Day 296

Your Most Important Task

Wisdom Psalm 119:81-88
New Testament 2 Timothy 1:1-18
Old Testament Jeremiah 48:1-49:6


‘Great leaders all have one thing in common. They know that acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task,’ writes John Maxwell in his book, Developing the Leaders Around You. He urges his readers, ‘Find the best people you can, then develop them into the best leaders they can be.’

The apostle Paul was condemned and in a dark, dank dungeon with just a hole in the ceiling for light and air. He was in ‘chains’ (2 Timothy 1:16), ‘like a criminal’ (2:9). He was lonely, bored and cold (4:9–13). Death was inevitable. According to tradition, he was condemned to die by beheading under Nero’s persecution.

This (2 Timothy) is probably his last letter. Paul chose to write to an individual rather than to a church. Timothy was a leader whom Paul had found, trained and developed. Paul was probably in his sixties and Timothy in his early thirties.

As Paul became aware that he was handing on the gospel to the next generation, his greatest concern was that Timothy should guard it (1:11–14). The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of the generations before me and the more I realise the responsibility we all have to pass the baton on to the next generation.


Psalm 119:81-88

כ Kaph

81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
   but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
   I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
   I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
   When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
   contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
   help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
   but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life,
   that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.


The right foundation for the next generation

This psalm is both a personal reflection on life and also a resource produced by the psalmist to help others build their lives and leadership on the right foundation.

In particular, he sets an example of faith in God’s word: ‘I have put my hope in your word… All your commands are trustworthy… I have not forsaken your precepts’ (vv.81b,86a,87b).


Lord, help me to be faithful in spite of all the ‘pitfalls’ (v.85) and persecutions (v.86). Help me to do all I can to train up the next generation of leaders.

New Testament

2 Timothy 1:1-18

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

2 To Timothy, my dear son:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.


3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Appeal for Loyalty to Paul and the Gospel

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Examples of Disloyalty and Loyalty

15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.


The way to develop the next generation

All of us can have spiritual children.

Paul probably had no natural children but he had spiritual children. He describes Timothy as ‘my dear son’ (v.2). He had led him to faith in the Lord (Acts 16:1–2). For fifteen years Timothy had been Paul’s companion and had accompanied him on his second and third missionary journeys (Romans 16:21; 1 Thessalonians 3:2 and Philippians 2:19–20). Now Timothy is in a position of leadership in Ephesus.

Paul mentored, trained and discipled Timothy and passed wisdom on to him. He sets a model and example of how to develop the next generation of leaders.

  1. Love them

    ‘The son I love so much’ is how Paul describes Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2, MSG). Paul constantly thanked God for him (v.3). Paul was a passionate and emotional man – when people said goodbye to him there were often tears of emotion: ‘I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful goodbye, and look forward to a joy-packed reunion’ (v.4, MSG).

  2. Pray for them

    ‘Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers’ (v.3). Praying for other people is not a waste of time, it makes a difference. Intercessory prayer is an act of love.

  3. Believe in them

    ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’ (v.5). Paul trusted Timothy with responsibility at a young age. The people who influence us are the people who believe in us.

  4. Minister to them

    ‘I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands’ (v.6). Previously Paul had written, ‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you’ (1 Timothy 4:14).

    They may have prayed for him for the gift of evangelism or ordination to leadership in the church. It may have been to be filled with the Spirit and possibly to receive the gift of speaking in tongues or prophecy. We do not know exactly what it was, but it shows the importance of prayer ministry. This is why we lay our hands on people, for example, in the ministry time at the end of practically every church service at HTB.

  5. Encourage them

    Timothy needed encouragement. Encouragement is like oxygen to the soul. Timothy was young. He had physical weaknesses (‘frequent illnesses’, 1 Timothy 5:23), and he was possibly a shy and introverted character.

    Paul writes, ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear)’ (2 Timothy 1:7, AMP). We are not cowards if we feel afraid. In fact, there can be no courage unless you are scared. Courage is doing what you are afraid to do, and not allowing fear to rule your decisions.

    To overcome your fears, God has equipped you with the Holy Spirit and with ‘power, love and self-discipline’ (v.7b).

  6. Challenge them

    Paul urged Timothy to ‘stir up’ (v.6, KJV), to ‘fan into flame’ (v.6) the gift that he had been given. Other people can help you but at the end of the day you are responsible for your own spiritual development. Stir yourself up. Fan the flames of your faith through worship, prayer, Bible reading, community – or whatever it takes.

  7. Trust them

    ‘Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you’ (v.14). The good deposit is the gospel of which Paul has been appointed a herald, apostle and teacher (v.11).

    The gospel is all about Jesus (‘our Lord’, v.8). It is about a relationship with him: ‘I know whom I have believed’ (v.12). We have been saved by grace, ‘not because of anything we have done’ (v.9). Jesus, our saviour, through the cross and resurrection, ‘destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light’ (v.10).

