From the time the Apostle Paul uttered the words, “What wilt thou have me to do?” until a Roman executor severed his head from his body—he was a missionary. The gospel to the entire world was his goal. The Lord Jesus was his passion.
As I read through the list of trials Paul experienced for the cause of Christ (which are recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:23–28) I doubt that any other human has ever been called upon to endure such afflictions. However, when speaking of those afflictions, Paul referred to them as “light afflictions.”
The Apostle Paul’s last words are found in his letter to Timothy—one of his converts and arguably his most trusted fellow worker. Paul had said of him, “I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” Listen to the words of a condemned man, awaiting execution, as he encourages and exhorts Timothy.
In verse one he reminds Timothy that he is not just being watched by men, but that God is watching him. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” In verse two he commands Timothy to preach the Word and to be consistent about his preaching. Notice the terms “in season” and “out of season.” The Bible is to be preached even when it is not popular.
In verses three and four Paul warns Timothy that this is not the kind of preaching people will want to hear, but that it is what they need. Paul would soon be gone, but he had a burning desire that those who followed him would be faithful to God’s Word. No missionary or any other serious minded preacher can be indifferent about what those who follow him will do. “The things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). If you are not concerned about those who follow you, then you are not really serious about what you are doing.
Verse five is one of the most pragmatic verses in the entire Bible. What a message for a young preacher. “Watch thou in all things.” Watch what you read. Watch where you go. Watch what you say. We could go on and on, but the message is clear—we must watch! “Endure afflictions.” Don’t let them stop you. Keep going. “Do the work of an evangelist.” Put first things first. Don’t neglect your duty to the lost. “Make full proof of your ministry.” Be all that God desires you to be. Use the gifts God has given you.
In verses six through eight Paul informs Timothy that he will soon be leaving him. There is no regret. He had fought a good fight. He had finished his course. He had kept the faith. An old missionary faces execution with full assurance that a crown awaits him and that he will be with his Lord. He is not just the victim of an unfortunate circumstance. He is being offered up. He is making the ultimate sacrifice. He is about to “depart.” Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
What a way to go—faithful to the very end. Regardless of your circumstances, don’t even think about quitting. As long as you are breathing there is something you can do. Paul had a missionary spirit that endured to the end. So can you!