God On Film 2010 part 5
The Sorcerer's Apprentice: The Qualities of a Worthy Apprentice
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 1, 2010

When Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [Yo-hawn Wolfgaung von Goo-tah] wrote a ballad in 1797, he could have never conceived that 100 years later in 1897 it would be turned into a symphonic poem. Then in 1940 into a Walt Disney cartoon in the Fantasia collection of animated shorts. Sixty years after that, the Disney version was restored and included in Fantasia 2000. And now, in 2010, it’s been made into a full length live action movie starring Nicolas Cage.

I’m talking, of course, about The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And by the way, there was also a Tiny Toons spoof of it, an Atari 2600 game back in 1983, and in the world of computers, there’s even a particularly bad network protocol flaw named after it; it’s called the Sorcerer’s Apprentice Syndrome.

So that 213 year old 14 verse ballad has had some legs, hasn’t it? Now, if you haven’t seen the movie, then the version you’re probably the most familiar with is the original Fantasia version. In that short segment from that movie 70 years ago, Mickey Mouse played the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And when the sorcerer went away, Mickey was left behind to do some cleaning. So he thought he’d experiment a little and he cast a spell on a broom to get it to do the cleaning for him. But things get out of control and he ends up with a whole lot of brooms and a whole lot of pails and a whole lot of water all over.

That was basically the story from the original ballad, too. And the new movie includes a similar scene in it. And of course, to make it into a full length movie, the story had to be expanded and so there’s a bigger story connected to it.

In it, Nicolas Cage plays a sorcerer named Balthazar who had been trained by Merlin himself, and before he died Merlin gave him the responsibility to find his successor who would be able to defeat the evil sorceress Morgana.

And so, for hundreds of years, he searches until he finally finds him; an awkward 20 year-old nerd named Dave. There’s a girl involved, too, so there is a love story component, but the main part of the story involves Balthazar taking this kid Dave as his apprentice and training him to be Merlin’s successor.

Of course, there are some bumps along the way, and Dave fights against being trained for a while, but Balthazar takes him under his wing and shows him how it’s done, and eventually he emerges as a worthy apprentice and is ready to take on Morgana.

And that’s all I’m telling you. If you want to know the rest, you’ll have to see the movie.

But what I want to talk about this morning is what it means to be a worthy apprentice. What are some of the qualities that made Dave a worthy apprentice? And to find out, we’re going to look at another apprentice in the pages of the Bible: Timothy.

How did Paul train Timothy? Well, just like Balthazar took Dave under his wing, Paul took Timothy under his wing. They traveled throughout the Mediterranean area spreading the Good News about Jesus, Paul lived his life out in front of Timothy, and he showed him the ropes. Even when they were separated when Paul was imprisoned, Paul continued to teach and train and encourage him through letters, two of which are included in our New Testament. In fact, according to tradition, Paul eventually ordained Timothy as the bishop of Ephesus where he served for 15 years.

Timothy was a very important apprentice for Paul, and a key figure in the early Church. But why? Why did Paul choose Timothy in the first place? What caught Paul’s attention and told him that Timothy had such great potential?

Well, that’s what we’re talking about this morning. We’re going to take a closer look at Timothy and identify four of the character traits that made him such a great apprentice… traits that you and I need to develop in our lives in order to be fully devoted followers of Christ. If we are going to truly be His apprentices—and make no mistake, that’s what we are called to be—then we need these traits in our own lives.

An apprentice should be a person of…

1.    Integrity

In the movie, the apprentice had to learn how to focus. When he was distracted and fearful and divided, he was powerless. And he had to learn to eliminate everything that was holding him back. And really, that’s what integrity is all about.

It’s one of those words that’s being used more and more. Do you know where it comes from? It comes from the Latin integritās, which is also the root word for integer. You all remember your junior high school math, don’t you? Do you remember what an integer is?

Here. You tell me which of these numbers is an integer. (19, ¾, 27.3) If you answered 19, then you answered correctly. An integer is a whole number, 1, 5, 19, 32, 111, 1,324,567. An integer is not written as a fraction like ½ or ¾ or like a decimal such as 27.3. It’s a whole number, not fragmented in any way. So integrity suggests a wholeness, a completeness, a oneness.

