Discipleship isn’t driven by our own ingenious gifts, but by God's incredible grace. Find out why and how Paul exhorted Timothy to find his strength precisely there as Pastor Travis preaches this second of eight messages from 2 Timothy 2:1-2.
Well, good morning. What a beautiful song we just sang. It is because Christ gave his life for us that we are willing and called to give our lives to him. That's the series that we're in for the next several weeks is "Intentional Discipleship for Normal People." The idea of Christ has given us a command. He's given his followers a command to make disciples, to make followers of Christ, and that is giving our life to him, making our lives about his life and his message. So we're going to continue that study today in this series.
Well, happy Mother's Day, moms. I'm so excited that we're in this series for the next eight weeks. What a fitting topic as we recognize the mothers in the room today to talk about discipleship because, moms, isn't that your greatest desire, that your kids would go on to live for God, that they would make Christ number one in their life, that they would live for him, that they would go on to represent him well throughout their lives whatever God calls them to do? I know for sure that's every mother's in this room desire is that their kids would love Jesus.
I bet we won't but I bet if we were to take a poll and ask everyone in the room who has had the biggest impact on you in your life, who has had the most spiritual significance in your life, if we were to ask that poll and say, "Name a name. Who has had the most spiritual significance in you? Who has discipled you throughout the majority of your life?" I'm confident the answer would be their mothers, our moms. Moms, you have worked tirelessly at pointing your kids towards Jesus and encouraging them to be active in church and active in reading their Bibles and active in prayer. Thank you. Thank you for tirelessly doing that. Thank you for working so hard at pointing your children towards Jesus every single day. Please know that your efforts are not in vain even if sometimes they feel like it's not accomplishing what you hoped, maybe you're not seeing the fruit in your kid's lives like you thought you would, maybe they have doubts or fears or questions that you're having a hard time answering. Thank you for continuing to point your kids towards Jesus. Please know that your effort is not in vain.
My prayer is that First Family Church as a whole would take the command to make disciples that Jesus gave his disciples in the end of the book of Matthew so seriously that it becomes our non-negotiable; that it becomes so normal at First Family Church that we expect it, that we expect to hear stories of who's being discipled and what's happening. That's my prayer. How awesome would it be that if at First Family Church every person that calls this church home could in one second answer the questions that were on the sheet that were handed to you last week. Do you remember that sheet? There was one on every one of your chairs this morning. Can you pull that sheet out real quick? If you weren't here last week, we gave you this little card and on the back of the card is two simple questions: who are you being discipled by and who are you discipling? It is our goal that at the end of this series, every single one of you has an answer to both of those questions. You know you have someone in your life who is actively discipling you and you have someone that you are actively discipling. That's our desire. It would be so great that if in seven weeks any one of us could come up to another person and say, "Hey, real quick, who is discipling you and who are you discipling?" and in a second you could answer that question. That's what it looks like for First Family Church to have discipleship be normal and that's our desire, for discipleship to be our non-negotiable.
Wouldn't that be awesome if we took it so seriously that for the rest of our lives we had answers to those questions? Maybe are you're trying to fill it out right now or you're thinking about names, maybe one of those two areas you're struggling with a little bit. Please know it's our leadership's job, we want to help you answer those questions. If you don't know who could be discipling you right now, you're looking for someone to disciple you, please let us know. We'd love to point you in that direction. For the vast majority of our church, you have a Lighthouse, right? You have a Lighthouse leader and they love and they want to be that disciple-maker in your life so ask them. Talk to them. For many of you, the vast majority according to our statistics, the vast majority of you are already involved in a ministry here at First Family Church so right now we have men and women discipling many of your children back in the children's ministry classrooms and aren't you grateful for that? That we don't call it babysitting back there, we call it discipleship. That's exactly what they're doing right now. Many of you are youth leaders of mine and every Wednesday night and Sunday night you have a small group of students and you are discipling those students. Sometimes it's just asking questions about a sermon or a lesson or asking them about life but that's discipleship. We want every one of our people to be actively discipling and I know you want that as well. You want that to be true of you.
