Summary: Every believer needs to understand that they are an important part of the church. There is no such thing as someone who is useless in God's family. We need to find our purpose and know that Jesus has already equipped us.
Core Value 3:- The Need to Equip Disciples
I want to start by talking about epitaphs. An epitaph is the words which are written on a tombstone and they act as a way of remembering your life.
One day a man and his brother we walking through a cemetery in the country which contained old gravestones. Most of the gravestones contained epitaphs like, “Loving father”, “Beloved mother”, “Rest in Peace”. “Asleep in Jesus”, and so on. Eventually they came across a grave which contained these words: “A man of unquestioned integrity”. That is a great way to be remembered isn’t it.
When you die, how do you want to be remembered? What will be the defining phrase that summarises your life? That will be your epitaph. It might not be written on your gravestone.
But everybody will have one. This morning we are going to focus on Paul. And how Paul, as a disciple who was equipped to serve, lived his life.
What were the key issues for Paul?
• Knowing Christ.
• Pressing on.
• Sticking to the Word.
His life was a life of ... discipleship
And in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul gives his epitaph to that life.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
This is what life is about.
Paul doesn’t focus on who will inherit his material treasures. Instead Paul’s focuses is to pass on the baton of the Gospel. Paul’s last will is for people to see that the fight for faith is the noblest fight you can participate in. And in doing so Paul helps to understand another core value of the Bible – the core value of being equipped.
To fully appreciate the impact of Paul’s words it helps to know a bit about Paul’s present circumstances. The year is about 65ad and Emperor Nero has taken the throne – Nero despises Christians and persecutes them with severity and brutality. Paul is a casualty of this persecution and is in prison awaiting his death. It is in that situation that he says, I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure.
To see what that is all about we need to go back to the Old Testament. The drink offering accompanied nearly every temple sacrifice which was made. The morning and evening temple sacrifice. The sacrifices made at all three Israelite feasts. It also accompanied all personal sacrifices. The drink offering was the last step in the sacrificial process. The whole fermented drink was poured out in the holy place – nothing was held back from God. Whenever this was done the result was a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
I am a drink offering. I am always before God. I have been set apart for service to God. My purpose is to please God. That is my calling.
And knowing your calling is very important ... because it gives you purpose and enables you to know you are contributing to the overall goal. Recently in Brisbane they have been working on building a new bridge across the Brisbane River. It will carry six lanes of traffic, be 1.6 kilometres long and, at its highest point is 64 meters above the river. It is a huge task involving massive cranes and heavy lifting equipment. But what I find amazing is that there will always be a man in a tiny excavating machine working on the project. His contribution to the project is just as important, and has just as much purpose, as the people driving the heavy machinery.
In the church we need to know our calling to discipleship because then we can be sure we are contributing to the overall picture of God’s plan. And we can do that no matter what circumstances are taking place at the time.
That brings us back to Paul and his circumstances. When Paul makes this declaration about the calling of God on his life he does so when ... he is in jail; he has been imprisoned for his faith.
It was a small dark, damp room with a tiny opening in the wall for light. Paul had to rely on friends to look after him because the jailers didn’t care. He would rarely leave the cell.
He was sentenced to death. Paul has been serving God for over 30 years. And it all comes down to this.