    Paul urged Timothy not to be ashamed of their friendship, nor to be ashamed to testify about the Lord (v.8). They had the gospel to proclaim and to guard (vv.9–14). Paul was confident that he had chosen the right person to pass it on to the next generation ‘with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us’ (v.14).

  8. Share with them

    ‘Join with me in suffering for the gospel’ (v.8). Even though Paul served God ‘with a clear conscience’ (v.3), he did not escape suffering. He was in ‘chains’ (v.16). He had been badly let down by other Christians: ‘You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes’ (v.15).

    Yet one person stood out. Don’t run away from those who are suffering, but be like loyal Onesiphorus who, Paul says, ‘often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains’ (v.16).


Lord, help me to pass on the baton to the next generation – to pray for them, love them, believe in them, minister to them, encourage them, entrust them and share with them.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 48:1-49:6

A Message About Moab

48 Concerning Moab:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says:

“Woe to Nebo, for it will be ruined.
   Kiriathaim will be disgraced and captured;
   the stronghold will be disgraced and shattered.
2 Moab will be praised no more;
   in Heshbon people will plot her downfall:
   ‘Come, let us put an end to that nation.’
You, the people of Madmen, will also be silenced;
   the sword will pursue you.
3 Cries of anguish arise from Horonaim,
   cries of great havoc and destruction.
4 Moab will be broken;
   her little ones will cry out.
5 They go up the hill to Luhith,
   weeping bitterly as they go;
on the road down to Horonaim
   anguished cries over the destruction are heard.
6 Flee! Run for your lives;
   become like a bush in the desert.
7 Since you trust in your deeds and riches,
   you too will be taken captive,
and Chemosh will go into exile,
   together with his priests and officials.
8 The destroyer will come against every town,
   and not a town will escape.
The valley will be ruined
   and the plateau destroyed,
   because the Lord has spoken.
9 Put salt on Moab,
   for she will be laid waste;
her towns will become desolate,
   with no one to live in them.

10 “A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!
   A curse on anyone who keeps their sword from bloodshed!

11 “Moab has been at rest from youth,
   like wine left on its dregs,
not poured from one jar to another—
   she has not gone into exile.
So she tastes as she did,
   and her aroma is unchanged.
12 But days are coming,”
   declares the Lord,
“when I will send men who pour from pitchers,
   and they will pour her out;
they will empty her pitchers
   and smash her jars.
13 Then Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh,
   as Israel was ashamed
   when they trusted in Bethel.

14 “How can you say, ‘We are warriors,
   men valiant in battle’?
15 Moab will be destroyed and her towns invaded;
   her finest young men will go down in the slaughter, ”
   declares the King, whose name is the Lord Almighty.
16 “The fall of Moab is at hand;
   her calamity will come quickly.
17 Mourn for her, all who live around her,
   all who know her fame;
say, ‘How broken is the mighty scepter,
   how broken the glorious staff!’

18 “Come down from your glory
   and sit on the parched ground,
you inhabitants of Daughter Dibon,
   for the one who destroys Moab
will come up against you
   and ruin your fortified cities.
19 Stand by the road and watch,
   you who live in Aroer.
Ask the man fleeing and the woman escaping,
   ask them, ‘What has happened?’
20 Moab is disgraced, for she is shattered.
   Wail and cry out!
Announce by the Arnon
   that Moab is destroyed.
21 Judgment has come to the plateau —
   to Holon, Jahzah and Mephaath,
   22 to Dibon, Nebo and Beth Diblathaim,
   23 to Kiriathaim, Beth Gamul and Beth Meon,
   24 to Kerioth and Bozrah —
   to all the towns of Moab, far and near.
25 Moab’s horn is cut off;
   her arm is broken,”
   declares the Lord.

26 “Make her drunk,
   for she has defied the Lord.
Let Moab wallow in her vomit;
   let her be an object of ridicule.
27 Was not Israel the object of your ridicule?
   Was she caught among thieves,
that you shake your head in scorn
   whenever you speak of her?
28 Abandon your towns and dwell among the rocks,
   you who live in Moab.
Be like a dove that makes its nest
   at the mouth of a cave.

29 “We have heard of Moab’s pride —
   how great is her arrogance!—
of her insolence, her pride, her conceit
   and the haughtiness of her heart.
30 I know her insolence but it is futile,”
   declares the Lord,
“and her boasts accomplish nothing.
31 Therefore I wail over Moab,
   for all Moab I cry out,
   I moan for the people of Kir Hareseth.
32 I weep for you, as Jazer weeps,
   you vines of Sibmah.
Your branches spread as far as the sea;
   they reached as far as Jazer.
The destroyer has fallen
   on your ripened fruit and grapes.
33 Joy and gladness are gone
   from the orchards and fields of Moab.
I have stopped the flow of wine from the presses;
   no one treads them with shouts of joy.
Although there are shouts,
   they are not shouts of joy.

