Virtual Reality | Day 3
At the end of one’s life, it is natural to want to wrap up loose ends. In a sense, for Paul, one loose end was his young protégé in ministry, Timothy. Years earlier Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus and undertaken yet another missionary journey farther westward. At some point during his travels he was arrested and taken to Rome, where he awaited execution. It was Paul’s hope that he would see Timothy again, but even so, he left behind one final set of instructions; a few final thoughts and intimate words of encouragement. That letter is now known as 2nd Timothy and contains Paul’s last words to his young son in the faith. Although personal in nature, what we find there are timeless words of exhortation and instruction for Timothy, first, but by extension, all Christian leaders in all times, seen perfectly in the 2nd verse of the 2nd chapter:
…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Developing leaders was a process Paul was now entrusting to Timothy. Paul knew that, just as Rome was not built in a day, neither would the house of the Lord be through Timothy. In a sense, Paul could be understood to be writing to protect his legacy. Without successors there would be no lasting success.
To understand 2nd Timothy purely through the lense of Paul working to protect his legacy, we do well to remember what Peter Strople said, “Legacy is not something we leave for people, but something we leave in people.”
Yes, Paul is writing to protect his legacy, but his legacy is not an organization. His legacy is a person, or better said, a people who are united with Christ and called together as “the church.”
Through 2nd Timothy we discover Paul reminding Timothy of the responsibility that young leader had to mature in Christ. From Paul’s personal encouragements to Timothy in this letter we can conclude that developing leaders requires a developing leader.
The basis of such development is, as we said yesterday, union with Christ and an ongoing fellowship with Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. Such union and such a strong ongoing fellowship mature the leader. How, we are entitled to ask, does such maturation happen?
I’ve called this series, Virtual Reality. I’m using the word virtue not in the sense that it’s often understood—moral excellence or goodness. I’m rather using it in the way Arthur Holmes has defined it:
A virtue is a right inner disposition, and a disposition is a tendency to act in certain ways. Disposition is more basic, lasting and pervasive than the particular motive or intention behind a certain action. It differs from a sudden impulse in being a settled habit of mind, an internalized and often reflective trait. Virtues are general character traits that provide inner sanctions on our particular motives, intentions and outward conduct.
The phrase that stands out is, “habit of mind.” A habit is conduct that has been so frequently repeated that it becomes routine. I have six children and there are certain habits that we want to become second nature because they aid our children’s social well-being; taking a daily shower, for example. As a parent, I know that the only way for a habit to become second nature is through repetition. After a while the repetition causes the action to become “a settled habit.”
We are used to encouraging habits that develop social behavior but what about cultivating habits that develop spiritual behavior?
Through studying 2nd Timothy we’ll discover that there are at least four dispositions, or virtues, that cultivate spiritual well-being and they trace their origin to essential truths of the Gospel. We could call these four virtues, “habits of mind.” They are a settled way of thinking that both legitimizes and challenges our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Part of Paul’s intention in 2nd Timothy is to ensure that these four virtues become a “settled habit of mind.”
Food for Thought:
1. What practices are you repeating regularly in order to develop your spiritual well-being?
2. How are you nurturing your mind and your heart?
Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments box below. I’ll do my best to answer any and all questions.
 A.F. Holmes, “Ethics: Approving Moral Decisions,” in Contours of Christian Philosophy, C. Stephen Evans ed., InterVarsity: Downers Grove, IL (1984), p116.