Monday mornings are the hardest for pastors. After proclaiming the word of God on Sunday, Mondays are the beginning to preparation for the next Sunday. Pastors from small rural churches to large urban churches experience difficulties. Time seems to evade us so quickly. There’s family life to do, work to be done, counseling, meetings, preparations and on top of all that squeaky wheels complaining about almost anything. Considering the suffering and trials the Apostle Paul was enduring he added this in 1 Corinthians 11:28 “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
Timothy was no exempt from daily pressures of being a Christian pastor. There was much persecution in these days, mainly from Nero. Paul wrote 1 Timothy after his release from prison. Now 2 Timothy is written from prison again, but this time his concern is for young Timothy. The fact is Timothy seems to be showing signs of wavering faith. Before we begin to condemn him for this, we must look at our own lives. Many of us have wanted to quit. Many have quit. If we are honest, we will look and see the pattern leading up to that. I know, I resigned in 2008 after eight years as a pastor in a rural Alabama county, and I swore I would not pastor again.
In 2013, I took an interim pastoral position assuring the folks I would not stay as pastor. Well, it’s 2022, and I am still there. But I have learned some great lessons in this pastorate. Has there been times I wanted to step down again? Yes. But I stepped back and asked the Lord for help. I often read 2 Timothy because it is a great encouragement. Here is what I have learned from this book.
A mentor is essential. Paul could see the struggle likely occurring in Timothy amidst persecution, “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Sometimes we need to be reminded of the gift of God in preaching. We need to be reminded not to fear man or what he can do to us.
A mentor reminds us of who redeemed us, 1 Timothy 1:8-10. It’s a reminder to Timothy not to be ashamed of Jesus or Paul for their testimony of Christ. The truth is there are many pressure points for pastors to be sensitive to the what the culture says on certain biblical subject such as marriage, Biblical sexuality, and purity. The temptation to not firmly stand on those subject because of ridicule is real. Paul reminds Timothy of who saved them with a holy calling, and to “suffer” for the gospel.
A mentor encourages us to be be strong, not in our own will, but God’s, 1 Timothy 2:1 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Whatever pressures arise in our life to hinder us or make us want to quit, must be refuted by the grace of Jesus. We are strong in him, not in ourselves.
A mentor encourages us to be faithful no to God, 2 Timothy 2:8-10 “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” We must be faithful to preach God’s word no matter what civil magistrates or governments do. They may “outlaw” God’s word and even imprison people for it, but there’s an eternal purpose for preaching. Through some of these trials men may come to saving faith in Christ. That’s why we preach the truth in times when it’s not popular.
A mentor helps avoid senseless issues, 2 Timothy 2:14-18 “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” There have been too many senseless controversies I’ve let myself get drawn into. These don’t have eternal value. I’ve wasted too much time on secondary disagreements. They have drained me of valuable time elsewhere. Don’t let this be something that drains your energy from solid pastoral preaching.
A mentor encourages us to strive for holiness, 2 Timothy 2:22 “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”. It’s good to have men to remind us of what to pursue. Our culture is trying to invade this and we are all at risk of losing sight of holiness in the midst of pressures and trials. Yet, the word flee is a Greek verb that means “seek safety by flight”. We should be teaching others to pursue righteousness. This is a mark of a true Christian is one who pursues and flees.
A mentor warns difficult times, 2 Timothy 3:1 “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come”. This isn’t being the wet blanket in the room. Those who preach the truth, stand for the truth, will always be ostracized to some degree. And with social media today the ability to spread lies and slander is easy to do. However, we know times will come. We know the Bible speaks of difficulty in standing the truth.
A mentor reminds us of what has already been laid, 2 Timothy 3:10-12 “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. We are not the first ones to have trials. Paul reminds Timothy to follow his teaching, conduct and all the afflictions. See how I responded. You do the same. We should be encouraged by this, to endure the same afflictions, because God is faithful. We can expect suffering for the gospel.
A mentor charges us to preach, 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word”. We are too “herald” the word. Every time we open God’s word we are to preach the truth of his word. If it’s a small class, a group of unbelievers who may be listening, we are to preach the word. This is greatest command given to us. We should encourage young men to preach the truth, and not customize God’s word to a culture that wants to hear a post-modern version of the Bible.
In these times of suffering Paul was enduring, Timothy was pastoring and times were hard. He was wavering somewhat. But a godly mentor encourages him to continue in the hope he has. To place his trust in a sovereign God. To preach the word. Today, when the waves of weariness roll in, I read this letter. I am encouraged. I am strengthened to keep proclaiming the truth in the midst of a wicked, perverse world.