Summary: This is the last of a series on Paul’s Trustworthy Sayings. This message demonstrates the value of serving God and encourages people to get involved in ministry.
(ILLUS.) -- Like many teenagers, I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my life when I was a high-school senior. I knew that I wanted to serve the Lord (possibly in ministry / full-time service) but I didn’t know what or where. I hadn’t decided on pursuing pastoral ministry yet; in fact, I was leaning towards some kind of music ministry.
I decided that the best thing to do would be to attend Bible College -- so during my last year, I applied to one or two colleges -- preferably Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario. That provoked an interesting response. I had done well academically in high school and had placed consistently in the top of my class -- an "A" student. When I told my classmates that I was applying for Bible College, some of them told me I was crazy. With my marks and achievements, I could have received numerous grants and scholarships from most of the Canadian universities; and many of them said straight out that if they were me, they would go for something more promising/ rewarding. Interestingly enough, a number of my teachers told me the same thing -- that with my abilities and interests, I could do well in numerous schools and courses, and perhaps I should reconsider my choices.
What bothered me was that, here I was in a Christian high school with Christian teachers, and many Christian friends, and yet most of them were trying to steer me away from Bible College -- specifically away from training for ministry -- as if full-time Christian service were a waste of my talents -- or somehow a second-class choice.
I’ve found that many people (both in and out of the church) hold similar ideas of Christian service -- that it’s not really a career -- that it is somehow inferior to other options and choices. Now in some ways, that thinking is easy to understand -- it doesn’t fit in to the traditional picture of success; climbing the ladder and earning more respect / more money / better title, etc. Ministry is not considered a stable career -- there’s the potential of moving around a lot; it’s a hectic and demanding lifestyle; stressful on the family; and not considered to be financially secure or satisfying.
But perhaps one of the biggest reason why people do not consider it a worthwhile venture is that the position of pastor / spiritual leader is no longer a symbol of respect. There was a time when pastors, ministers, priests, etc were held in high esteem, but that is no longer the case. In fact, that is true of virtually any leadership position, unfortunately, whether it be government service, teaching, etc -- there is a general mistrust of large institutions, and people who lead.
Why is that? Well, unfortunately, the actions of a few have tainted the reputation of many; in past years, numerous individuals in leadership who failed to live up to the expectations of those under them -- went back on their promises, experienced a moral failure / loss of integrity -- and as a result, individuals involved in spiritual leadership, or Christian ministry and service have lost the respect of many people, both inside and outside of the church.
Unfortunately, that has led to a discouraging trend -- fewer people are willing to get involved in these types of full-time and part-time ministries. As a result, a heavy burden is placed upon existing leadership & ministry volunteers, and many ministries fail to grow / some even shut down completely because they lack the personnel to sustain it / make it effective.
Perhaps these were some of the concerns being faced by Timothy in the New Testament. Timothy was a young spiritual leader in a growing congregation, charged with the task of making disciples, teaching new converts, and raising up leaders. At times, I’m sure he felt inadequate & overwhelmed by the responsibility -- perhaps he contemplated giving up; perhaps he doubted his own abilities; perhaps he felt stressed out and worn out. Whatever the case, I’m sure that he often had questions and doubts about his ministry and service for the Lord -- and so, quite naturally, he looked to his mentor, the apostle Paul.
As you read through Paul’s letters to Timothy, you can almost get the feeling that he had a list of questions and concerns from Timothy before him -- and that as he wrote a response to each question and concern, Paul would check them off. Now we don’t know if that was the case, or if Paul was simply remembering the early questions and doubts that he experienced as he was starting out in ministry. Either way, Paul wrote these letters to Timothy, sharing some "trustworthy sayings" -- principles and truths that were the foundation of life as a Christian, and which would help Timothy in his ministry.