34 “The sound of their cry rises
   from Heshbon to Elealeh and Jahaz,
from Zoar as far as Horonaim and Eglath Shelishiyah,
   for even the waters of Nimrim are dried up.
35 In Moab I will put an end
   to those who make offerings on the high places
and burn incense to their gods,”
   declares the Lord.
36 “So my heart laments for Moab like the music of a pipe;
   it laments like a pipe for the people of Kir Hareseth.
   The wealth they acquired is gone.
37 Every head is shaved
   and every beard cut off;
every hand is slashed
   and every waist is covered with sackcloth.
38 On all the roofs in Moab
   and in the public squares
there is nothing but mourning,
   for I have broken Moab
   like a jar that no one wants,”
   declares the Lord.
39 “How shattered she is! How they wail!
   How Moab turns her back in shame!
Moab has become an object of ridicule,
   an object of horror to all those around her.”

40 This is what the Lord says:

“Look! An eagle is swooping down,
   spreading its wings over Moab.
41 Kerioth will be captured
   and the strongholds taken.
In that day the hearts of Moab’s warriors
   will be like the heart of a woman in labour.
42 Moab will be destroyed as a nation
   because she defied the Lord.
43 Terror and pit and snare await you,
   you people of Moab,”
   declares the Lord.
44 “Whoever flees from the terror
   will fall into a pit,
whoever climbs out of the pit
   will be caught in a snare;
for I will bring on Moab
   the year of her punishment,”
   declares the Lord.

45 “In the shadow of Heshbon
   the fugitives stand helpless,
for a fire has gone out from Heshbon,
   a blaze from the midst of Sihon;
it burns the foreheads of Moab,
   the skulls of the noisy boasters.
46 Woe to you, Moab!
   The people of Chemosh are destroyed;
your sons are taken into exile
   and your daughters into captivity.

47 “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
   in days to come,”
   declares the Lord.

Here ends the judgment on Moab.

A Message About Ammon

49 Concerning the Ammonites:

This is what the Lord says:

“Has Israel no sons?
   Has Israel no heir?
Why then has Molek taken possession of Gad?
   Why do his people live in its towns?
2 But the days are coming,”
   declares the Lord,
“when I will sound the battle cry
   against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it will become a mound of ruins,
   and its surrounding villages will be set on fire.
Then Israel will drive out
   those who drove her out, ”
   says the Lord.
3 “Wail, Heshbon, for Ai is destroyed!
   Cry out, you inhabitants of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth and mourn;
   rush here and there inside the walls,
for Molek will go into exile,
   together with his priests and officials.
4 Why do you boast of your valleys,
   boast of your valleys so fruitful?
Unfaithful Daughter Ammon,
   you trust in your riches and say,
   ‘Who will attack me?’
5 I will bring terror on you
   from all those around you,”
   declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
“Every one of you will be driven away,
   and no one will gather the fugitives.

6 “Yet afterward, I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites,”
   declares the Lord.


The importance of developing the next generation

One of the problems highlighted again and again in Jeremiah is the weakness and wickedness of the people’s leaders. Here we see the awful consequences of how wrong things can go without the right leadership.

‘Doesn’t Israel have any children, no one to step into her inheritance?’ (49:1, MSG). The inheritance was open but there was no one who grew into it.

The antithesis of God’s way of leadership is pride and arrogance – the great sins of Moab, ‘the extremely proud one – his loftiness, his arrogance, his conceit, and the haughtiness of his heart’ (48:29, AMP).

Pride and independence are often regarded as good qualities by the world – but they are a great sin in the eyes of the Lord because they lead us away from him. Pride and independence say, ‘I don’t need you.’

Proclaiming judgment against Moab and Ammon, Jeremiah says, ‘A curse on those who are lax in doing the Lord’s work!’ (v.10). ‘Moab has always taken it easy – lazy as a dog in the sun, never had to work for a living, never faced any trouble, never had to grow up, never once worked up a sweat’ (v.11, MSG).

Hard work is more important than innate talent. As Thomas Edison famously said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.’ Developing the next generation will involve hard work.

There is an important principle. We should apply the same standard to the Lord’s work as we do, for example, to our secular jobs (provided we are committed to them!). In most secular jobs, there is a requirement of 100% efficiency and commitment. I am always so impressed by our volunteers who turn up with such regularity, love and commitment. It is amazing to see their dedication year after year. For many, it is a lifelong commitment to service.


Lord, may I never be lax in doing your work. May our generation be a generation that guards the gospel, develops leaders and passes it on to the next generation.

Pippa adds

2 Timothy 1:5

‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice...’

And they, through their prayers and example, passed on their faith to Timothy (and we read all about Timothy in this book).

It is wonderful to see faith passed down three generations. Well done Lois!



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Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin, Edison: His Life and Inventions, Vol. 2 (Harper & Brothers, New York. 1910), p.607.

John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2012). pp.2–3.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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