An old missionary is nearing death. In a few hours he will be executed. He thinks very little about his own circumstances. He mentions that he is offering himself as a sacrifice to the Lord, “I am now ready to be offered….” He thinks about his future journey, “the time of my departure is at hand….” He thinks about the victories God has given him, “I have fought a good fight….” He thinks about the course that God has allowed him to finish, “I have finished my course….” Finally, he thinks about the crown awaiting him, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”
His great concern is that the work of God will continue after he is gone. It is a wonderful thing to watch God build a church. It is great to see how God uses a man for that task. However, the church is not built on a man, but on Jesus. Paul had experienced some remarkable victories in the work of God. He greatly desired to see that ministry continue. Thus at the end of his life he encouraged a young minister to protect the ministry that God had given to him. That young man was Timothy. He reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1 that God observes all that he does. He urged Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to have a biblically sound ministry. In 2 Timothy 4:5 he exhorted Timothy to protect the ministry that God has given him. Every believer has a God-given ministry. All of God’s people should be serving or ministering. It is harvest time. All of us should be involved. “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame” (Proverbs 10:5). We dare not sleep during the great harvest of the twenty-first century. In order to protect our ministry we must do the following:
1. We Must Watch
Satan would like to prevent us from doing the things that God has committed to us. He would like to make us ineffective in our work. Our effectiveness in the work of God will be determined by the friends we keep, the literature we read, the music we listen to, the pleasures we seek, the ambitions we aspire to, and the thoughts we have. Each of these areas demands a constant vigilance.
2. We Must Endure
Persistence is absolutely necessary if we are to be successful in our Christian ministry. There are many obstacles. There are many discouragements. There are many battles that must be fought. Christian ministry is not a picnic, but a battle. Paul urges us in 2 Timothy 2:3, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Let us never forget that souls are in the balance, truth is being defended, and God is being honored by faithful ministry. There are going to be battles. As we endure these things for the glory of God we are reminded of a wonderful promise, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
3. We Must Evangelize
Jesus said to His disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The obvious lesson from that verse is that if we are not fishing for men, we are not following Christ. The world of 6.7 billion people is waiting for someone to tell them the good news. Oh, for sure they are not saying, “Please come and bring the Gospel to us!” They do not know what they need, but you and I know. There is a vacancy in every person before he comes to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. We have what the world needs. Through our praying, our giving, our personal witnessing, and our public preaching, we must do evangelistic work. What a shame that most of the people who claim to be Christians are doing everything else other than the main thing.
Are you watching your lifestyle? Are you being persistent with your God-given responsibilities? Are you winning souls? Listen to an old missionary by making full proof of your ministry. Protect that which God has committed to you.
In his last message, Paul was doing what he had exhorted others to do. “And the things that thou hast 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). Thank God for the long chain through which the Gospel has come to us. Now we must pass it on.