it is amazing how the Holy Spirit takes things we know about, athletes and farmers and workers, to teach us deep truths about what a Christian is and how he ought to live.
And so, open your Bible to II Timothy and I want to take you through a whirlwind tour of II Timothy just for a moment for you to see the different word pictures in II Timothy 2. Look at it. In Verses 1 and 2, Paul says, A godly leader, a gospel worker, a disciple maker, all these terms are interchangeable. A disciple maker, a godly leader, a gospel worker, that is the term that I am going to speak about during this message. Gospel worker. So when you think Christian, when you think believer, think Gospel worker, okay?
A Gospel worker is like a soldier, according to Verses 1 and 2, and the soldier endures hardship for the sake of the gospel. In Verses 3 and 4, a gospel worker is like a steward who entrusts the gospel to faithful men. In Verse 5, the gospel worker is like an athlete who disciplines himself and trains vigorously in order to compete according to the rules. In Verse 6, the gospel worker is likened to a farmer who works hard, watering and cultivating, planting, harvesting, all these things that he has to do. He plants, he waters, he cultivates, he harvests all for the sake of the gospel.
In Verse 15, the gospel worker is likened to an approved workman who rightly divides the Word of God. In Verses 20-21, the gospel worker is likened to a vessel that is fit for the Master’s use. And in Verse 25, he is a bond-servant, desiring to please his Lord.
And so it is an amazing thing what the scripture does. And today, what we are going to do is we are going to look at two word pictures in II Timothy 2, the steward and the soldier. But before we dive into the text, I want to remind you of a couple of things that Pastor Robby mentioned last week and jot them down if you would because these are really the foundation upon which this series is built. And I don’t want you to forget it. I am going to repeat these each time that I share from the Word of God.
The first is this: a believer, a Christ-follower is not to be simply a consumer, he is to be a gospel co-worker. Pastor Robby talked in length about that last week. But sadly, that is not the case in most of our churches. Anything but that. Ed Stetser did some research for Lifeway Research and here is what he came up with. He surveyed more than 12,000 of our Southern Baptist churches and here is what he found. He found the majority of the members of our local churches are not engaged in meaningful ministry and mission. Think about that for a moment. The majority of the members of our churches are not engaged in meaningful ministry and mission. Feel the weight of that.
Ed Stetser, are you telling us that in light of all of our programs and in light of all the things we do, in light of all the activities that are going on in the church and our goal is produce gospel workers. You are telling us that the majority of our members are not engaged in meaningful mission and ministry. That is mind-boggling.
How much effort goes in to activities in the local church? How much effort goes into programs in the local church? How many folks are involved? And you are telling me that the majority of our members are not finding their place in the body of Christ, using their gifts and abilities to do gospel work and enhance the kingdom of God. That is what he is saying.
And as Pastor reminded us last week, God didn’t save you to sit and soak, He saved you in order to show and to share the love of Christ with everybody everywhere, Amen? That is why God saved you. That is God’s overriding purpose in your life is to conform you into the image of Christ. And when you and I begin to be conformed to the image of Christ, we are going to begin to do gospel ministry. Why? Because he is all about sharing the love of God and helping people to come to know God in a personal way. And you and I as believers in Jesus have the blessed privilege of sharing and showing the love of Christ with everybody everywhere. You and I have the privilege actually to labor together with God to accomplish His purpose. Do you realize that? You and I can labor together with Him. We can find out where He is working, join Him there and labor together with God as He works in and through our lives. Isn’t that amazing? What a privilege!
The second thing I want to remind you of that our Pastor reminded us of last week is this: that if you are gospel worker, you are going to be engaged in ministry. You are going to be engaged in ministry. Now you might be asking, what is ministry? Let me give you a definition. This is my definition of ministry. Ministry occurs when God works in and through our lives to accomplish His purposes. What happens is, God literally works in us to work through us to meet the needs of others and it is all for His glory.
