We’ve come to our final day looking at 2 Timothy. Yesterday, we saw that our endurance in ministry shouldn’t be left up to other Christians. Because they’ll often let us down. They let Paul down, so why should we expect it to be any different with us?
But today, we look at the flip-side to this: how other Christians can often be a great support in ministry, helping us to endure.
Other Christians will often be a great support
So far this has painted quite a negative picture of other Christians. And we do have to realise that other Christians will at times let us down. But now the positive side: realise that one great source of support will be other Christians! In v9, Paul writes to Timothy:4:9 Do your best to come to me quickly
He instructs him to come quickly. In verse 21 he repeats this instruction, telling him to do so before winter. This was important in the first century, as shipping in the Mediterranean closed down from November through to March becauses it was too dangerous. But it’s clear that Paul, at the darkest moment of his ministry, needs the support of fellow Christians:2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Although Mark deserted Paul on an earlier occasion (see Acts 15:38), at some point since then he has been restored. He’s now useful to Paul. This reminds us that people who let us down have the potential to change – God can work in their life and turn things around. So don’t write people off!
Paul continues:2 Timothy 4:13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
As well as needing companionship, Paul had other material needs as well. He needed his cloak he had to leave behind when he was arrested, as winter in a Roman prison wasn’t exactly warm and toasty around the fire. At least, not the sort of fire you’d want to be around. And he wanted his scrolls – perhaps his Old Testament Scriptures to read and comfort him as he approached death. Fellow Christians are here to help us with both our companionship needs and the more mundane, practical ones.
For me, personally, I thrive on the encouragement of other people who’ve taken the “red pill” we spoke of yesterday. They might be in full-time ministry, or be the hard-working, key volunteers. I’m particularly encouraged by those who aren’t in full-time ministry, yet who choose to put the work of the gospel ahead of what they do 9-to-5 each week. They’ve swallowed the red pill, and the Matrix of the world – as attractive as it still is – is beginning to lose its reality.
Paul greets a few of these “red pill” Christians at the end of this letter:2 Timothy 4:19 Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.
Priscilla and Aquila had been Paul’s coworkers in Corinth and instrumental in the church there. Paul also greets the family Onesiphorus left behind in order to come and support Paul. He also left a couple of others behind on his travels:2 Timothy 4:20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.
And there was still a handful of “red pill” Christians with him in Rome:2 Timothy 4:21 Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.
…although I suspect Pudens was just Eubulus’s pet cat.
So how do you survive in ministry – whether it be full-time gospel ministry like Paul, or as a dedicated servant in your local church? I think you make sure you have a friendship network with Christians who “get it”. Christians with an eternal perspective. Preferably some a bit older and wiser than you. People who can encourage you when things get tough, who can share your vision, and who help you realise that there are others out there working shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
God will never let you down
Finally, as well as people – and of course, more importantly than people – realise that God will never let you down
God is your source of strength2 Timothy 4:17-18 [Everyone deserted me…] But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
This is yet another allusion to Psalm 22:Ps 22:13, 21a ‘Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me… [Deliver] me from the mouth of the lions’
Both in Psalm 22, and in Paul’s life, God is the rescuer, not people. Although he often uses fellow Christians (as we just saw), we also learned earlier that fellow Christians will sometimes let us down. Therefore, don’t become overly-reliant on people. It is God who is our strength. He will sustain us through the difficult times. Because we’re doing G’s work, and God is committed to glorifying his name among the nations through you.
God will glorify his name among the nations through your faithfulness
2 Timothy 4:17-18 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
Again like Psalm 22 (this is getting repetitive), the result of being delivered from adversity is that the Gentiles – all the families of the nations – will be told about God:Ps 22:27-28, 30-31 ‘All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations… Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn’
Whatever you are going through – it can and will be used by God to glorify his name among the nations. In fact, that’s what ties this whole passage together. Jesus became a sacrifice in our place, so that the nations might glorify God for his mercy. We are to follow his example.
Don’t you want to be poured out – even to death – for this most noble cause? The glory of God and the salvation of the nations. This is what ultimately keeps us going in ministry. Knowing that we don’t pour ourselves out for nothing. But that we are a part of what God is doing in the world.