I have said since I arrived here at First Family Church almost four years ago, as the youth pastor of First Family Church, if our youth ministry could ever become the best at something, I would want it to be discipleship. My desire is that every student in our youth group has an adult who cares about them and who is pointing them to Christ. More important to me than how many people show up on youth group nights or are we playing the most fun games or do we have the best worship band, is does every student who wants to be discipled being discipled? That's the goal and I'm so grateful for the adults in this room right now who are part of that youth ministry team who help me in that regard. Thank you. Thank you for pointing people towards Jesus. Thank you for thinking that kids are important. Thank you for investing your lives in children who will probably never say thank you.
But for the rest of our time today, we want to continue to study this incredible command to make disciples and ask God to help us become, 1, a church where discipleship is normal; and 2, to become people who are constantly pouring our lives into others. So if you have your Bibles, open up to 2 Timothy 2. For this eight week series, we're looking at two verses: 2 Timothy 2:1-2. Today we're specifically going to look at the source of discipleship. Where does the strength to disciple come from? How do we disciple? What's the strength that we have? What's our motivation to disciple? We're going to break out sermon up into two sections today. 1. The need for strength, and secondly, the source of the strength.
The need for strength. Let's start there. What is the need for our strength? Can I say it out loud? I feel like I can say it. I feel like I'm in a safe place. I'm going to say it out loud, is that okay? Discipleship is hard. Discipleship is scary. I said it. Oh, it feels so good to just say it out loud, to be able in the safety of friends to be able to say that out loud. It's hard. It's scary. It's difficult. I feel that so often and I'm a pastor. Can I say that out loud, that discipleship is hard and scary? I think if I can say it, you have the freedom to say it too. This topic is difficult, it's hard, it's heavy.
What do you guys think? Am I the only one in the room who feels the weight of this difficult task to make disciples? I think we all know that discipleship is the goal, right? We know the command found in the Great Commission, but actually doing it isn't easy. A couple of common reasons we don't disciple. I'm sure you have others but here's a couple that I came up with and I thought about this week. A couple reasons why we don't disciple. 1. Fear of failure. 2. Fear of rejection. 3. Feelings of inadequacy. Do you guys feel any of those? Do you fear those? What would you write down? If you were taking notes right now, jot down a couple of yours. What are things you feel when it comes to discipleship? Why don't you disciple as often as you'd like to or as intentionally as you would like to?
Fear of failure? Have you ever thought, "What if it goes poorly? What if I set up a meeting with somebody and we start meeting once a week and we start to meet and we meet at a coffee shop and it's just awkward? Like what if it doesn't go well? What if I'm not as smart as I need to be? Or what if I don't have all the answers? What if it's awkward? What if there's tension there? I don't think I can answer all their questions. I'd feel the fear of failure that I just won't be a good discipler."
What about the fear of rejection? Have you ever said this, "No one would want to meet with me for discipleship. Who's going to want to say yes to my invitation for discipleship? There are so many better disciples-makers out there, why would someone want to meet with me?" Do you ever feel that way?
Or the feelings of inadequacy. "I'm not qualified enough. I don't know enough. I don't have enough information. I'm not far along enough as a disciple of Christ myself. I'm not worthy. I'm not called. I'm not a pastor. I don't have a Bible degree. How can I ever disciple anybody? I'm inadequate to do that. I wouldn't know what to do with somebody who wanted to meet with me." Have you ever had that fear that somebody's actually going to ask you to disciple them and you're like, "Um, what would we do? You want to clean my house with me? I don't even know what that would look like."
If you do, if you feel any of these, I want you to know you're in really good company because Timothy got an entire letter addressed to him because his feelings and fears over discipleship. I think this book is so brilliant, it has so much to say to us today. And I want you to know, I don't know if this is of any help, but I feel those three things every single day even though it's my job to make disciples. I fear those three things every single day. I'm convinced I'm the most insecure person in the room. No matter if it's your kids, your neighbors, your coworkers, or even your best friend, discipleship is really really hard and scary and this is why God through Paul tells us how to gain strength in order to do this very difficult and terrifying task.