Think about this. What if every member at Brainerd was engaged in ministry? What could God do? Now you notice, I said God works in us to work through us, And Pastor Robby and I say that often, we have talked about that through the years, that is a thing we say and we just say it. But I don’t know whether or not we have explained it or not. And so I want to call your attention to the book of Ephesians and Chapter 2. Now you know Verses 8 ad 9 well because we quote it often, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works lest anyone should boast.” You know those verses. But notice Verse 10. When you get there, say “Word.” Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” That word “workmanship” in the language of the New Testament literally means a manufactured product. The Holman translates it, creation. For we are His creation. He is molding and making and shaping and fashioning you and I. You are the workmanship of God and you are created for good works, the scripture says, that God prepared beforehand that you should walk in them.
You don’t ever have to worry about waking up tomorrow morning and wondering to yourself, gee, I wonder if God has got anything for me to do. Duh! He has prepared it from the annals of time! And God is working in us so that He can work through us because He has got a job for every one of us to do as we are sensitive to the needs of others and we are meeting those needs as He works through us. It is not really us meeting those needs, but it is God working through us. We are channels of blessing. You recall last week, God didn’t call us to be a cistern of truth. He called us to be a channel of blessing. As God shares His love with me, I can share it with others. And I want to challenge you folks who are here for World Changers this week. You are going to have opportunity to minister to the needs of others. If you try to do it in your own strength and power, you might fail miserably. But I guarantee you this, if you will allow God to do a work in you and allow Him to flow through your life to meet the needs of others, just kind of let God work through you to accomplish His purposes and it is going to be the most exciting week you will ever have.
Well, let’s jump into the text. The first thing I want you to notice is found in Verses 1 and 2. The gospel worker is a steward of Christ. That word “steward” is a word you might not be familiar with. A steward is one who manages the affairs and the resources of another and he serves in the strength of the folks that he manages, the properties or their assets. It is the idea that he entrusts certain things to others and invests in things so that they can get a return. That is what a steward is. He manages the affairs of another. And Paul says if we are to be gospel workers, we are to see ourselves as stewards of Christ. Everything belongs to Him, even your life! But you know what God does in His grace? He gives you the opportunity to serve Him, the wonderful privilege to manage what He has entrusted to you. And so the steward of Christ notice, serves in the strength that God provides.
Look at it in Verse 1. “You then, my child,” he is talking to Timothy, “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” He tells his son in the faith, listen, you be strong, the Holman says. You be strengthened, ESV, in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
John Stott helps us. Timothy or any other gospel worker will not find strength to do ministry in his own nature or ability. He will find it in the grace of God. That is where you find strength. And he goes on to say, God’s grace is not only sufficient to save us, it is sufficient to empower us to serve. The same grace that saved you is the same grace that you can draw strength and power from in order to serve the Lord. And what God wants to do is, He wants to work in and through your life to serve others for His glory, Amen? But we must depend upon the strength that only God can supply.
I wonder, as you do ministry, and we are blessed. We have so many that do ministry at Brainerd Baptist Church, but what could it be if every believer were engaged in gospel ministry. Those of you who are doing ministry now, you know that when you do it in your own strength and power, many times you fail miserably but you know as well, when you depend upon the grace of God and you depend upon the Spirit of God that works in and through your life to accomplish the purpose of God, you have joy unspeakable and full of glory. Amen? There is no greater feeling than to allow God to work through you to accomplish His purposes. And that is what Paul is talking about. You be strong and strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
When I first began in ministry, I had taken my first pastorate. And I was really scared. I had to opportunity to go to a conference in Louisiana at the Louisiana Baptist Convention. It was our annual meeting and there was a Pastor’s Conference, much like what they do in Tennessee, much like what the Southern Baptist does, the Convention does. They have a Pastor’s Conference and then there is a keynote speaker who just kind of brings it all to a close. I was there as a young pastor. I was struggling. We had issues in my church. We had some immorality in the church. We had some things going on. And I was to be the Pastor. But since I was a new Pastor, I was kind of like Timothy, I was timid. That is hard for you to imagine, me being timid, but I was timid. I was a timid Pastor. I didn’t know what my authority in Christ was. I didn’t know my identity in Christ or the strength that God could provide. I was learning about that as I was growing in pasturing this church.