Another word that shares the same root is integrated. And so we could say that integrity is when all aspects of your life are integrated, meaning they are all working together as a whole.

You see, God wants his people to function as whole people. He doesn’t want us to be divided people with divided loyalties. We should have no duplicity. God wants us to be people of integrity, with a single-minded loyalty to Him. Remember what Jesus said…

Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

And that’s why polygamy is a bad idea.

Jesus says you can’t serve two masters. And you can’t do that because your loyalty will be divided… fragmented. You’ll be pulled in separate directions and eventually you’ll have to choose. So as a Christ-follower, integrity means wholeness… a wholeness between your beliefs and your behaviour, between your creed and your character. A person with integrity has consistency… what he believes is how he acts. What she says is what she will do.

Timothy was a man of integrity. And because of that, Paul held Timothy in very high esteem. In fact, because of Timothy’s care and compassion, Paul told the church in Philippi…

Philippians 2:20 (NLT)
I have no one else like Timothy…

I’ve had people say that about me, too, but I’m not sure they meant it in a positive way. But Paul was very positive about Timothy. He was the best there was. There was no one else like Timothy.

Because of his integrity, Timothy had become a man Paul could trust. Why? Because Timothy was a man who had integrated his faith into every area of his life. That is what made him a man of integrity.

Integrity means that you are who you appear to be. There’s no deception, no double standard, no false masks you put on to impress people. You are who you are. And as far as the Christian life is concerned, being a person of integrity means that your faith is foundational to how you live your life. It’s not just reserved for one fragment of your life; it’s essential to who you are.

Proverbs 11:20 (NLT)
The Lord hates people with twisted hearts, but he delights in those who have integrity.

Now, for a lot of people who claim to be Christians, the sad fact is that they do not live any differently than people who do not claim to know Christ. Their faith has not made them faithful. It seems that faith for them resides in the realm of the theoretical rather than the practical. And so their faith makes no difference in their lives. And so they make no difference in the world.

But Timothy was different. He was a man Paul could count on. He was a fully devoted follower of Christ and it was reflected in his life of integrity.

The second trait we see in Timothy is…

2.    Devotion

By this, I mean he was devoted to Paul and his teachings. He was willing to learn, he had a teachable spirit, and he put himself in a position to learn all he could by following Paul. Paul summed this up when he described Timothy…

Philippians 2:22 (NLT)
But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has helped me in preaching the Good News.

He had proven himself to be like a son to Paul. And what would a son be doing with his father at this point in history? He’d be learning the family business. He’d be devoted to learning the trade and carrying on the work. He would be an apprentice to his father. And that’s what Timothy became like for Paul. Like a son devoted to his father and his father’s business.

In the movie, Dave makes a commitment to being trained by Balthazar. And once he committed himself, there was no going back. He was devoted to learning and growing as a sorcerer.

Now, what we’re really talking about here is discipleship. To be a disciple is to be a follower, a learner, an apprentice. If you are someone’s apprentice, then you walk alongside them and see how they live, and then you begin to emulate that in your own life. For me to be an apprentice or a disciple of Jesus, it means that I make a serious effort by God’s grace to walk as He walked and live as He lived. I devote myself to learning from Him and carrying on His work. His life must become a pattern for mine if I am to be a fully devoted follower of His.

Well, when you read through the New Testament, you discover that Jesus welcomed people to become His disciples when He said…

Mark 1:17 (NIV)
“Come, follow me.”

And Paul had a similar invitation when inviting people to become his disciples…

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

It’s all about following and watching and learning and applying. And just so you understand, I’m not talking about being a super-Christian here. This is what we’re all called to. There aren’t different levels of disciples; we are all called to become fully devoted followers of His.

Now, Jesus and Paul weren’t the only ones with apprentices, or disciples. May of the religious leaders of the day had their own set of apprentices. Usually what would happen was this: at a young age, a boy would start studying and memorizing the Scriptures. And by the time he was, say, 12 years old, he would have much of what is our Old Testament memorized. You think I’m crazy when I suggest memorizing a verse or two; try memorizing entire books of the Bible!