That's the section. That's the phrase we're going to look at today. "Timothy, you need strength. This is difficult. This is hard. You'd better toughen up. This isn't going to be easy." I want you to know right now as I was preparing for this sermon, God was flooding my mind with the people that discipled me. Names all week long have just been coming to my mind of people who discipled me, people who never gave up on me. I wish I could for the next half hour tell you those stories and those names and people who gave me a chance and who saw something in me, saw maybe potential in me. Maybe today as you're taking notes, write down those names. Write down names of people who discipled you, who didn't give up on you, who continually pointed you to Christ. Mom will probably be number 1, and then start listing all those other people that God used in your life. Many of them are adults, youth pastors. I think that's the reason I'm a youth pastor today is because my youth pastors cared about me. I'm so grateful.
I love in 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul is talking about who discipled Timothy and notice the names that he mentions. "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." Who discipled Timothy before Paul got his hands on him? His grandma and his mom. Man, what a story. How unbelievable. Do you know who is not mentioned in that text? Dad. That's just interesting. I don't have any observations except dad's not mentioned but grandma and mom are and Timothy is now the pastor of the church at Ephesus.
So let's look at our first phrase today. We're going to look at the phrase in our text which is, "be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus." The first part we're going to look at is "be strengthened." Todd mentioned this, he did a beautiful job last week of talking about the DNA of discipleship and noticing the phrase, "child," how Paul calls Timothy child. So I want to piggyback off that a little bit and talk about the phrase, "child, be strengthened."
Have you ever noticed that your dad would often say to you when you were growing up, or my dad at least, I don't know about your dad but, "Okay, child, be strong. Okay, Travis, time to be strong. Toughen up. Travis, you're going to need to be strong for this." And he would always say that right before he was going to ask me to do something difficult, usually yard work, and typically I came to hate those words or fear those words because I knew the very next thing that would come out of his mouth was something difficult, kind of brace yourself. My dad would say, "Alright, Travis, I need you to toughen up. I need you to be strong." Oh no, here we go. What's he going to ask? You brace yourself what's about to be said and this is the tone of our text today. "Child, be strong because the very next things out of my mouth are going to be difficult. It's going to be hard."
This week I had to take my youngest child, Finn, to the doctor to get vaccinations. My greatest fear is blood and needles so that's never a fun experience so I had to give myself the pep talk. "Okay, Travis, be strong. You've got this." Even though I'm not getting the vaccinations, this is my worst nightmare so I told him just moments before the nurse came in to give him the shots, "Okay, buddy, okay, child, I'm gonna need you to be tough. You're gonna get a couple pokes but be strong. Be strengthened because afterwards we're gonna go to Starbucks and you are gonna get a chocolate chip cookie bigger than your face. You can do this. Be strong," because I'm the one crying. "This is terrible. These nurses are so mean." So I was encouraging myself because I got Starbucks too as a reward but so did he.
It's interesting too as I was studying this text, this phrase, "be strong," is all throughout Scripture. Bible students, right, as you've been reading your Bible, as you've grown up and learned your Bible, think about it real quick. You could probably name a couple. Think of times in the Scriptures where the phrase "be strong" is in the Bible. It's all over the place. I was amazed that that simple phrase is all over Scripture. Can I tell you a few? Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses tells Israel, these are his final words to Israel and Moses tells Israel to be strong because his death is near and yet they have a lot of difficult situations still ahead and that God will not leave them or forsake them. He says, "Be strong instead of fearing, even though I, Moses, am going away."
What about Joshua 1:9? You know this one. Joshua is going to have to invade the land of Canaan with just a bunch of unprepared Israelite warriors and there God tells Joshua, "Joshua, be strong and courageous," for he will be with him wherever he goes.
1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul's final words to the Corinthian church in his first letter to them after discussing the very difficult times that they live in, he tells them to be strong and not give up the good fight of living for God. In spite of all the difficult culture, don't give up living for God. You're going to need to be strong because the times are tough.
