FAITHFUL MINISTRY

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turan away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. - 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Tyla and I, along with Ron and Lena Anderson and Paul McClish, attended  the EFCSW yearly meeting at Rose Drive Friends Church.  Among the things we celebrated during those sessions was the “recording” of four individuals as ministers of the gospel.  It was exciting to hear about how the Lord had led them into ministry and about the kinds of ministry they were pursuing.  With their spouses on the platform and a host of family and friends in the audience to witness their official recognition, it was truly a joyous occasion!  It reminded me of many previous such scenes down the years, including my own recording in 1986.  One of the passages that was frequently quoted at these events was Paul’s exhortation in the first letter of Paul to Timothy, chapter four, verses one through five.  Though its words are stern and solemn, it speaks to a very serious problem we face as Christ’s followers today.

Jesus has called us to “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).  Yet we find that many people are resistant to the message of Jesus Christ, especially in those places where the Church has long had a presence and at one time held a prominent place in society. We long to reach our generation with the gospel and win them to Christ but this very longing, when faced with resistance, may lead us to compromise the message to make it more acceptable.  We do need to start where people are and address their “felt needs” but if our ministry to them fails to meet their greatest need, their need for an eternal and right relationship with God, we do both them and our Lord an infinite disservice.

Paul, in charging Timothy with his great responsibility as a minister of the gospel, places his charge in the context of the final Judgment.  What will people do, living and dead, when Christ appears in glory?  That will be the ultimate test of our entire ministry to them.  Will they be as those the Bible says on that day will cry out to the hills and to the rocks, “hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:16-17)  This they will say, by the way, not because He hates them or wishes to destroy them.  Rather, it is because they are truly His enemies and this clear sight of Him only fills them with dread and loathing.  The Psalmist says to God, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.” (Psalm 18:25-26)  The English translation here is trying to avoid the blunt words of the original Hebrew:  to the crooked you show yourself crooked.  To be sure, God is not crooked.  But He appears so to those whose hearts are alienated from Him.  

In His Parable of the Talents, Jesus has the lazy slave say to his master, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.  And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:24-25)  The master does not reply, “No – you have me all wrong!  I am not a hard man but a just one.  You did not need to be afraid of me!”  Instead, Jesus has him answer the lazy slave according to his false view of the master:  “You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.” (verses 26-27)  With that, the master took the talent from him and gave it to one of those who had doubled the talents he had already received and said, “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (verse 30)  In the Day of Judgment, what we have become, either by welcoming God’s light and grace, obtained for us by Christ’s death and resurrection, or by resisting it, will become altogether apparent.  We will either love Him or hate Him, fly to Him or flee from Him. Was it not so for those who met Him when He walked on earth?  He inspired either loving devotion or angry opposition.

And that is what our ministry on earth is all about.  The service to which Jesus has called us, ultimately, is to help turn people from ignoble and unjust apprehensions of God to a whole-hearted embrace of what and who He truly is.  And once they have come to see Him clearly, we must continue to hold the truth before their eyes and not allow the enemy of their souls to blind them again.  While we are in this world, we are exposed constantly to attack by the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  Hence the Church (that is, the fellowship of the believers) is called to mutual exhortation, encouragement and faithful witness.  Paul urges Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”  The reason for this unglamorous and difficult work is readily apparent:  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”  These myths are designed to obscure or absolutely deny the truth that will set us free from sin.  Teaching that tickles the ears may be pleasant and enjoyable but it leaves our souls in darkness and if not escaped, to a state of mind that finds the true and living God abhorrent.

But whether you choose to register for the conference or not, company is coming to our church and we need plenty of volunteers help out.  Please sign up for the clean-up crews and repair parties that will be forming over the course of this month.  On the weekend of the conference we will also need many volunteers to help with serving food, moving tables and chairs, transporting people from and to the airport, train station and hotels and much more.  We will have help from others besides those of our church but we will be providing much of the manpower to get the job done.  What a wonderful opportunity this will be to let our light shine and serve the Lord by serving others!