by David Arnold
Victor Hugo said, "What a man says, be it true or false, has often more influence upon the lives, and especially upon the destiny, of those to whom he speaks, than what he does." In 2 Timothy chapter four, we have the final words of Paul to the young pastor Timothy. In verse six, he speaks of his final days, expressing, "my departure is at hand," as if death already stood there. Paul was in prison, having had his preliminary hearing before Nero, and was expecting the final one, and then death by decapitation.
A person's last words tend to reveal that person's true values and identity. William Carey, the father of modern missions, when arranging his own funeral, expressed, "When I am gone, speak nothing of Dr. Carey. Speak only of Dr. Carey's Savior." Martin Luther breathed his last while quoting Psalm 68, "God is the Lord by whom we escape death." And George Whitfield left this world saying, "Lord Jesus, I am weary in Thy work, but not of Thy work."
And in the Apostle Paul's final words, he also revealed his heart and values. These words are just as relevant and applicable to every minister today as they were to young Timothy. He spoke of five truths.
First, in verse four, he says, "preach the Word," meaning, "the whole body of revealed truth." Charles Spurgeon said in Lectures to My Students: "Churches are not to be held together except by an instructive ministry." While our people need inspiration, most importantly, they need biblical information. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law." The word "revelation," speaks of the revealed truth of God as found in the Scriptures, and "cast off restraint," means, "to run wild."
Without the preaching of the Word, there is chaos. It is the Word of God that holds things together. The words of Francis A. Schaeffer are just as relevant for the twenty-first century, when he stated, "If we are going to have answers for the twentieth-century, we must not only have a God who exists, but we must have a God who has spoken!'
Second, Paul says, "be watchful" (v. 5). This speaks of being careful, cautious, and alert in all matters relating to our actions. It speaks of being disciplined and self-controlled. The Greek word for self-control comes from a root word that means, "to take hold of," or "get a grip." When a reporter once asked D. L. Moody which people gave him the most trouble, he answered immediately, "I've had more trouble with D. L. Moody than any man alive." Proverbs 25:28 says, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down without walls."
Third, "endure afflictions" (v. 5), meaning, "be willing to suffer evils, hardships and trouble." The ministry may not be as physically demanding as other positions in life, but it is very emotionally draining. This comes with working with people. While they can bless, they can also break the pastor's heart. Paul spoke of those who forsook him when he needed them the most, then he added, "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me" (2 Tim. 4:17). A lesson to be learned is, when people walk out, God walks in!
Fourth, "do the work of an evangelist" This does not mean to become a traveling preacher, but to be evangelistic in nature, in both message and methods. A minister was sitting in a restaurant one day and overheard some customers complaining about the absence of napkins. He thought to himself, "Lord, we gripe about no napkins, when the world has no bread." One person said, "Too many clergymen have become keepers of an aquarium instead of fishers of men – and often they are just swiping each other's fish." Christ's mandate to the church, spoken in Matthew 28:18-20, is more needed than ever.
Fifth, "fulfill your ministry" (v. 5). This means we are to persevere and finish what God has called us to. James J. Corbett, champion prizefighter of past years, said this about winning: "When your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the center of the ring, fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your guard, fight one more round. When you wish your opponent would put you to sleep, fight one more round. The man who fights one more round is never whipped."
So my fellow-pastor, preach the word, be watchful, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist and fulfill your ministry! "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15:58).