What about Ephesians 6:10. Paul encourages the church in Ephesians to be strong and then explains that they are fighting against the schemes of the devil and his demons and that they'd better armor up because the fight is so difficult. Right before the armor of God, Paul tells that church, "You're going to need to be strong. You're fighting against Satan and his demons."
A couple of passages we just looked at in our Kings series. 2 Samuel 10:12, Joab tells his best soldiers to be strong and courageous right in the midst of a battle where they are completely surrounded. They're completely surrounded and Joab says, "Time to go to fight. Let's toughen up. Be tough. Have strength."
And the last one, 1 Kings 2:2, David tells Solomon right before David is about to die to be strong. "Solomon, you are now the new king of Israel. You are replacing the legend. Don't be afraid. Be strong."
So before we move any further, let's understand why Paul is telling Timothy at this time in our text what's going on. In 2 Timothy why does Paul tell Timothy, "You need to be strong"? What's going on in the context today? This verse is very similar to the stories we just looked at. Paul has just placed Timothy as the pastor of the famous church in Ephesus. Talk about a tough act to follow, Paul planted Ephesus and now Timothy is replacing Paul. The church that Paul planted and now Paul is away, longingly loving the church there, Ephesus, and he's writing letters to the new young senior pastor, Timothy, saying, "Good luck. It's going to be tough."
Paul's encouraging Timothy to fix the problems that are in the church and then throughout the two letters, he tells us many of the problems that are at this church that Paul planted. 1. Doctrinal errors. Bad theology had crept into the church. Paul was away, kind of the gate-keeper of theology. While Paul was away bad theology had crept in and now this young pastor has got to deal with all the bad theology and he says, "Be tough. You're going to have to handle all the wrong doctrine." 2. Sinful living. While Paul was away, unrepentant carnal people had come to the church and started to affect it and started to shift it and change it and have it direct in a false way, in a wrong way. "Timothy, you're going to have to deal with the sinful living that's inside your church." Then the last one is poor leadership. While Paul was away, wicked men with bad motives had crept into the leadership of the church. They weren't just attending, they were applying to be elders and deacons and they had been accepted in. So now you have wicked carnal men with bad motives who are in leadership and Paul is telling Timothy, "Those are yours. These are the things you need to deal with. Be strong, Timothy, because these are very difficult tasks that need to be handled." Oh and by the way, do all of this in the midst of difficult cultural times. Let's not forget what's going on in Rome during this time. Persecution from the Roman government; followers of Christ are being put to death for not worshiping Caesar as Lord; and Nero is at the peak of his reign. So you've got cultural nightmares and you've got a church that's in a really bad place doctrinally, leadership, carnal living, and young Timothy gets thrown right in the middle of it. "Okay, buddy, good luck. Deal with all that. You're going to need to be strong."
Paul is telling Timothy, "Difficult times are ahead, a difficult task is at hand. Be strong. Take heart. Get ready. What I'm about to ask you to do is no small feat." And as true as these words are to Timothy, so these words are true for us today. Difficult days are ahead and a difficult task is at hand. We must be strong. We must take heart. We must get ready. Now no doubt our specific circumstances are different than Timothy's, Moses', Joshua's, Joab's and David's, but in general circumstances are exactly the same. We are in a very difficult culture with a very difficult task, right? Those are the same: difficult culture, difficult task and Christ is saying to us today, "Be strengthened, members of First Family Church in Ankeny. I want you to make devoted followers of Christ in a culture that is actively making devoted followers of vanity, money, fame, success, and happiness. Good luck. It's not going to be easy. You're fighting against a culture that is making disciples." Have you ever noticed that? Everyone makes disciples, right? It's just what do they make them disciples of. Whatever you love, you're making disciples of that and in the middle of that, our call is to make disciples of Christ. To not make disciples of vanity, money, fame, success or happiness, to make disciples of Christ.
Alright, let's look at the second part: the source of our strength. Let's look at this idea of where this source, where this strength comes from. If we have a difficult task in a difficult culture, how do I tap into this strength to do something I'm terrified of doing, something very difficult? If you know anything about Timothy, his nickname is Timid Timothy. That's who he is. That's his character. That's what we know a little bit about him and yet Paul tells him he can do something very difficult.
