This morning was a bit unusual. I woke up from a fairly sound night of sleep in the midst of a dream that was very unusual. I was no longer in pastoral ministry. I was working for a non-profit and was experiencing a tremendous time of worship AT MY WORK. So, after I woke up and was working through my first cup of coffee, my mind began to wander. I was DAYDREAMING.
Now I am not a “dream interpreter.” Sure, God can use a dream to reveal new or next steps in our lives. He could realign stars or write it on the sky with an airplane too. I am analytical enough to ask if there was some stimuli in my mind from the previous day that maybe I was subconsciously processing that led to this change in ministry assignment. Maybe I was thinking about the pace of incremental growth among my people at church. Maybe I was thinking about those through the years that have given up the “steak” of the Word and chose a liquid diet of “Your best life by Friday.” Maybe, I was just tired still.
Then it happened. I was in one of my morning devotionals and it referenced 2 Timothy 4. So, I diverted there and realized that…if I was not careful, I was guaranteed to fail.
The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to his “son in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 2:1) was simple. If you are looking for success the way most people measure it, you are guaranteed to fail. If success for you is a widespread revival sweeping across your City with hundreds of thousands of people burning their magic books and casting their idols into the depths of the sea, you are destined to fail. If success for YOU is watching every person who enters the doors of your church become clones of Billy Graham, Jim Elliot, or “Lottie” Moon, you are guaranteed to fail.
NOW PAUSE but don’t turn away yet. I know it sounds painful to read further. You may want to conclude that Chris is “depressed” and move on…looking for rainbows and lolipops. Maybe you should…or maybe, you could find out how Paul encourages his “son in the faith.”
In 2 Timothy 4:1-8 we find:
- A Predicted Outcome (vv.3-4).People will choose paths of less resistance. They will want to feel good about it, so they will find teachers who make them feel better. Teachers that offer “six steps to being awesome” lessons. They will shrink back from the commitment associated with the Christian life by the droves. We also find…
- A Prescribed Activity (vv.1-2,5). This is an authoritative and solemn charge from spiritual father to son… PREACH the Word, always, rebuke, convince, exhort…and do it with GREAT PATIENCE. Think clearly and correctly about what success is. Endure hardship. Do the WORK of an evangelist. FULFILL YOUR MINISTRY. Finally, there is….
- A Promised Reward (vv.6-8). The reward is found in the example of Paul himself who says, “This is what I am holding onto.” I have been faithful to do all that I have instructed you above. I have run my race all the way to the ribbon. I have KEPT THE FAITH. Because of this, Jesus has laid up for me a victor’s crown of righteousness…but not for me only…also for all those who have done likewise.
Faithfulness to fulfill our assignments is the basis for reward. It is not outcome-based but activity-based in spite of outcomes. We are fine to have goals and pursue them passionately and we are exhorted to celebrate achieving goals when they are God-centered and God-honoring! Praise God! Another ten people saved! Another encounter where I magnified the Gospel!
Hey friend. Be encouraged today…if you are faithful today. Be encouraged today if you are doing the work and running the race assigned to you. Be encouraged today if Jesus is the only one in the stands cheering you on…and run all the way to the ribbon.