The Reality Series part 1
The Apprentice
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 5, 2006

 

Main Passage: Acts 16:1-5 (NLT)

 

Well, season five started this week as Donald Trump once again set in motion the process of finding his newest apprentice. It’s not quite the juggernaut it once was, but The Apprentice still packs a punch. Of course, the format of the show is to challenge the contestants each week with a new task, and to gradually eliminate the contestants who do poorly until Donald Trump is left with the one who will be… The Apprentice.

But while this show debuted just over two years ago, the idea of having an apprentice isn’t really new at all. For centuries, experts in a variety of fields have taken students under their wings and trained them so that the student could become as skilled as the master and carry on their work.

In fact, way back in the first century A.D., the Apostle Paul had an apprentice. Just a few minutes ago, Kim read about how Paul recruited this young apprentice to join him, travel with him, and learn from him. His name was Timothy. Actually, Paul had a few apprentices over the course of his life, but Timothy is probably the most notable.

And how did Paul train Timothy? Well, he took Timothy along with him as he traveled throughout the Mediterranean area spreading the Good News about Jesus. He lived his life out in front of Timothy. And 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 until an angry mob beat him and stoned him to death for opposing the worship of idols.

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?

That’s what I want to talk to you about this morning. I want 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.

 

The Traits of a Great Apprentice:

1. Integrity

Integrity. It’s one of those words that we are hearing used more and more. You ever wonder where it comes from? Well, I’ve told you before, but let me remind you. It comes from the Latin integritās, which is also the root word for integer. You all remember your junior high school math? 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. That is, 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 or dichotomy of loyalty. 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.”

You can’t serve two masters because, if you try to do that, your loyalty will be divided… fragmented. So as a Christian, 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…

Because of his integrity, Timothy had become a man Paul could trust. Why? Because he 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 an integrated whole––that you are who you appear to be. And as far as the Christian life is concerned, being a person of integrity means that the faith you proclaim to have is foundational to how you live your life.

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

Now, here’s the thing. There are a lot of people attending Christian churches today who claim to have faith in God and claim to value His Word, but they don’t show that by the way they live. Several research studies have indicated that an amazing number of Christians do not live any differently than people who do not claim to know Christ. It does not seem that their faith has made them faithful. It seems that faith for many resides in the realm of the theoretical rather than the practical. It is no wonder that they make no difference in the world. They are making no real difference because they themselves are no different!

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 lifestyle of integrity.

 

The second trait we see in Timothy is something we’re going to call…

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.

Now, this devotion is really just another name for discipleship. To be a disciple is to be a follower, a learner, an apprentice. 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.

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 invited people to become his disciples when He said…

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

Now, Jesus and Paul weren’t the only ones with apprentices, or disciples. May of the religious leaders 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. And then he would 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.

Now, 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, or eliminated in the boardroom, 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. 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… the sons of Zebedee… to follow Him, they were working on the nets in their father’s fishing boat. But Jesus called them, and they left the nets and the boat and their father in order to become apprentices of Jesus’.

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, 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 understood that he didn’t know it all and couldn’t do it all. Hey, he just recently became a follower of Jesus himself. He had learned about Jesus from Paul and had become a Christian because of the ministry of Paul. And so when Paul offered him an apprenticeship, he submitted 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.

Can you imagine yourself in a situation like that? 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 how we need to develop a spirit of devotion today. And sometimes that means being rebuked and corrected, because that’s part of the process of growing and developing as disciples.

 

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

3. Selflessness

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.

That Timothy was selfless is evident from these verses. But he was more than merely selfless for the sake of others. It was not that he saw a need and gave himself selflessly to meet the need. His selflessness was a result of Jesus being his top priority. He was reflecting the nature and character of Christ in his life.

Remember, Timothy was following Paul, and Paul showed him what it meant to follow Jesus and become like Him. And because he was following Jesus, Timothy began to emulate the care and compassion of Jesus for others. He deeply and sincerely cared for the needs of others. Jesus was highly interested in to meeting the needs of people, including the Christians in Philippi. Timothy knew this and responded in kind. He didn’t ignore those needs or fake concern for them, like many others did. In fact, Paul points out that Timothy is different in his concern… most people couldn’t care less about others. Their only concern was for themselves.

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. And since we’re doing a message series right now based on reality shows, think about the selfishness displayed in those shows. The Apprentice, Survivor, Deal or No Deal, For Love or Money, Big Brother, The Amazing Race… sure, they’re entertaining shows. But how much greed and selfishness do you see in the contestants?

But it’s not only on Reality Shows. 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. When someone is selfless, we 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 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

Probably a good time to talk about endurance right now, since the Olympics just ended. In fact, there was one long distance speed skate that I didn’t even know existed. But this is what I found on the Internet…

[PowerPoint – 5000 “km” (not “m” skate)]

That’s a long skate! Think about it… From our doorstep here to Calgary is 5324 km. That’s a long distance. And somehow Clara Hughes skated almost that distance in just under seven minutes! I’m surprised she survived that skate! Somehow I think they meant 5000 m, not 5000 km. But still, 5000 m is a long way to skate in a race, and Clara Hughes displayed a great level of endurance that all of Canada could be proud of.

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 stuck with Paul and worked 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 read one place 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.

And through much of this, Timothy was right there with him. And he stuck it out. He persevered. He never gave up. He endured. Perhaps he had learned this perseverance and endurance from Paul himself, who 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 true 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 characteristic of endurance. In fact, the Apostle Peter made it clear that we would need it when he wrote…

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)
So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better. Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The quality of endurance is one of the things that will allow us to be effective and productive in our walk with Christ, along with all those other things listed. 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.

Unfortunately, a lot of people lack this kind of endurance. A couple weeks ago, Shera and I ran into someone we know and found out they’re at a new job. By my count, that makes five jobs they’ve had in a two year period of time. But who am I to talk? A few years ago, I had five jobs all at the same time!

But just think about the things people quit these days. They seem inclined to quit almost everything they start. They quit their schooling. They quit their jobs. They quit their marriages. 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

Some of the greatest inventors, like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, had thousands of failures before they had their breakthroughs. Edison and Bell never failed because they never quit, and because of that 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, they will reflect lives that are growing in the image of Christ. Those qualities will exhibit a growth of your faith and faithfulness. They will be the evidence of an authentic Christian character.

 

Review:

So how do you rate in these areas?
 

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

  • How about Devotion? Do you have an independent spirit, or even a 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.

 

[Much of the message adapted from "A Few Good Men" by J. David Hoke.]
 

 

 

 

 

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