One thing we know about sources is that they matter, don't they? The source of the strength in general, source matters. Where something comes from is very important. That has to do with quotes, that has to do with social media, and that has to do with water. Water is a necessity for life, isn't it, but we all know that the source of water matters. Water isn't the goal, good safe water is the goal. All the time we buy bottled water even though it is primarily the same water that comes out of your tap. Have you ever studied that, looked into that? Research says we pay 2,000 times more for bottled water than tap even though the majority of it is no different than what comes out of the tap. The filtration is similar. So why do we do this? Why do we pay 2,000 times more for bottled water than tap water? Convenience, for sure; you get a little bottle. And secondly, because we believe that the source matters. Even if we don't know the source of the bottled water, the very fact that it was shipped in a container gives us a little piece of mind.
This one is kind of funny. There is a water bottle company called Everest. Have you ever seen it? Everest Water and on the label is Mount Everest and it has a little stream flowing from the top of Mount Everest right into your bottle. Right, like, how awesome is that? I'm drinking water that's filtered from the pure rocks of Mount Everest, right? Like rain into my cup, it's beautiful, right? And it sounds like it comes from Mount Everest but actually if you look at the label, the water comes from Corpus Christi, Texas. The water doesn't come from the streams from the top of Mount Everest at all. The water comes from the majestic Gulf of Mexico and it is the number one producing water company in the nation but we buy it because we believe that source matters. I think that's pretty humorous.
You see, Timothy desperately needs strength in order to accomplish his task but the source of his strength matters. If he gets his strength from the wrong place, he might feel strong but his strength will fail him when he needs it the most. So what is the source of strength that we need? What equips followers of Christ? What equips Timid Travis in order to make followers of Christ? How do I become strong for the task of making disciples? Where does that strength come from? What strength will help me and you to make followers of Christ for our entire lifetime, 80+ years? Where does that strength come from? So we're going to look at a few possible sources of strength and show you how they fail ultimately.
So number one, a possible source of strength are muscles. Strength does come with muscles. So does Timothy need to hit the gym? Is that what Paul's command to Timothy is, to be a man, hit the gym? Maybe if Timothy is physically strong enough the false teachers will leave the church, they'll walk away, right? "Like did you see those guy's guns? I'm outta here." Maybe the sinners will stop sinning if they're intimidated by their bulky senior pastor, or maybe the bad elders of the church will be intimidated and leave. Maybe the Roman soldiers won't arrest him if he's strong enough. Is that what he needs? No. That isn't the strength Timothy needs. Muscles are good for heavy lifting or a bar fight but not necessary for discipleship. Isn't that true?
If you notice in the text, it doesn't say, "O child, I hope you are strong." It says, "O child, be strengthened." This verb is in the passive tense. Whatever this strength is Timothy needs, it doesn't come from something he can do, it comes from something that happens to him. It's passive. It doesn't say be strong, it says be strengthened. It will happen to you.
What about effort? Is effort the strength that Timothy needs? Does the text say, "Timothy, you will be a really good pastor if you just work 23 hours a day. Just get to work. Tons of hours. That's the goal." No. He will tell Timothy in just a couple of verses to work hard. He's going to tell Timothy he needs to be like a farmer. He's going to tell Timothy he needs to be like a soldier. And he's going to tell Timothy to be like an athlete. But this will come after Paul tells him where his strength really comes from. You see, you don't just send a soldier into war, you send him to boot camp so that he can be strengthened for the difficult task at hand. You don't just send a kid into a ballgame. He goes to practice first. So Timothy before he goes into battle needs to receive his strength before he gets busy working.