Well, when a 12 year old boy had done all that studying and memorizing, he would then apply to become a disciple. He would go and appear before a great master, and would try to convince the master that he would make a great apprentice. And to be chosen as an apprentice was a great honour. So there were many people seeking to become an apprentice and only so many masters to study under. And so the end result was that only the best of the best actually made it as an apprentice. Everyone else was passed by, and typically ended up working in the family business as we talked about earlier.

Now contrast that with what Jesus and eventually Paul did. Jesus didn’t wait for people to appear before him to seek an apprenticeship. And He didn’t require that they prove that they are the best of the best. He went to them, and he called them to follow Him.

Think about this. These men were long past the age when they would typically be accepted as an apprentice, and so had gone on to work in their family business. For example, when Jesus called James and John, what were they doing? They were mending the nets on a fishing boat that belonged to their father, Zebedee.

Hey, did you ever wonder what their last name was? I like to think it could have been Dooda. You know, Zebedee Dooda. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Anyway, the fact that these grown men were working on their father’s boat would indicate that they never stood a chance of becoming an apprentice. Either they had never studied and learned the Scriptures or they simply didn’t measure up and were passed over by the Rabbis. Either way, they weren’t considered to be the best of the best.

But then along comes Jesus, and He personally invites these fishermen to leave what they’re doing and follow Him. What an honour! I mean, I feel a little sorry for Zebedee because he just lost two of his staff. But still, what an honour. Jesus is in essence telling them that He believes in them… He believes they are the best of the best. And they don’t approach Him… He goes to them. And so they devoted themselves from that moment on to learning from Jesus, becoming like Him, and carrying on His work.

Now consider Timothy. Timothy had just recently become a Christian because of the ministry of Paul. And so when Paul offered him an apprenticeship, he devoted himself to learning from this man of God and modeling his life after Paul’s. Paul taught him, challenged him, and even corrected him—perhaps even rebuked him a time or two.

I don’t think most Christians today would tolerate a good rebuke. If people are corrected or rebuked today, often they simply move on to another church. They’re offended, so they basically take their marbles and go home.

But having a spirit of devotion means you’re committed to learning and growing, even when it’s not fun and you’re not comfortable, you’re willing to be stretched and challenged. And sometimes that can even mean being rebuked and corrected, because that’s part of the process of growing and developing as disciples. But you’ve got to have that spirit of devotion.

There’s a third character trait we see in Timothy…

3.    Selflessness

In The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Dave is willing to give up his life to defeat Morgana and save the world. He was selfless. Timothy was also selfless. In fact, tradition tells us that his 15 years of serving as the bishop of Ephesus was ended when he was stoned to death for standing up for what is right and opposing the worship of idols.

Philippians 2:20-21 (NLT)
I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.

Timothy was selfless. And that was a result of Jesus being his top priority. He was reflecting the nature and character of Christ in his life. Paul had taught him that. Timothy was selfless, while as Paul points out many other were selfish.

It’s much the same in our day, isn’t it? In fact, selfishness is now considered to be a virtue in many places. “Look out for number one. Demand your rights. Don’t take anything off of anyone. Greed is good.” You see this throughout our society. People only seem to care about what’s in it for them.

In fact, when you meet someone who is not selfish, you are almost shocked. And if you were to meet someone who went out of his or her way to help you, you might begin to wonder what ulterior motive they might have had for doing it. You’ll wonder what they’re up to. What’s their agenda? What are they trying to hide? Who are they trying to impress? What’s in it for them? That’s the way we think about selflessness because we live in a world of selfish people.

But as followers of the One who laid His life down even for His enemies, we should reflect His love and compassion for others. We should count it an honour to go out of our way for someone else. After all, isn’t that what he would do?

Romans 15:2-3 (NLT)
We should please others. If we do what helps them, we will build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t please himself.

