Pastors, how will you conclude your ministry? Will you finish strong? Will your church be stronger once you retire? Will you leave a legacy worth following or will your successor have obstacles to overcome?
I know these questions seem problematic for me, a young pastor fresh out of seminary, to ask, but I believe within II Timothy there is a word of encouragement to both young and old pastor’s alike that will help shape our perspectives on the correct way to finish the “race” of ministry. Therefore, my goal is to provide three preaching observations with one final application from II Timothy that will help provide a proper trajectory so that we can make sure we receive, “the crown of righteousness” (4:8).
Observation #1: Faithfulness by the Word Produces Faithfulness in Ministry
Paul certainly was no stranger to ministerial discouragement and abandonment (1:15). Multiple times in the opening two chapters Paul references sufferings that he has endured as a result of being a minister (1:8, 12; 2:3, 9). These sufferings did not cause Paul to be unfaithful in his calling. Why? Because Paul was never unfaithful to living by the Word. It was Paul’s faithfulness to live by the Word that produced a faithfulness for him to continue in a ministry that was plagued with sufferings.
In II Timothy 1-2, Paul utilizes his “text-driven” life as an example to spur Timothy to “rekindle” his passion in ministry (1:6). Twice, in the opening two chapters, Paul uses the phrase “heard from me” to encourage Timothy (1:13; 2:2). In both instances, the context demonstrates that the message that Timothy “heard” was the sound doctrine that Paul taught and lived. Later in chapter 3, Paul commends Timothy for having followed his teaching and conduct (3:10).
Observation #2: Faithfulness to the Word Produces Faithfulness in Ministry
Paul understood that ministry was going to get tougher as a result of the permeating carnality in the world (3:1-9, 13; 4:3-4). Sinful behaviors of congregants can at times produce a desire to be unfaithful because immediate results are not perceived. Paul challenges Timothy to remain faithful to the Word so that he can remain faithful in ministry (3:14-17; 4:5).
Paul outlines plainly what step Timothy should take to remain faithful to the Word. Paul shared with Timothy, “preach the Word” (4:2). An Old Testament example of a man of God who remained faithful to the Word in the midst of great debauchery is Jeremiah. With no recorded conversion, Jeremiah continued to speak, “thus says the Lord.” Paul’s advice to Timothy is to remain faithful in his preaching to the Word; because it is the Word that has the power to change the cold, hard, and sinful hearts of the people.
Observation #3: Faithfulness in the Word Produces Faithfulness in Ministry
Paul understood that his life was coming to a close and that he would be martyred soon (4:5-8). At the conclusion of his life, he exhorted Timothy to remain faithful in the Word. Twice in the final verses he referenced God’s Word. First, he requested for the Scriptures to be brought to him (4:13), and second, he recounted how the Scriptures were always faithful to Him (4:17). Even when Paul’s life was fleeting, he knew that being text-driven was the only option.
To the young pastor, like myself, II Timothy challenges us to remain faithful in all aspects to the Word. To the older pastor approaching retirement, II Timothy challenges you to remain faithful in all aspects to the Word. No matter one’s age or experience in ministry the calling is the same, remain faithful to living and preaching in a text-driven manner. If we remain faithful to the Word then we will have faithfulness in ministry, which will result in the epitaph, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give me on that day,” (4:7-8).