“A Good Minister”

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.”  (2 Timothy 3:10,11)

One of the greatest means of ministry to others is our knowability.  I am thankful for the contributions that many have personally made in my life and through the years I have received spiritual input from a variety of sources.

Consider the typical Christian throughout most of the church’s history.  For the first 1500 years he didn’t own a Bible so he was totally dependent on a “cleric” for his understanding of spiritual things.  Sadly, many times this cleric himself was deceived and also led his people in deception.

With the printing press came the publication and availability of the Bible and other Christian literature.  Until the early years of the last century these were the sole source of input for most, apart from the ministry of the local pastor.  Then came the radio, TV, audiocassette and the videocassette, conferences and special meetings.  (I’m aware that with considerable effort some of our forefathers attended campmeetings and the like, which I suppose was an early form of conference ministry.)

We can now go to the internet and get spiritual food (and a barrage of deceptions as well).  Many of these additional sources have been good for the church and, overall, our people can be stronger in their faith as a result. (Amazingly however, I suspect that most Christians are weaker in their faith in our day than those of yesteryear!)

But we must remember the very distinct gift a pastor (shepherd) has to offer to a local congregation.  We know our people, and they can know us!  I can pick up little Seth on Sunday morning following the service and ask his Grandma how his asthma has been.  You see, I’ve prayed for little Seth and I visited him in the hospital when he had a serious flare-up.  I saw the burden this was to his Grandma and have called her several times inquiring about his condition.  This is a unique role of the pastor and no other “religious professional” will ever fill this position.

We need to remember, brothers, our ability to know and to be known by our people.  I’m not speaking of the cheap trivialization of this word so common today.  I once encountered an ardent follower of Oral Roberts who had received some letters when the “personalization” feature of word processors first came out.  His name was sprinkled throughout the letter so he was convinced that Oral Roberts had personally written to him!

2 Timothy is Paul’s final letter.  The recipient is his trusted long-time associate Timothy.  He writes “But thou hast fully known” (the NIV says “You, however, know all about”).  The underlying Greek word here is most interesting.  Paul does not use the typical word for “know” which is “gnosis” but a relatively rare one, “parakoloutheo”.  This word is used only four times in the entire New Testament.  Luke uses it in the introduction to his gospel where he is asserting the very careful research that went into his study and writing.  He writes “I myself have carefully investigated everything” (1:3).  The word for “investigated” is “parakoloutheo”.  For many years Timothy had the opportunity to carefully observe and investigate Paul’s life.  Our people are also investigating our lives as well.  What do they see?

The first recorded meeting between Paul and Timothy is in Acts 16:1 during Paul’s second missionary journey.  The young disciple joined Paul and Silas on this journey and we find him referenced abundantly throughout the remainder of Paul’s life.  Apart from the two letters written to him we find four other occasions in Acts where his name is specifically mentioned and he is referenced in eight of Paul’s epistles. (He’s also mentioned in the Book of Hebrews which some consider to have been written by Paul).  Paul knew Timothy, and Timothy knew Paul.

Now Paul is passing the torch and he calls to Timothy’s remembrance this long personal association with the words “but thou hast fully known…” The conjunction “but” places this verse in opposition to the false teachers and teaching referenced in the preceding verses.  The emphatic “thou” targets the charge right to Timothy.  Paul goes on to list nine characteristics of which Timothy had observed in his life.  I want to examine each of these characteristics and challenge you as to consider what people are observing in your life.

My doctrine – It’s interesting that Paul begins with this.  Paul teaches Timothy doctrine not only in the two epistles that he directed to him but surely all along their long journey together.  Pastors, are you teaching your people sound doctrine?  Do they know what you believe?  Do you have a plan to help you determine that you are presenting to them the whole counsel of God in His word?  Can you say to your people “You know my doctrine”?

My manner of life – This comes from time spent being together.  Some time ago I was speaking to a brother that related how he had sat across from a very well known Christian celebrity at a function. He made the observation that he was an altogether different person up close than he had presented himself publicly.  Timothy knew Paul up close and personally.  Men, do your people see your manner of life?  Have they seen you with your “sleeves rolled up”?  Have you been able to be transparent and bear your heart with them?  (Oh yes, I know some people want a mere caricature of a minister that is altogether ‘spiritual’ that they really don’t know.  And some ministers groom this image).  I’m touched by how real Paul is when he writes to Timothy.  Read these epistles with a filter on, looking for this realness in such phrases as; “do your best to come to me quickly”, “only Luke is with me”, and “do your best to get here before winter”.  Let God’s people into your life and see the overcoming, transforming power of Christ at work!

