Passing the Baton
Hopefully you have been enjoying our past several weeks together taking a more in-depth look at Paul’s first letter to his friend, Timothy. Paul, as the elder statesman of the two, had been Timothy’s ministry partner, mentor, teacher, encourager, and motivator for much of Timothy’s young life. He has invested a lot of time and energy to help in equipping Timothy for a life of service to the Lord as a pastor to the Christian Church in Ephesus.
As we move into Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we come to unique correspondence as this will be the final letter and work that Paul writes that we have in Scripture before his time on this Earth is complete. Paul is writing this letter from his Roman prison in hopes that he would be able to see Timothy one final time. But if that meeting never happens, he wants Timothy to have this letter as one final encouragement for his journey ahead. Consider it Paul’s final word to Timothy.
There is a phrase that is used in track-and-field called “passing the baton.” This is something that happens in a relay race where four runners engage in a race of varying distances, each one responsible for one leg of the race to complete the entire thing. One essential element to this type of race is the cylindrical baton. The baton, which is about a foot in length, is passed from one runner to the other and it signifies the ending of one runner’s race and the beginning of the new runner’s turn. In some ways, it is like one runner is literally handing off the responsibility of the next leg of the race to the next runner. People have used this phrase and analogy to illustrate the passing of the baton in life too. Parents pass on responsibilities and legacies to their children, bosses pass on tasks to those in waiting, and those with experience and authority seek to share and pass along their work to those that come after them.
Society and culture and religion have always had this passing of the baton. It is essential for key ideas and practices to continue even after our own lifespans. Paul is using this letter to pass the baton, to pass along the role and responsibility of a leader in the Church and in the faith to his young protégé in expectation that Timothy would continue the good work that God had already begun and had grown in his life. Paul encourages Timothy to not be timid, but to be strong in the Spirit. Paul calls for Timothy to continue allowing the power of the Gospel to influence and affect his life. And he is encouraging Timothy to continue to place his trust in the work that God is doing in him and through him.
There is much that we can take from Paul’s words and you don’t have to be in pastoral ministry to glean something from them. All of us that are believers in Christ, have been called to boldness to share Him with our lives. We have all been called to allow the Spirit of God to work in us and through us to make Him known. We have all been invited to trust in and to guard the faith we have been given in service to the Lord. The beautiful part about all of this is that it started with the passing of the baton: from Jesus to His followers, to the early Church leaders, all the way up to today. Think of the people in your life that have passed along the baton of faith to you. Who might God be leading you to pass on this heritage of faith in your life?
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Pastor Ben Bigaouette