What about guilt? Guilt works, doesn't it? Isn't that a decent source for strength? Does Paul ask Timothy, "Hey, Timothy, how many disciples have you made already? What's that number? Really, that's it? Wow, I guess you don't love Jesus much, Timothy. I kind of expected more. Remember when I planted the church, we had people coming to Christ all the time. How are you doing, Timothy?" No, that's not what he says. As pastors, we talk a lot about how we have to be very careful of not guilting people into doing things. The problem with guilt is it works, it just doesn't last. When you guilt someone into doing something, you usually see instant results, right? We're experts at this. We can figure out how to get results but we want results that last, but because guilt has no strength, the results are always short-lived. You see, guilt is like sugar, you feel strong and motivated for about five minutes and then you crash and feel worse than you ever did. Guilt is not the goal. Guilt is not the motivation.
What about fear or adrenaline? You see, fear is very similar to guilt. Fear can produce strength, right, adrenaline? It can. For a very short time, you're very strong but a lot of time fear produces the exact opposite of strength. Fear many times just produces weak hiding people who are hoping just not to die.
Growing up when we would talk about the need for evangelism, youth pastors are great at talking about the need for evangelism, many times my youth pastor would use fear as a tactic to motivate, right? He would say, "If you don't share the Gospel, your best friend will be in hell asking, 'Travis, why didn't you tell me about Jesus?'" And many times that worked. I would leave the room passionate about my lost friends, I would look for those conversations that needed to be had, I would go to school the next day motivated to share the Gospel at my lunch table, but other times, probably more often, it only made me more afraid because of the significance of the next conversation. Maybe that's because I'm timid but the higher the bar was, the more intense the need and the responsibility, the more afraid I became and instead of producing adrenaline or excitement, it produced more timidity. I just became more afraid.
So what is the source of the motivation of the strength Paul needs? Instead the motivation that Paul gives young Timothy is good news. Interesting. Think about this: what Paul tells Timothy is the source of the strength he needs is good news. Lasting strength to make disciples only comes from good news. Let me explain this real quick. Just as a good coach knows how to motivate his players to play at their best, so the good news of the Gospel is the motivation that motivates Christians to be disciple-making people for their good and God's glory. Good news has the ability to make timid people like Timothy into pastors of churches.
The rest of our time this morning, I just want us to again be told the amazing good news of the Gospel that motivates scared intimidated people like us into bold disciple-making warriors like Paul. Do you ever do that, you look at Paul, you look at his character, you study him a little bit, and you just kind of put him a category of crazy, right? Like there are Pauls out there, there just aren't many. His boldness and his excitement for the Gospel, his willingness to go to the most difficult places and open his mouth, his willingness to go into controversial places and have theological conversations, that is amazing, those are just Pauls and I sure am not one of them. I think that's false. I think what is true about the Gospel is the Gospel is such good news that it takes timid people and makes them bold as we'll see in just a second.
You see, the good news of the Gospel can be summarized in one word which is grace which is the word he uses, 2 Timothy 2:1, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace." That's the source. You want strength to do something difficult? You need to know the good news of grace. So what is grace? You know this. You've heard this definition before. The definition of grace is getting something you didn't earn being received as a gift. That's what grace is, the good news of a gift. You've been given something and you did nothing to earn it. That's the definition of grace. One definition I've heard of grace is that grace is other-worldly because it doesn't exist in America. No one gifts you with something you didn't deserve. Grace is other-worldly, it only comes from God and that's really good news.
"Timothy, you know what strengthens you to do this difficult impossible task?" Paul says to Timothy, "Grace. The good news of grace. Timothy, when you understand that the thing that you are most afraid of can't harm you, you will be motivated. You will have strength. Timothy, when you understand that you have been given more than you could ever hope for or imagine, then you'll be strong. Timothy, when you understand that it can't be taken away, that the love of God can never leave you no matter what happens to you, no matter what Rome does to you, no matter what your friends do to you, if they stab you in the back, the love of God can never be taken away from you. That will motivate you. Timothy, when you realize that you have been given the only thing you really need, the love from the Father, then you'll be strong. Timothy, when you realize that the victory has already been won, that your greatest enemies, sin, death and Satan, have already been defeated, then you'll be strong. Timothy, there is nothing to fear. Even though you live in a difficult church, in a difficult society, and everyone seems to be your enemy, please know this: you have nothing to fear. Timothy, you have no reason to fear anything if you remember the grace that you have received. But if you forget, if you forget the good news of the Gospel, then you will be terrified and petrified and never move a muscle."