And the final trait that we’re going to look at this morning as evidenced in the life of Timothy is…

4.    Endurance

In the movie, for both Balthazar and his apprentice, every time they got knocked down they got back up. They had endurance… a stick-to-itness. Let’s go back to a verse we looked at earlier…

Philippians 2:22 (NLT)
But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has helped me in preaching the Good News.

Timothy proved himself. How? By sticking with Paul and working alongside him. Sounds simple, but think about the things that Paul had to go through. He was mocked, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, thrown into prison, struck blind… In fact, I’ve read that there are over 200 times recorded in the Bible that Paul faced some kind of hardship or personal pressure. Paul himself wrote…

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 (NLT)
I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along.

Man, Paul says on top of all that he also had to worry about how the church was getting along. I’m with you there, buddy. Here’s a quote I found in a book this week…

“I’m convinced that anyone who would willingly become a pastor must have either a divine call or an intelligence deficit.”
~ Geoff Surratt
10 Stupid Things that Keep Your Church from Growing, p. 9

I’ll let you make up your own minds which one it is.

So Paul went through all this stuff and carried all these burdens. And through much of it, Timothy was right there with him. And he stuck it out. He persevered. He never gave up. He endured. And he had learned this perseverance and endurance from Paul himself. Paul wrote…

2 Corinthians 4:9 (NLT)
We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.

Timothy had this kind of endurance. Without endurance, Timothy could not have become the man he was––a man of integrity, a devoted follower of Christ, with a selfless concern for others. Timothy hung in there, and he refused to throw in the towel and quit.

Endurance is absolutely essential for you and me if we hope to follow Jesus, because there will be times that it gets tough. There will be times when we feel like giving up. There will be times of temptation. There will be times of testing. Satan will attack us. People will oppose us. We will even disappoint ourselves. And at times like those, we will feel like quitting. That’s when we need this quality of endurance. The Apostle Peter wrote…

2 Peter 1:6 (NLT)
…Patient endurance leads to godliness.

The quality of endurance will allow us to be effective and productive in our walk with Christ, and will lead us to godliness. And how do we cultivate this endurance? Look at another important passage of Scripture.

James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

Notice that it says the testing of your faith is what develops endurance. In other words, when we stand up to the trial or test, and refuse to quit, endurance begins to grow in us. When you’re going through a tough time, or you’re disillusioned, or you’re discouraged, or you’re feeling like throwing in the towel, that’s the very opportunity you need in order to develop endurance.

Unfortunately, a lot of people lack this kind of endurance. People quit just about everything these days. They quit their schooling. They quit their jobs. They quit their marriages. They quit their gyms. They quit their responsibilities to their children. They quit their church. They quit their clubs. They quit just about anything that can be quitted. And the list could go on. It has been said that a failure is not someone who fails, but someone who quits.

“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.”
~ Josh Billings

“You never really lose until you quit trying.”
~ Mike Ditka

Now contrast that with what W.C. Fields had to say…

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Then quit. There’s no use being a fool about it.”
~ W.C. Fields

Full quote - “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” ~ W.C. Fields

Some of the greatest inventors, like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, had thousands of failures before they had their breakthroughs. And because they endured through those failures we are enjoying the results of their success today.

So how about you? How do you rate your endurance quotient? Do you quickly give up, or do you hang in there when the going gets tough?

You know, these character traits we have looked at this morning and found in the life of Timothy are traits you can have, too. You can cultivate them in your own life. And as you do, you will grow more like Jesus. You will grow in your faith and faithfulness.


So how do you rate in these areas?

•    Integrity. Are you seeking to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and allowing Him to impact every area of your life… every behavior, thought, decision, and choice?

•    How about Devotion? Do you have an independent, rebellious spirit? Or are you willing to learn, take direction, and even correction? Are you devoted to God and His Word, and living out that devotion every day by following Him?

•    What about Selflessness? Are you concerned for others, or only for yourself? Does your commitment to Christ lead you to reach out? Are you willing to set aside your own comfort for the sake of others and for the Kingdom?

•    And how about Endurance? Do you hang in there when it gets tough, or do you quit? Do you persevere under trial?

It’s my hope and prayer for you that each of these traits will flourish in your life. Let’s pray.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca