July 12, 2012

Keep On

Sometimes I feel bad for non-church leaders that Paul, Luke, and the rest of the New Testament authors direct so much of their writings toward church leaders. Or perhaps that statement betrays our modern sensibilities that create such a distinction between professional Christians and everyone else. Or perhaps I just read Scripture through my pastor's wife filter, grasping for nuggets of wisdom that will enable me to persevere and finding that most everything applies. I think the truth is that we are all ministers and evangelists and leaders in the name of Christ and that Scripture speaks knowingly about the difficulties and rewards we face as we seek to speak and live the gospel.
When I read Paul's writings about his personal ministry experience, it just about slays me. In comparing my heart to his, I suddenly am aware of all the selfishness and resentment I'm collecting and hoarding, and I can do nothing else but throw it onto the cross of Christ in confession. This is the power of the Word and it is so necessary for life and ministry.

In regards to ministry, my favorite of Paul's writings are his final words to his protege Timothy. He speaks from the end of life perspective, practically walking to the executioner. He is certain about what's important and is intent on sharing it with those behind him. Let's listen in because it certainly applies to us:

From 2 Timothy, Chapter 1

  • Use and persevere in the gift God has given you and has been confirmed by others.
  • The Spirit of God is what enables a person to be effective, loving, and of sound mind.
  • Share in the sufferings for the gospel by the power of God. Persevere.
  • This is a holy calling. It's not about paying God back, but about God's purposes being fulfilled.
  • Persevere in sound teaching and sound counsel. Do this by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • People will turn away but be thankful for those who are faithful and who encourage you.
Chapter 2
  • Your strength comes from grace.
  • Disciple others. Give your life away to faithful people who will do the same.
  • As a disciple, you will endure hardship. Endure.
  • Your work is similar to a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. It's hard work.
  • The Word of God cannot be chained. Rejoice in that!
  • Our work and, especially, our endurance, is for the salvation and sanctification of others.
  • Be diligent in your study of the Word.
  • Do not stray from the solid foundation of God.
  • Don't look longingly at your youth or feed selfish desires that you had when you were young. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace in community with others.
  • Do not become argumentative. A servant of the Lord is gentle, patient, and humble even when they must correct someone or call someone to repentance.
Chapter 3
  • Don't be surprised that there will be many in the last days that don't want anything to do with God and will resist the truth.
  • Imitate men and women ahead of you who are faithful to God.
  • In your pursuit of godliness, you will experience opposition. Just continue in the things you know to be true, continue in your salvation in Christ. 
  • Scripture is true, essential in your being equipped for ministry, and essential for your sanctification.
Chapter 4
  • At every turn, speak the gospel.
  • Be on guard, persevere, evangelize, and so fulfill your ministry.
  • Sacrifice.
  • Remember that the ultimate victory is faithfulness.
  • A reward awaits the faithful.
  • The Lord stands with you, strengthening you to speak to the gospel.
  • All of this is for His glory.
You can tell from my bold highlights what my heart needed to hear: to persevere. There is so much in ministry about just putting one foot in front of the other and walking on, about continuing in the calling despite what fruit we are or aren't seeing. Paul knew it and expressed it every which way to Timothy: Continue. Fight the good fight. Keep on.

Today, by the power of God, keep on!