That's been so true of my life. When I remember the Gospel, the good news that God has accomplished everything for me, those are the moments in my life where I've been the most bold and it's those moments where I think everything's on my shoulders, when I think I've got to carry this and I've got to accomplish this and I've got to do this and people are looking to me, those are the moments I'm the least bold, I'm the most afraid, I'm the most timid, I'm the most insecure because when I look at myself, I don't see much of someone who can accomplish great things. But when you remember the Gospel, it changes the emphasis.
I think one of the most difficult stories to read but the most beautiful story to read in all of Scripture is found in Acts 7. It's the story of the stoning of Stephen. Are you familiar with that story in Acts 7? In this story, we have a terrifyingly scary situation. Stephen is incredibly bold because he understands the grace of God. He understands the Gospel and becomes this crazy bold evangelist, maybe more bold than Paul who at this time is Saul who is the very one that kills Stephen. He's crazy bold. He learns the Gospel. He becomes an evangelist. He's sharing the good news of the Gospel to his enemies and this situation causes them to grind their teeth at him, the text says, and they pick up stones. But miraculously, we have a very calm and bold Stephen. Think about the circumstances. Your enemies hate you. You're preaching the Gospel at them and they pick up stones and in this story we see a calm Stephen continually proclaiming the Gospel in spite of these terrifying circumstances.
The passage reads this way, "Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep." What caused that in young Stephen? What was it that gave Stephen, who was in the most difficult circumstances ever, there is not a more difficult circumstance than a bunch of people throwing stones at you, what caused him to be calm, bold and ridiculously strong in the midst of the worst circumstances? He saw Jesus. He saw Christ. He remember the Gospel. He understood and remembered the one who received a similar beating for his sake. He remember how Christ died on a cross for his sins. It was the grace of God that caused Stephen to be bold.
You see, great strength comes from great news. Stephen saw the resurrected Christ. Boldness only comes from confidence. Stephen knew he would be with Christ soon. And courage comes from assurance. You see, the grace we have received gives us all three of those things. Are you a timid person? You don't need muscles. You don't need effort, you need grace. You need to understand the Gospel.
But we can never end a sermon just talking about grace, we have to end our sermon talking about how we received this grace. We did not just receive this amazing gift from someone and it cost them nothing, right? God did not just as a benevolent God just pass down grace. That's not the story of the Bible. God is not just gracious and just throw out grace to all who wanted it. That's not the story of the Bible. The beauty of the grace that we received is the story of how we received it. The source of the grace that we have received is the person of Jesus Christ. That's how the phrase ends, chapter 2, verse 1, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus." I'm so glad the verse doesn't just stop with, "be strengthened by the grace." It points us to the story. The gift of the good news of grace only comes from the person of Jesus Christ. The verse very specifically points to where grace is found.
Now I might be meddling here for a second. I apologize. But I think the word "grace" is being misused in the church a lot today. You hear the word "grace" a lot today. It's in almost every worship song. It's everywhere. The word "grace" is everywhere right now and that's a really good thing. Many churches today talk a lot about grace but the problem is a lot of churches today are talking very little about the cross. "God is very gracious, let's not tell you the story about the cross." They're separating the two as if you could separate the two. Please understand, there is no cross, there's no grace. Does that make sense? There is no cross, there is no grace.
Notice how Paul specifically connects this word "grace" to a person instead of just throwing the word out there. Notice that Paul doesn't just say, "God loves you," but he reminds you that God loves you by telling you a story. Because of the sacrifice of his Son, that's how you've received grace. It's only when we know the story of the cross that we will know the grace of God. The only reason there is grace towards us is because of the wrath of God that was poured out on Jesus instead of us. That's the grace of God. If we separate grace from the cross of Jesus Christ, you will get billions of people who will walk very confidently right into the gates of hell. God is gracious but only if they understand the cross and no cross, no grace. This is why every week at FFC we tell you about the love of God through the person of Jesus Christ as told in the pages of Scripture.