And I went to this conference and I will never forget, an older black gentleman, he had to be helped behind the pulpit. His name was S. M. Lockeridge. Some of you have heard that name. And he began his sermon and the title of his sermon, I will never forget it, is Jesus is Lord! And he began to say, over and over again, Jesus is Lord! And he came to a place in his message where he made this statement. He said, the hinges of human history…I can’t preach like a black preacher, but I am going to give it my best shot…the hinges of human history turn on the insignificant man who has linked his life to the Lordship of Jesus. And if you are going to depend upon Jesus, Lockeridge said, you have got to ask yourself a question that demands an answer, what would you use for power to destroy the power of Jesus? And he began this crescendo, what would you use for power to destroy His power? Well, if you try to use water, He would walk on the water. What would you use for power to destroy the power of Jesus Christ? Well, if you try to use fire, He would refuse to burn. Don’t you remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they laid them in a fiery furnace and they were met by one that looked like the Son of God. It was the Lord Jesus Himself who met them there. What would you use for power to destroy His power? Well, if you try to use a mighty wind, He would stand in the boat and say Peace, be still, and it would lie down and lick His hand. What would you use for power to destroy the power of Jesus Christ? Well, if you try to use the grave, He would clean it up and make it a decent place to wait until the resurrection. He said, as he closed and came to a crescendo and a climax and I want you to hear me, nothing or nobody can destroy the power of Jesus Christ! Do you believe that?
And as a young pastor, as a brand new gospel worker, as a church leader, I needed to hear that. And I think there are some of you who need to hear that. Some of you who have been serving and doing gospel work, you need to be encouraged today. You can’t do this thing on your own strength and power, you must depend on the grace of God. And there are some of you who are in the pew on the sideline and the Lord is speaking to you even now. And He is saying, Listen, get up out of the pew, get in the game. I am going to give you the strength and power you need to accomplish My purposes. That is why you were created, created in Christ Jesus, why?, for good works that God prepared beforehand that you should walk in them.
What are you saying, Pastor? Here is what I am telling you. Just a church member doesn’t cut it! In fact, the next time I hear that, I think I am going to throw up! If you are just a church member, guess what? You don’t know your identity in Jesus. The same grace that saved you will be the same grace that can sustain you and give you power and strength to do gospel ministry. Get out of the pew. Get in the game. Rely on His resources. Amen?
The second thing I want you to see about a steward is this: he not only serves in the strength that God provides, he invests in men and women of integrity. Look at it in V. 2. “And what you have heard from Me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men,” that could be women, if you are a woman, it could be women, man a man, woman a woman, “faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This is the discipleship verse. And listen, I am ecstatic to be able to preach about this verse because I am the discipleship pastor here and so I am fired up about this. Here is what he is saying. He is saying that in the same way I entrusted to you, Timothy, the gospel, you have the blessed privilege to entrust and preserve the integrity and the purity of that same gospel as you entrust it to men.
Our Pastor in his commentary, Unashamed, a commentary on II Timothy, I commend it to you, made this statement: The way Timothy would entrust the gospel to others or guard the gospel would be by giving it away. Isn’t that a wonderful insight? Our own Pastor came up with that, that insight. What a great…guard the gospel, how? By giving it away. And we have this saying in discipleship, the gospel came to you because it was headed for somebody else.
Now in that verse, there are four generations that I want you to see. Look at the verse. Paul received the gospel from Christ. Paul gave the gospel to Timothy. Timothy was to entrust the gospel to faithful men and these faithful men, in turn, were to entrust and teach others also. Do you see it? So we guard the gospel by giving it away. We are stewards of Christ because we are entrusting the gospel to others.
The question I have got to ask you is this? Who are you investing in? Who are you equipping and empowering with the gospel? See, that is what discipleship is all about. That is what we do. And in any gospel work or in any gospel ministry, what you want to do as a Life Group teacher, here is what you want to do. One of the things you want to do, you want to reach, you want to teach. One of the things you want to do in addition to reaching and teaching and doing ministry, you want to develop leaders. You want to reproduce yourself. Those of you who are old time Sunday School teachers, you know this. You can’t quit teaching until you develop a teacher to be able to step in and take your place.
