A Bible study through 2 Timothy
The core theme of 2 Timothy is centered on living life on mission and with a God-given purpose. 2 Timothy 1 talked about fanning into flame the gifts God gives and guarding them with all diligence, while chapter two encouraged us to live as soldiers of God who are on mission and to abstain from the entanglements of civilian life. Chapter three warned us of those who might distract and deceive us by their godly appearances but lack spiritual depth. Now here in chapter four, Paul delivers one final exhortation to young Timothy. This is his final spiritual charge to his son in the faith, and it is full of important instructions for anyone wanting to live a God-honoring life.
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering,
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
~2 Timothy 4:5
In this one verse, Paul gives four powerful charges that are worth dissecting and examining one at a time. So let’s unpack this important exhortation given by God through the Apostle Paul.
Paul first commands Timothy to be sober-minded. This Greek word literally means “to abstain from wine” but can also mean “to watch.” The idea here is not a legalistic command to never drink wine, but rather, an exhortation to guard your mind from intoxicating substances that would cause you to lose your reasoning ability and good sense. While wine was the common substance for intoxication in the first century, our modern era offers many things that can intoxicate one’s mind. Drugs and other substances that cause one to lose one’s mental faculties would definitely apply, but I would also include other forms of addiction such as fame seeking, eating disorders, pornography, gambling, and any other item or experience one uses to attain a mental high.
All these things rob us of common sense and sound judgment as we blindly seek to fuel and fund these consuming addictions. And while you may argue that they are not addictions in your life, be careful because they still have power to steal your ability to watch and be sober in mind and decisions. God calls us to always be sober-minded, in our right mind, or watchful. Therefore, we must guard against anything that might threaten our minds and seek to take it captive.
This command is pretty straight forward. Remember what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy
3? “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Therefore, we should not be surprised by suffering, but rather, patiently endure it since it is a sign that we truly are living godly lives.
Be an Evangelist
The literal translation from the Greek for this phrase is “preach the gospel.” Paul didn’t want Timothy to lose sight of his main goal: proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. While many people will not listen to the truth, there will always be some who are ready to hear the gospel. Therefore, Paul didn’t want Timothy to give up or neglect preaching and telling others about the hope that he had.
Fulfill Your Ministry
This final exhortation is arguably the most powerful of the four. There was a reason why Paul put it last. It’s one of those words that you will want to meditate and ponder, asking God how it will play out in your own life. Paul’s exhortation to “fulfill your ministry” might sound familiar to those who have followed my blog for some time. He gave this command to a guy named Archippus in his letter to the Colossians and now writes the same thing to Timothy. While “fulfill your ministry” might sound like a pretty straight forward command, there is a much deeper meaning here than what the English translation conveys. Therefore, we’re going to dive into the Greek and see what God is truly trying to tell us in this simple exhortation.
The word fulfill literally means “to carry out fully, entirely accomplish, make full proof of.” Another way of translating this Greek word would be complete, carry to completion, or finish well. This word does not mean barely make it to the end. Rather, it denotes a sense of a job well done, going above and beyond, and never giving up no matter the situation.
The word ministry may sound official and only applicable to those working in a church or nonprofit. However, in the Greek, this word means “attendance as a servant.” That gives us a completely different picture of what Paul is referring to! Ministry is not a church program, small group gathering, or counseling session. Rather, ministry is all acts of service to God. Your ministry may be raising five kids, mowing an elderly neighbor’s yard, honoring and obeying your parents, sharing a smile with the grocery store clerk, or taking care of any number of mundane tasks as if working for the Lord.
In our church culture, we’ve overemphasized organized ministry and made service to the Lord confined to certain tasks and activities. However, the truth is that all that we do, if done for God, is ministry. If our motive is to do all things as for the Lord, then every mundane, seemingly ordinary task becomes part of our “attendance as a servant” and thus ministry. So reframe your perspective on how God defines ministry and always remember that the smallest acts done for God are seen by Him.
So to sum this all up, Paul exhorts Timothy and us to carry to completion, finish well, and entirely accomplish our attendance as a servant to God. That’s a powerful word, and one we all should ponder and prayerfully ask God to show us how we can improve. Are we joyfully working as unto the Lord and faithfully carrying out our daily, mundane tasks as faithful servants? Will we arrive before God’s throne and hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Would those around us say that we are honestly fulfilling this command?
When we shift our perspective and realign it with God’s, life takes on new meaning and purpose. No longer do we view small, seemingly invisible tasks of ordinary life as unimportant. Rather, everything you do can be an act of ministry depending on your attitude in it. So whatever you’re about to do today, this week, this month, this year, or in this life, remember that ministry is simply “attendance as a servant.” Therefore, we all have been given a ministry that we must carry to completion, entirely accomplish, and successfully fulfill to God’s glory.
So complete your God-given assignment as you run your race of faith!