Friday, March 23, 2007

Endurance for a Lifetime of Ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-7)

[My notes from a sermon by Alan Cotney, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Chapel archives).]

Why are so many pastors giving up the ministry? Why do so many men of God make poor decisions and give up or be forced out of the ministry God has called them to? Is it because God has changed, or because the ministry had taken on a new direction? Is it because something inside has changed that caused them to have no endurance in the ministry?

This is what Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy 4, talking about endurance. Note the encouragement of 3:10-11, 14. To endure in ministry, you must:

I. Remember the Seriousness of God’s Charge. (v.1)
The charge of the call is from the throne of God, not Paul. God rules and reigns. The Christ of the call is the Jesus of the Judgment. He will judge the ministry He has given us. "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." (John 5:22). "Let not many of you becomes teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) The God of Creation knows everything about you, so when He called you He is not shocked by what you've become, by what you are capable of or by how He judges you for what you’ve done. When He deems you worthy to give you call, He will judge, so take this ministry seriously.

II. Preach The Fullness of God’s Word (v. 2-3). Not simply “preach” but “preach the Word.” You proclaim from this point forward God’s Word, regardless of what you’ve said or have done in the past. You preach when you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it. [Mark Cahill: there are only two seasons to preach—in season and out of season.] Why? Because this is your life, this is not what you do when you are bored. "But if I say, 'I will not remember Him or speak any more in His name,' then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in and I cannot endure it." (Jer 20:9). You preach when your people want to hear it, and when they don’t. Correct they way they think. Tell them what sins they are doing and tell them, show them what is right to do. You give them sound doctrine because if you preach anything else, you have nothing to say. You might as well preach the text of the theme song of “Cheers” and everyone can leave happy. Don’t you dare appeal to a cute idea, because then you have no intention of giving them anything useful. You become an idle babbler. If they want to hear what a good person they are, let ‘em watch Oprah. If they come into your church and turn their head to hear what you have to say, they must hear what matters for eternity.

III. Complete Your Mission as God’s Servant (v. 5-7). Fulfill your ministry. Stay focused and clear-headed. Your responsibility is to the One who called you, not the church you serve. To lose focus will cause you to make those bad decisions that will drive you to quit. Endure hardship, afflictions. Ministry is not easy. You were not called because it is simple. Satan hates you and you are a target to be destroyed because you bring people into account with God. Ministry costs you pleasure and comfort. Your people must see your leadership, including winning others to Christ.

Fulfill your ministry, no matter what happens. Keep plugging on!
Always keep the mission first, never accept defeat and never give up.

Your assignment comes from on high. Your mission is not over until your coffin is sealed and you are face-to-face with the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge you by what you’ve done with your life and your calling.

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