Well, that practically is what this looks like. Paul is at the end of his life and ministry and he is entrusting the gospel to Timothy. He said in the book of Philippians, listen, I have no one like Timothy. Timothy is amazing. But at the end of his life, you can only imagine, he is in a prison cell. He knows his life is coming to an end, that great text in II Timothy Chapter 4 where he says, I am being poured out as a drink offering. He knows his time is coming to an end. So he writes one final letter and he says, Timothy, I have empowered you, I have entrusted the gospel to you, I have invested in you everything that I have got, son, I have given to you. Entrust that same gospel, the same things that I shared with you, entrust those things to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
And so you and I, if we are to be gospel workers, we have got to be stewards of Christ. Many years ago, I think it was in the 19th Century, in the early 1800’s sometime, there was a congregational pastor who was scolded by his…for all practical purposes, the bishop or the director of missions, whatever it was…he was in a congregational church, I don’t know whether it was Catholic or not. But he was scolded and the reason why is because he only led one little boy to Christ. And so the bishop got on his case and said, man, you are a sorry excuse for a Pastor. You could only lead one person to Christ? But the Pastor didn’t get discouraged. What he did was, he invested in this young boy. And this young boy began to grow and as he grew, he began to help him in ministry and they partnered together in ministry. And history tells us that that young boy was called the greatest of English speaking preachers and his name was F.B. Meyer, at one time called the greatest English speaking preacher in the world. He didn’t get discouraged. He invested in that young man. And God began to grow that ministry. Why? Because he began to develop ministry partners. Why? Because he was entrusting the gospel to the people he led to Christ. And that is exactly what we have got to do. If we are to be gospel workers, we are to be stewards of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus has given…this isn’t my ministry, this isn’t your ministry, it is God’s ministry. Amen? And He entrusts it to us. We are stewards, managing His affairs and resources for His glory.
Paul would say to you and I, be the steward of Christ. But he would also say, be the soldier of the cross. Look at it in Verse 3 and 4. Share in suffering, it says in Verse 3, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Look at Verse 4, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
John Stott helps us here again. He said, Paul because of his many imprisonments, had ample opportunity to observe Roman soldiers. Here is what I heard about Paul. When Paul came to a town, here is what he would do. He would visit the synagogue and kind of scope out the area because he knew he would be preaching there, but he would also visit the jail because he knew he would end up there. So here is his pattern. He would go to the synagogue, he would stir up the religious leaders and then they would send him to jail. What a life! No wonder he says, I endure everything for the sake of the elect. Paul suffered. And he had plenty of opportunity to observe these Roman soldiers and he had time to be able, as Stott tells us, to meditate on the parallels between a soldier and a gospel worker. You know, I don’t know whether or not you know this or not, but you are a soldier in God’s Army, Amen? As a believer, you are a soldier of the Lord. You have been enlisted. And I will tell you, you have been enlisted when God called you to Himself. You have been empowered because He gave you His Holy Spirit and you have got a Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. And here is the deal, the question is not whether or not you are a soldier or not, the question is whether or not you are a good one or not.
And I wonder, do you come to the Lord every day and say, Lord, I am reporting for duty. What are Your orders? What are you and I going to do today, Lord? I can’t wait. If we would cultivate that mindset, what a difference it would make in our lives, Amen? Show up, ready for duty. Taking orders from the Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now lets notice in this text several of these parallels. The first one is this, it is found in Verse 3. A soldier endures hardship, sharing suffering as a good soldier, the scriptures says, of Christ Jesus. It is not easy being engaged in battle. It is not easy being a part of the fray. It is going to be hard. It is going to be lonely. It is going to be costly. Soldiers didn’t have an easy time of it. They were engaged in battle. And when they weren’t engaged in battle, they were mending their wounds, they were sharpening their swords, they were making sure their equipment worked right because if it didn’t, it would cost them their lives.
