I was richly blessed when the Lord opened my eyes to the truths found in 2 Tim 2:1-7. The apostle Paul was writing to his son in the faith, Timothy, and I believe he was giving Timothy precious insights and advice about ministry and how one must be positioned for it, long-haul.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim 2:1
From the very first verse, the Word of God cut straight into my heart … “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” How easy it is, for us in ministry, to find our strength in the work for Jesus! Often, ministry defines us, providing us with the identity and belonging we so crave. Before long, we love the ministry more than we love the One who called us into ministry. And yet, we know we can’t progress one bit when we rely on our works for the Lord. We who have been saved by His grace can only be strong if we continue in His grace. What a reminder for us to always rest in His grace, for that is the only sufficency we have in our weakness that His strength might be shown perfect.
“And the things which you have heard from me among many witness, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Tim 2:2
If verse 1 cut through, the truth in verse 2 pierced even deeper … “commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Ok, ok, go easy, Paul! You’re starting to get too personal. If you’re like me, you’ll want to do thing right and fast. And who better to do it than … yourself! So, over time, the load gets heavier and the road gets lonelier. Voices begin to creep into your head that there’s no one as good as you, that no one understands your busyness. What a lie and a trap! No wonder Timothy was reminded to pass on all he had learnt from Paul and not to keep it to himself. He was to raise faithful men (and women) who in turn can teach others too. These would be his co-labourers in the ministry, for surely, Timothy would not be able to go it alone as ministry demands grow and expand.
Having laid these foundational thoughts in Timothy’s heart, Paul moves on to three critical attitudes one must have in ministry. If Paul had emailed this to Timothy, it would have come as a file attachment entitled “ministry.PDF” containing the points of Patience, Discipline and Focus.
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.” 2 Tim 2:3-6
PATIENCE. In v6, Paul used the image of a hardworking farmer who tends tirelessly to his crops often with nothing to show for in the early weeks or even months! Similarly, in ministry, patience in needed as we work with people. Oh, how I long for church members to grow up, to mature in Christ! Oh, how nice if we can have a ready pool of Spirit-filled believers, ready to serve at a moment’s notice! Oh, how nice if … how nice if … but when, O Lord? How long??? Paul reminds Timothy to be patient in ministry especially when hearts of people are involved. transformation is a process and it requires time. A farmer doesn’t plant seeds only to dig them out a few days later to see if it has grown. Instead, he checks the soil, waters it daily and waits patiently for it to sprout and to grow. We want things to happen quickly … like now! But ministry is not about our own timing but God’s perfect timing that His perfect plan will be revealed.
DISCIPLINE. In v5, Paul used an athletic image to portray the discipline needed in ministry. An athlete does not train aimlessly nor according to his own whim and fancy. Instead, he trains and competes according to the rules with a determination to win the crown! Imagine a minister who has no discipline and does what he wants when he wants?! The only rule he has is that there are no rules … after all, we are no longer under the law (rule), but under grace. How will he fare in the ministry? How will he account for his time? Worse yet, how will such a one fulfil his call in ministry? Make no mistake! The ministry is not a place of refuge for those who cannot make it in the secular world. On the contrary, ministers should be ones who are the most disciplined in their work, their lives and their spiritual walk. There is Kingdom work to be done, and there are lives and souls at stake!
FOCUS. In vv3&4, Paul makes Timothy very aware of the difficulties and challenges in ministry, referring to these as “hardship” to be endured! Ministry is no walk in the park! In fact, we are constantly engaged in spiritual battle as soldiers of Jesus Christ. In this regard, focus is needed. Without which, we will be easily distracted by the cares of the world, or by activities which appear spiritual but do not fall within God’s plan at all! Jesus issued the same demands in His call to discipleship, requiring total allegiance and commitment to Himself, even above that of wife and children. Ministry requires a clear focus of one’s call, and with that, a clear focus to fulfil that call. As a good soldier is focussed to his task and mission, pleasing the one who enlisted him, so too our dedication to the call for that pleases the Lord who called us to participate in His mission.
“Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” 2 Tim 2:7
Finally, Paul tells his young charge to consider and to ponder these points, and not to simply agree without thought. I can so understand the need for such an exhortation! So often, people hear what is preached and they readily agree with violents nods and affirmations of “True! True! True!” Yet, as soon as they walk out the door, it is forgotten and there is sadly no change in attitudes and behaviours. It is in wrestling with the words of truth that God gives “understanding” of a deeper dimension that causes change and brings transformation! This understanding is discernment to address the minister’s impatience in dealing with people and situations; his own ill-discipline, laziness, shoddiness and procrastination often hiding behind grace as an excuse; and, his preference for the distractions and comforts of the world than the much-needed focus of the call.
As one called to the ministry, this passage remains so relevant to me. The truths challenge me to the core for I know I still need to grow in His grace that the areas of patience, discipline and focus are fully developed. Like others, I too am tempted to merely agree and not do anything about these truths. It is so easy to rationalise and justify that God understands my weakness and shortcomings. However, I know that kind of thinking is nothing but a copout! My part is make small changes, allowing Him to change me, one day at a time, resting in the knowledge that God is already placed the fullness of His potential in me. To this end, my faithfulness in my walk releases His faithfulness in my life in ways I never can think or imagine!
May you too be encouraged and challenged as you read, ponder and embrace the truths contained in ministry.pdf.