I'm not the most creative pastor in the world—in fact, I might fall in the category of "Least Creative Pastors in the History of the Church." Because of this, and many more theological and convictional reasons, I generally preach through books of the Bible during Sunday morning worship gatherings at my church. Rather than six-to-eight weeks series on a topic, we devote whatever time is needed to digest entire books of the Bible.
This summer, after almost a year in the book of Genesis, our church has been walking through Paul's postcard to young Timothy written just months before Paul’s head was severed from the rest of his body. Second Timothy was supposed to give our church an idea of what it looks like to suffer and be persecuted in light of the quick cultural shift happening all around us in America. However, without knowing it, 2 Timothy has become gospel balm for our weary souls.
Paul begins his letter with a gospel punch. He tells Timothy to be bold in the gospel by fanning the flame of his ministry gifting from God (2 Tim 1:6), and then he exhorts the young pastor to remember that Christians have been given a spirit of power rather than one of fear (2 Tim 1:7). As if Paul’s beginning words were not already pungent enough, he then exclaims, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord” (2 Tim 1:8). Timothy was pastoring a difficult church with all types of problems, including false teachers. He was leading within an extremely hostile culture, so Paul encouraged him by giving him a kick in the pants to exult in the gospel.
Like many of us, young Timothy seemed to suffer with bouts of discouragement. The hostile culture around us does not commend Christ. Many so-called Christians occupy seats in church facilities, but how many of them actually see themselves as being on mission for Christ? All sorts of other difficulties arise in the context of pastoral ministry, and even congregational leaders get discouraged when they feel all alone in the fight for gospel-primacy in their churches and communities.
Yet Paul does not write Timothy to encourage him with warm fuzzy thoughts about how awesome he is as a person. Yes, Paul recognizes Timothy’s “sincere faith” (2 Tim 1:5), but the apostle’s main encouragement for Timothy is to 1) remind him of the goodness of God’s gospel (2 Tim 1:9-10; 2:8) and to 2) tell him to get to work making the gospel primary in the church and community around him (2 Tim 1:6, 8; 4:2).
Brother pastor, seasons of discouragement will come. In fact, they may come more often than seasons of encouragement. But do not give up on the mission to which you have been called by Christ. Remember the gospel. Remember that Jesus has suffered in order to save us and give us a holy calling (2 Tim 1:8-9). Remember that we have been given new life because of “his own purpose and grace,” not because we were commendable to God by our own merit (2 Tim 2:9).
Let the good news wash over you, and let it breathe fresh air into your lungs. Then, get busy being bold in the gospel. Do not be ashamed of Christ (2 Tim 1:8). Preach the gospel to yourself, and then give your life to preaching it to others (2 Tim 4:2). Yes, you will suffer (2 Tim 2:3). But so did your Savior. Yes, you will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). But so was your King. Let the gospel be balm for your weary soul. Let the gospel drive your mission. Make the gospel your hope. Make the gospel your purpose. Make the gospel your everything.