By Giovanni Donato, Staff GBU Siena
A new academic year has begun and, like every year, the GBU has organized Formazione (Student Leaders Training Conference) – which is attended by all those who will be student leaders for GBU. This year, I was asked to preach from the book of 2 Timothy, which I was honored and pleased to do!
2 Timothy is probably one of the most suitable texts for such a retreat, the purpose of which is to exhort, train, and challenge the GBU coordinators (student leaders). I say this because that is precisely what Paul wishes to do with Timothy in writing of this letter, and every exhortation, every rebuke, every challenge that Paul issues to the young leader Timothy is easily applicable to young student leaders who are about to begin a new academic year with enthusiasm, but not without concerns.
In our four days together we were able to consider and meditate on the entire letter, however below I would just like to highlight two main lessons from 2 Timothy:
The call to Christian leadership is a call to suffering
Several times in the four chapters that make up 2 Timothy, Paul mentions the word suffering; he encourages the young leader to be ready to suffer for the sake of the gospel (1:8) and to patiently endure the suffering he will encounter in ministry (2:3, 4:5). Paul reminds Timothy that he too is suffering unashamedly for the sake of the gospel (1:12, 2:9), that he is also patiently enduring suffering for the sake of the elect (2:10), that his entire ministry has been marked by suffering (3:11); he informs him of the fact that he has been abandoned by all those who had been close to him up to that point (1:15, 4:9-10, 4:16) and how he had been violently attacked by someone whom he had until recently considered his friend (4:14-15). He makes it clear to Timothy that all who choose to be serious about God (“living piously”) will necessarily face persecution (3:12). Wow, put like that the call to leadership does not sound very inviting… However, Paul in this letter is not only saying that the call to leadership is only a call to suffering (thank God!), but it is also a glorious call!
The call to Christian leadership is a glorious call
In his letter, Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance, honor, and even beauty of serving God. He reminds Timothy that the holy call to serve the King of kings is not received because of good conduct, but solely because of the glorious grace of God (1:9) that has been manifested to the world through the appearance of our Savior Jesus Christ (1:10). He explains to him that such a glorious calling is worth suffering (1:12) and that God is the one who will uphold us by his power (1:8) and guard us carefully until the day when we can lay down our arms (1:12). He exhorts young Timothy to invest time and energy into people who would one day take his place so that the flame of the gospel could continue to stay burning and be passed on throughout the unfolding of history (2:2); he urges him to watch over, care for and protect the body of Christ (2:14, 3:1-9), watching over it with love, humility, patience and consistency (2:15-16, 2:22-25). He called on him to preach God’s inspired Word faithfully and passionately (4:2), to use the gifts God had given him (1:6), and to faithfully fulfill the service the Lord had entrusted to him (4:5) because at the end of this great adventure, entry into God’s heavenly kingdom (4:18a) and the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous judge, would award to all those who joyfully awaited Jesus’ return (4:8)
Through the study of this letter we were able to do what Paul desired to do with Timothy through the writing of this letter: to exhort young Christian leaders to faithfully serve the Lord, not to be surprised or upset when they encounter suffering in their journey, and to always remember that the holy call to serve King Jesus is a glorious call that has been given to us by the grace of God and for which it is worth even suffering and dying, waiting for the day when we will meet him in glory.
Happy New Year and happy service to all GBU coordinators and to all those in the body of Christ who hold leadership and responsibility!