Lego constructions are some of the most amazing, complex structures. Simple buildings are pieced together with bricks of different shapes and colors. Larger figures require a strong, central frame to which additional features are attached.
When I see massive Lego displays in storefronts and amusement parks, I marvel that someone had the patience and creativity to construct such a beautiful, finished product. When I attempt a new build myself, I am stunned by the vision and clarity required to design a product which someone as simple-minded as me can complete. Truly, without the instruction manual, a helping hand to spot the correct brick for the correct spot, and a few breaks, I would have no hope at reproducing the image on the box.
The same daunting task lies before young Christians seeking to pursue God’s will. Life is complex. Often, we can’t even take inventory of the many pieces lying before us. Even in seasons when we dedicate ourselves to doing things the right way, we wonder whether we may need to tear things down to ensure all our bricks are properly ordered. Then, a multitude of foreign building blocks from culture, world religions, and personal relationships get poured onto the pile of bricks for the Christian worldview.
What hope do young people have to construct a life well lived before God, faithful to his design? Where can we begin to intentionally form our lives in the midst of confusion, corruption, and crisis? The Apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy serves as a guide for young Christians striving to become holistic Christ followers.
The foundation of Timothy’s formation is the gospel message or the basic “sincere faith” of new life in Christ. For two generations of Timothy’s family to have embraced the gospel implies his grandmother and mother were likely direct witnesses of gospel events in the earliest church (2 Tim 1:5). The faith in which they raised Timothy included the Old Testament Scriptures, and “the wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” extends to the writings of the New Testament (2 Tim 3:15).
With God’s inspired Scriptures as our guide to theological formation, we build on a sturdy foundation preparing us for righteousness and good works (2 Tim 3:16–17). The Bible is certainly more than an instruction book like the one that comes with a Lego figure, but without the Gospel and Scripture, we will have no hope of making sense of the world before us. The Bible shows us all the component parts of God’s story for the world, outlining the pieces necessary to build a Christian worldview. With reasonable interpretation, the Scriptures provide the grounding story within which we can see our own stories, and when questions arise we can lean on the Bible to make sense of the world.
Paul demonstrates the support of prayer in his mentorship of Timothy. Like the churches he founded in towns across Asia Minor and Greece, Paul prayed specifically for Timothy with confidence in his ministry (2 Tim 1:3–5). The Apostle also enjoined Timothy in prayer that their partner Onesimus’s family might receive God’s mercy (2 Tim 1:15–18). Finally, Paul maintained hope in Christ’s provision in persecution, setting an example for the resistance he promised Timothy (2 Tim 4:17–18). In all these examples, Paul showed Timothy that prayer and dependence upon God’s leadership would be required to not be shaken by the world’s troubles.
Prayer is intentional reflection on one’s current state before God and the world, and it extends from one Christian to another through intercession. To avoid worldview shock in the crises of young lives, we must pray for one another that Christ would sustain us through every attack and faltering step. He is faithful to complete the work within us, and we can proceed in building our life on that hope.
Paul instructs Timothy to keep the “pattern of sound teaching” that had been passed from Christ to Paul and other disciples before being taught to Timothy (2 Tim 1:13). Christian truth — from broad worldview questions, to the Gospel of grace, to wise discernment — is a treasure passed from one generation to the next. One avenue for Timothy’s formation was to pass on the Gospel message which he had received (2 Tim 2:2, 14). Paul predicts that Timothy will encounter stubborn opposition from those he taught, and our world exhibits this very rejection of truth (2 Tim 4:3–4). By faithfully learning and teaching sound doctrine, we can endure and find support in Christ (2 Tim 4:1, 5–8).
If the Bible is our guidebook, Christian partners provide a helping hand. Whether we find support from ancient authors of the Christian tradition or from modern-day mentors, intentional worldview formation benefits from multiple voices passing down wisdom. Many Christians before us have faced tribulation and chaos, and their writings can help point us in the wisest and truest direction. Christian formation is propelled by receiving truth from others and sharing truth with others.
Paul recalls powerful experiences which fed Timothy’s grounding in the faith (2 Tim 1:4–5). He exhorted Timothy to “keep ablaze the gift of God,” including the Holy Spirit which equips Christians with “power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Tim 1:6–7, 14). Paul includes some specific lessons for “approved workers” like avoiding vain conversations and passions of the flesh (2 Tim 2:15–16, 22–23). Some boil the entire Christian life down to morals, but the external presentation of our faith is dependent on having the right pieces in place to give power to a moral life (2 Tim 3:5). Not only should Christians seek to avoid fruit of the flesh, they necessarily will look different when they face the trials of life with Christian conduct, patience, and endurance (2 Tim 3:10).
Although personal experience should be the last influence of our formation as Christ followers, it has an extremely powerful pull. Instead of being led astray by our own doubt and temptation, Christians can harness victory in Jesus as an even more powerful testimony to others. Like building a larger Lego, this dimension of Christian formation will take a long time and consistent intentionality. Often when constructing a big figure, I have to take a break because my eyes cannot see the detail of the bricks and my fingers tire of pressing the sharp plastic edges into place. We should encourage young people to accept that they will not become mature, complete Christians overnight.
By looking at faithful examples before us, resting in God’s mercy, and pausing to take inventory of the Spirit’s guidance, we can continue building toward Christlikeness. Uncertainty will continue as our experiences change, but the foundation of Scripture, the help of true doctrine, and the time of testing and practice will result in a whole life built according to God’s will.
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Tommy Doughty is Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview at NOBTS. As Associate Dean of Leavell College, he teaches Christian Doctrine, Church History, and other biblical studies, theology, and apologetics classes. His research interests include the work of Christ, salvific inclusivism, and the relation of Christianity and the sciences. For over ten years, Tommy has led music and student ministries in local churches, equipping high school and college students to live out a biblical worldview in their context. Currently, Tommy serves in the music, youth, and deacon ministries at First Baptist New Orleans.