by John Juneman
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). These are the final words from a man who had “fought the good fight,” though they take on even greater weight when we learn they came from someone living his remaining days in the lower chamber of the Mamertine Prison. The Romans had built this prison over the top of a former cistern. The only way in or out of this lower chamber was a “manhole” sized opening in the floor of the upper chamber and ceiling of the lower chamber. Those prisoners who were considered to be “threats to the peace of Rome” were lowered into this pit to await execution in the most secure prison in the Empire. It was from here that Paul wrote what may have been his final words to a “beloved son.” Final words reveal much, and from these we learn much about the “call of duty” for every spiritual father and his critical role in home discipleship.
Discipleship is the battle of our times!
Why is a verse about discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2) placed between verses dealing with “strength” (v. 1) and being a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” (v. 3)? The answer is that discipleship is the greatest battle we will ever face as fathers and the hardest thing we will ever do. Verse 3 suggests how difficult it will be when Paul says, “Endure hardship.” There are certainly those days when it feels like just being a dad is enduring hardship, not to mention being engaged in the details of home discipleship. How much easier it seems just to leave all the homeschooling to our wives.
For that matter, how much easier is it just to leave all the discipling to someone else? We live in an age of “outsourced” discipleship. From their youngest days all the way to adulthood, I can send my children to classes, groups, activities, and programs, all good and led by someone else, for the purpose of discipling my children. This serves the twofold purpose of assuring me that it is getting accomplished by someone who knows what they’re doing while at the same time “freeing” me for other things that seem important. But don’t be deceived. This is the war of our times and the spiritual battle for our families. Satan will do anything to keep us fathers from growing as disciples and from discipling our families.
At all costs, Satan does not want our children to be discipled, and He knows that our role as fathers is vital in this. It is no wonder that we find so many distractions that come our way with work, media, sports, and a myriad of “good” activities that fill our calendars. No wonder we often hear thoughts like “you are not adequate to do this.” Do you recognize the battle? Hear the truth today. God called us to disciple our children and be involved in their homeschooling as an integral part of that, and no one is more called or qualified. This is the battle of our lifetime. The war is on. How is the battle going in your home? Is there anything keeping you from being fully engaged?
The cost of relationship
What makes this discipleship so hard? What makes homeschooling seem like such a challenge? Simply put, relationships require life investment, and there are no shortcuts! This is vividly represented in Paul’s words as he reminds Timothy of the things you heard “from me among many witnesses.” Those two prepositions paint quite a picture of the road these two men walked together: a spiritual dad with his beloved son in the Lord. It portrays Timothy as having been alongside Paul in ministry. Paul did not just tell Timothy about the work; he took Timothy with him. How many of us have learned a skill by hanging around someone and just watching? Perhaps they did instruct us at some time or another, but there was no substitute for just being with them. It was more “caught” than “taught” when we learned how to do woodworking, bake cookies, work on a car, crochet, handle money, or be a parent.
When we are the adult, it is much easier to just do things ourselves, and there is the temptation to think that kids just slow us down or get in the way. But discipleship happens in that time together, like it did when Paul wrapped his arm around a young man he called “my son” and took with him. Something precious is passed along in those times, which is why he uses the word “entrust,” like a deposit. But there is a cost to depositing such treasures into the lives of our children through our home discipleship. You well know what those costs are. It takes time you don’t think you have to give, leaving other things undone. It costs energy you don’t feel you have. It tries your patience, stretches your mind and emotions, and leaves you feeling beat. But this is war, and the hearts and souls of our children are at stake. How are our time, energy, and emotion being deployed as dads?
Empowered by grace
But how will I ever be able to do this? To that daily question we find ourselves asking in the battle of home discipleship, Paul has a simple answer in verse 1: “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The phrase “be strong” comes from the Greek word endunamoo (English “dynamite”) and is in a form indicating that it is continual. Be continually empowered from within by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. This is not our battle, brothers—it is His. It is not our strength—it is His. It is not our wisdom, emotion, patience, or anything else that is needed for this battle—it is ALL His.
Simply, Jesus is not asking us to fight in our ability; he is asking us to be the avenue through which He disciples our children. This is the desperate need of our day. The need is not for dads who “have it all together,” know what they’re doing, and have some perfect plan which they flawlessly execute. While these things are what the world tells us we need to be, the call of God is for us to just be men who are available, open, and willing to let Jesus do through us what we cannot possibly do ourselves.
For any dad who wants to disciple his children but says, “I don’t know how,” there is a simple yet heartening instruction from Paul in these “final words.” If you want to make disciples, be one. Fan the flame with Jesus in your own life. Respond to Him with all your heart. Depend upon Him with all your strength and let Him work through you. As you do, wrap your arm around the beloved little one next to you and take him or her with you. Take it from a man who was ready to leave this world: that is the “good fight” worth fighting.
Copyright, 2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, Summer 2015.
John Juneman, D.Min., and his wife, Trina, have been involved in home discipleship with their two children since 2000. Dr. Juneman teaches live weekly online Bible Survey and Logos Study classes to High School students around the world through The Potter’s School. He travels to preach and teach the Word in churches of various denominations across North America, focusing on spiritual renewal, discipleship, and equipping believers in the Word. He has written numerous books, including his daily devotional, LifeMessage 365: A Daily Immersion in the Word. The lifelong discipleship of his family is John’s first and highest calling.