My purpose – Paul had adequately conveyed what drove him.  His purpose was clear.  The Greek word here literally means “a setting forth.”  Paul’s was not an aimless life, but one in which a sound determination had been made to fulfill God’s will.  Do your people know your purpose?  Do they know what matters to you?  Do they witness your passion for the work of God?

My faith – On the surface this may seem so fundamental that we may wonder why Paul felt a need to call it to Timothy’s attention.  Of course Paul had faith and was a man of faith.  Ah, the richness of the Greek word “pistis”, so diminished in our day.  The word means “a persuasion; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; and constancy in such profession.  Men, do your people see your faith in this light?  Do they understand the deep conviction you have in the Christian way?  Interestingly this word can also be translated “faithfulness” and surely Timothy had seen Paul’s faithfulness.  Do your people see yours?

My longsuffering – This is translated “patience” in the NIV and is another rich word comprised of two words, which indeed means to “suffer long.”  Wow, is this ever needed in pastoral work!  Do your people see your patience?  Do you demonstrate it to them personally and do they witness it in your life?  In our church we have a young lady (actually she’s in her late 40’s) who’s mentally retarded.  She can be a bit of a pest at times but is deeply loved by our church and has an earnest love for God.  At times her prayers have an unreal clarity that indicates she really does get it!  I realize the way I treat Sandy is being observed by our church and is a test of my character.

My charity – This is the old KJV word for love, which of course has morphed much since 1611.  The NIV translates it “love” and of course it’s the wonderful Greek word “agape”.  Do your people know that you love them?  Do they see your love for others, including the “hard to love”?  I once heard “Haven of Rest” speaker, Ray Ortlund, encourage pastors to periodically lean over the pulpit, make eye contact, and warmly tell the people that you love them.  It’s amazing the warmth that can come over the place when I’ve done this!  Many people are starving for real “agape” love from a pastor that cares.  Let’s give it to them.

My patience (“endurance” NIV)– Here’s another example of word confusion, likely due to the way language changes (sorry if we have any “KJV only” adherents out there!)  The Greek word used here is “hupomone” and conveys endurance, steadfastness or perseverance.  Paul was able to express his steadfastness in the next chapter when he wrote “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). I increasingly appreciate ministers and ministries that endure.  In my 30 + years of ministry I’ve seen plenty of flashes in the pan, lot’s of glitz, and numerous fads (the fads that “You just gotta  see”).  I could mention some of them here and bring a smile to some faces but also might be misunderstood by others.  Men, do your people see your endurance?  You may not be able raise the crowd the way that flashy TV preacher does, but do you demonstrate the spirit of a plodder? Oswald Chambers has noted, “It is a great thing to see physical pluck, and greater still to see moral pluck, but the greatest to see of all is spiritual pluck, to see a man who will stand true to the integrity of Jesus Christ no matter what he is going through.”

My persecutions and afflictions – I’ll combine these two.  Paul calls to Timothy’s remembrance three specific times of persecution, perhaps typical of the many others he endured.  These specific persecutions took place on Paul’s first missionary journey before he met Timothy.  Timothy had likely heard these stories over and over, but there’s another reasonable conjecture here that I find interesting.  Paul’s first recorded meeting with Timothy is in Lystra, as recorded in Acts 16, and the record indicates that Timothy was already a disciple at this time.  Going back to Acts 14 we have the chronicle of that first journey and the persecution that Paul and Barnabas endured in Lystra.  Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city assumed dead (14:19). We also have a record of a small band of believers that Paul left, and on the return trip he strengthened in their faith (14:21-23).  Might Timothy have been among these believers?  I also find it interesting that Paul does not refer here to persecutions of which Timothy would have been a part, like in Philippi.

Men, how are you enduring persecution and affliction?  I doubt if any of us have the stories that Paul has but we all probably have some church stories to tell and may certainly disagree with the old phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones bur words can never hurt me”.  I know that words have hurt me!  Last year I went through the most painful period in my entire ministry and yes what people say about you does hurt.  But I wonder what others saw in me as I truly “endured” these afflictions.  Did they see the character of Christ being formed in me?  What about you?  How do you hold up under trial?

Let us realize the powerful impact we can have on God’s people as we are known by them in our special, unique position as pastor.  Let us hear this final charge from Paul to Timothy in this Pastoral epistle and let God’s people know us!  Let us, like Paul, demonstrate the character of Christ.

Stephen C. Weber

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