Passing on the baton (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. May God’s grace be with you all. (1 Timothy 6:20,21)

I once heard the story of a runner in a 4 x 100m relay team who was running the third leg. The starter’s pistol fired and the lead-off sprinter left the blocks and gave it all they had, earning a narrow lead before passing the baton on to the second runner. This runner took off with equal energy and determination. Into the back straight they came, still slightly ahead of their competitors. Stretching out they handed to baton to the runner of the third leg and collapsed at the side of the track, totally spent.  

This third runner started well with all the energy and determination of their teammates. Hours of preparation kicked in as they powered down the back straight before entering the top curve where the final sprinter was crouched and ready to carry the baton down the home straight.

Suddenly, inexplicably, and with the sound of the trailing pack coming ever closer, the third runner pulled off the track and sat down on the grass still holding tight to the baton.

Three teammates were shocked and concerned and headed straight to their friend who sat alone and disconsolate.

“What happened? Are you OK?” they asked.

“Yes, I’m OK”, came the answer.

“You’re injured?”

“No, no. I’m fine. It’s just that… I didn’t feel like running today…”

You can imagine the alarm, disappointment and even anger that the third runner’s friends must have felt in those moments. They’d all be training hard. Two of them had expended all their energy to get the baton to their teammate, while the final runner was left waiting for a baton that never arrived.

I’m reminded of this story when I read Paul’s closing exhortation to Timothy to “guard what God had entrusted”.

It’s probably not hard for you to think of people who have faithfully carried the baton of faith and have passed it on to you. They put the effort in and made sacrifices so that the gospel of Jesus Christ could be delivered to you.

You’ve taken this good news and have started running, stepping up now into leadership.

Those you lead are the runners of the home leg. Whether they realise it or not they are waiting to receive the baton of faith which has been entrusted to you.

Will you faithfully run the course and lead as God intends? Or will it all become too costly and too difficult, causing you to one day step out of the race, still down on the grass and declare, “I don’t feel like leading!”?

Paul attributes this “wandering from the faith” to “foolishness” but concludes his letter to Timothy with these words: “May God’s grace be with you all.”

It’s a reminder that as we end our studies in 1 Timothy, any progress and any success is due to one thing alone: the grace of God. Without His grace – His unmerited forgiveness and enabling, we will end our race still holding tightly to a baton that needed to be passed on.


What are the challenges and temptations that you face that may cause you to abandon the responsibilities that God has given you.