So let's conclude this today and let's help us summarize the strength that we need, the source of the strength. The strength that Timothy needed in order to lead this very difficult church during a very difficult culture was to constantly be reminded that just a few years ago Jesus Christ loved him so much he endured the cross to free him from sin, death and Satan. Timothy no longer had anything to fear because his three greatest enemies had already been defeated by the grace of God: sin, death and Satan. Timothy no longer has anything to fear so he could boldly and confidently lead his church towards making of disciples who loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
First Family Church, today you no longer have anything to fear because your three greatest enemies have already been defeated by the grace of God through the cross of Christ. Sin, death and Satan are dead. You and I no longer have anything to fear so we can boldly and confidently lead people towards becoming disciples who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
So real quick, here's our application today. Pick up that card. Take that card that we put on your chairs that asks you: who are you discipling? That's what I want to wrestle with today, that question of who are you discipling. Maybe right now as you think about some names, you could write down a couple that maybe you're afraid to have that conversation with.
I was having a conversation with our Lighthouse this week and they asked: can we put our kids' names on there? Your kids' names better be the first names you wrote down there. Yes. Yes, your kids count. Please write your kids' names on there but also consider other people. Consider people that maybe you've thought about, you've wondered about, maybe God has led this person's name to your heart and you've been praying over them. Today please take some time and write down a couple of names as prayer requests. You don't have to turn these cards in today. Some of you are rule followers and really good at school and you love to hand in the correct answers. That's great. You don't have to do that today. Our question we ask for you today is to just pray. Write down a few names and ask God for courage to be a part of the disciple-making in that person's life.
Who would those names be? Is it a child? Is it a coworker? Is it a neighbor. Is it your best friend? Are you afraid to write that name down there right now? That's okay, you're in good company, so was Timothy. Do you fear rejection? Failure? Or feelings of inadequacy? So did Timothy. Today my prayer for you is that you would understand and be strengthened by remembering the grace that is in Jesus Christ and as you are reminded by that amazing grace, you would with boldness love those people who are on your list and daily point them to the same grace.
A simple phrase that has helped me remember what discipleship is, this has benefited me a lot. Do you know what discipleship is? It's one beggar pointing another beggar towards bread. I love that. That takes the emphasis off of me and puts it on the bread. All I am is a beggar in need of grace. Guess what you are? A beggar in need of grace. Do you know what I know? Where the bread is. That's my job in discipleship. That's your job. Point people towards bread. I don't know all the answers but I know this is the source of life. I know that this book points us to King Jesus, the one who lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, accomplished what you needed, the wrath of God, so that you could have a right relationship with him.
So pray that question, "God, who would you lay upon my heart? Who can I be involved in? I want to obey the Great Commission. I want to be a part of setting this world on fire with disciples who love you and who go to the ends of the world to make other disciples." Please remember this, church: failure isn't an option. Christ has already defeated sin, death and Satan. The only way you fail is by not discipling. You don't need a magical discipleship guide or book, just constantly meet with somebody and study the word of God together. Are you afraid of rejection? If you are rejected by man, you have no need to worry because you have already been accepted by the only one that really matters. You feel insufficient, inadequate? That's okay. The one you're discipling doesn't need you, they don't need you to be perfect, they just need you to point them to the one who is perfect.
And final words to moms: happy Mother's Day. Thank you for discipling your children. One simple reminder to you: the greatest thing you can ever do as a mom is to daily remind your children of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Be like Paul to Timothy. Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Moms, don't give up. When you do nightly devotions, every single night they don't seem to get it, when every time at the dinner table you're telling them about what you learned in your Bible study that day and it feels monotonous, it feels like you're just spinning your wheels and not seeing a life change, don't give up. Keep persevering. God has granted you with the opportunity to be involved in those kids' lives. He has blessed you with the Gospel. Share that Gospel with your children, your neighbors, your coworkers and this is the result. God uses the preached word to transform lives. That's why I have the confidence to stand up here because it's not me, it's the word of God.
We hope you enjoyed today's message. For more messages, visit firstfamily.church/sermons or subscribe to our podcast feed. Thanks for listening.