Paul’s plan of discipleship was as simple as 2-2-2: that is, as simple as laid out in 2 Timothy 2:2! In this his final letter to his foremost disciple, the apostle wrote the following about his mentoring strategy: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” In this short sentence Paul lists as many as four generations of those who safeguard the faithful passing on of the Christian tradition:
- Generation #1: Paul the apostle
- Generation #2: Timothy
- Generation #3: Faithful men
- Generation #4: Others
Jesus, likewise, when uttering his final prayer as recorded in John’s Gospel, prayed, first for himself (John 17:1–5), then for his immediate followers (John 17:6–19), and then for those who would become disciples through their ministry (John 17:20–25). For both Jesus and Paul, therefore, the key to the successful spread of the Christian faith lay in multiplying faithful generations of Christian witnesses. This places a premium on faithfulness, for if any one generation is unfaithful, the chain of witnesses is broken, and the tradition distorted.
As Paul writes elsewhere, “A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries. In this regard, it is expected of managers that each one be found faithful” (2 Cor 4:1–2). And in Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants, the master commends his servant, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” (Matt 25:21).
In today’s culture faithfulness is a largely overlooked virtue. Flashiness typically triumphs over solid character; self-promotion over quiet, steady faithfulness; and “Christian celebrities” garner the lion’s share of attention while those who pastor small rural or inner-city churches or who labor in tucked-away assignments on the mission field go unheralded. Be it as it may—let us be comforted, and spurred on, by the fact that, in heaven one day, it will be faithfulness, not flashiness, that will be rewarded for those who’ve run the race with endurance.