I want to tell you as a Christian soldier, it is not easy. It is hard and lonely and costly. If you are really going to follow Christ, here is what Jesus said, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.” What do you mean? That is exactly what He means. If you are going to follow Him, you have to deny self. You have to shoulder a cross and you have to follow Him wherever He leads, no matter how difficult it is going to be. And you are going to be stretched. Is it any wonder Paul would tell Timothy, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. You are going to be stretched to the place where you have to depend upon the resources of God and all that grace is going to offer. You will have to draw from His grace to be strengthened to endure hardship.
But he not only says endure hardship, look at it in Verse 4. Look at it. Endure hardship or 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.
So we not only endure hardship, but our aim is to avoid entanglements. No soldier gets involved in entanglements. What are entanglements? Those things that would distract us and keep us from being what God wants us to be. Our loyalty must be to the One who enlisted us. We can’t be distracted or deterred. We have got to be loyal to our Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He not only talks about enduring hardship and avoiding entanglements, but he also talks, look at it in Verse 8, of fixing our focus upon Christ. Look at what he says in Verse 8, “Remember Jesus Christ.” The Holman says it this way, “Consider Jesus.” Consider Christ Jesus, consider Jesus Christ. Remember Him. Risen from the dead, exalted, the offspring of David as preached in my gospel. You and I have a Commander in Chief that has gone on before us. He conquered death, hell and the grave. He is risen. He is exalted according to scripture. And so we ought to follow Him. Amen?
Let me share something with you. You can get distracted by focusing on peripheral things. You look around. Even people can distract you. But the Christian soldier makes up his mind not to be deterred or delayed or distracted. Here is what he does. He glances at those around him to make sure fellow soldiers are taken care of. But you know what he does? He fixes his gaze on Jesus Christ.
Is it any wonder the writer of Hebrews would say, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him as you endure such hospitality from sinners against yourself so that you might not be weary or faint in your hearts.” Listen, that is the key. Focus your attention on the One who called you because He will never let you down. He will be with you always. He will provide sufficient strength. He will equip and enable you to do all that He calls you to do, if you will only depend on Him.
The last thing the Christian soldier looks out for fellow soldiers. Look at it in Verse 10. He said, “I endure everything.” Why? “For the sake of the elect.” I endure everything. That old soldier of the cross, the Apostle Paul said, I endure all things not for my sake. I do it for the sake of the elect. And don’t let that word scare you. Here is what the elect means. It means all of those who are saved and all of those who are yet to be saved. That is why he endures hardship. That is why he avoids entanglements. That is why he seeks to please his commanding officer and fixes his gaze upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because there is a lost world at stake. And Paul knows that in the providence of God, some will be saved and so he says, I endure everything because some are going to be saved.
One man came to the end of his life…I am coming to a close…hear me. He said, I made two mistakes in life and both have been mathematical. I have misjudged the brevity of life and the length of eternity. Think about that for a moment. Every one of us are going to have to stand before God. Every one of us will have to give an account. We have had the privilege of laboring together with God. Have we invested in others? Have we shared and shown the love of Christ with everybody everywhere? Have we seen ourselves as a vessel that God can work through to accomplish His purposes?
The old anecdote says, many a life will soon be passed. Only what is done for Christ will last. Grant Taft was a coach that I admired back in the early 80s and late 70s. I was actually coaching while waiting to go to seminary and I had the opportunity when in Texas at seminary to hear Grant Taft speak at a coaches clinic. He talked about the great privilege it was to a Christian coach and his work in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and through a local church, he had the opportunity to do great things for God. And he had a platform and a venue to be able to do that. And he realized that ministry can become weary. And if you are not making it your main focus, yes, I am a coach, but God has given me this platform so that I can show and share the love of Christ. And he closed his talk as he challenged all of us who were believers to do just that, to make this a platform and use it this as an opportunity to share Christ with others. Here is what he said. I think it originated with Helen Keller, but Grant added a little bit to it. He said, “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And that which I ought to do, by God’s grace, I will do.” Think about that. You are only one, but you are one. You can’t do everything, but you can do something. And my prayer is that your prayer would be, God, by Your grace, I am going to do that which You called me to do.