Final Words for a Fruitful Life
Some months ago I had the joy of preaching at an installation service for a dear friend of mine. He is a young, up-and-coming pastor with great potential. I spoke from 2 Timothy 4:5. The message still captures my heart as a follower of Christ and leader of His people.
This verse is Paul’s final admonition to Timothy, and the final advice of his life. (The remainder of this chapter involves a personal commentary of Paul’s faith and various reflections about a wide array of relationships.) Shortly after he wrote this letter to Timothy, he was martyred and his earthly ministry was terminated.
We are all aware of the potency of a person’s “famous last words.” We should be particularly attuned to the final words of unambiguous challenge from Paul to his “son in the faith” – and to each of us.
Paul wrote, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. “ Four ultimate concerns mark this passage and need to move our hearts.
First, Paul says, “Be watchful in all things.” Other translations read, “Keep your head in all situations”, “Be sober in all things”, and “Keep control of yourself in all circumstances.” It is the idea of keeping a clear mind in order to properly control your behavior. Satan targets our minds with lies, doubts, condemnation, and temptation. The world targets our minds with distorted values, lusts, and false gods. Our flesh battles against a clear mind when we succumb to discouragement, fear, self-reliance, and pride. The list goes on. Paul learned, and so must we, that our primary concern is ourselves, because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
The second challenge says, “Endure afflictions.” The Message says, “Accept the hard times along with the good” while the New Living charges, “Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.” Those who live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution. At the end of Galatians, Paul’s ultimate mark of credibility resounded in these words: “Let no man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of Jesus Christ.”
The Bible places great value on “those who endure to the end” as a mark of real salvation. We do not find “three easy steps” to avoiding affliction. Instead, we are called to walk in His steps as we bear up under the pressure of suffering, with the result of becoming more like Christ, deeper in our character, and more fruitful in our lives of service.
Stay on Mission
Third, Paul calls Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” We say it so often; the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Cultivating a constant burden for the lost and striving toward consistent witness keeps the heart in touch with the heart and mission of Jesus, who came to “seek and to save those who are lost.” It is easy to get so absorbed in keeping the aquarium that we lose our passion to fish for men.
Finally, Paul says, “Fulfill your ministry.” We are told to perform our whole duty – to complete the ministry God has given us. Someday when we get to Heaven we will be asked, “Did you fulfill the unique ministry I gave to YOU?” We will not be responsible for living life in the pattern of some other person, or imitating another individual. Rather, we will want to stand before the Savior and say, “I completed the special and unique ministry You entrusted just to me.” What joy that will be.
So today, my friend, it comes down to these vital questions. Are you thinking clearly and biblically right now? Are you keeping your eyes on Christ as you endure the disappointments and attacks of life? Are you cultivating a burden for and consistent witness to the lost? Are you dialed in to what God has called YOU to do and seeking to stay focused on your specific race? If so, Paul’s famous last words will bear fruit in your life for the good of others and the glory of Jesus. When it is all said and done, this is what really matters.
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.