2 Timothy 4
A lot of water had passed under the bridge of the apostle Paul’s spiritual life by the time he wrote these words in 2 Timothy 4. Writing from the Mamertine prison in Rome, Italy, Paul used his dungeon cell as a pulpit, sharing with Timothy important truths pertinent to every believer. It is a clear reminder that we can effectively serve the Lord no matter where we are or what circumstances we are in. Sensing that his departure was at hand (v. 6), this venerable servant of the Lord would highlight key reminders as he prepared to graduate to glory. In essence, these are the final words of a faithful servant, and it lays out for us important principles of faithful service to Christ.
The Reminders for Faithful Servants
One of the primary reminders that Paul shared in this valedictory address was to remind Timothy that one day his service would be evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ. Service for the Savior should be with the motive to please Him who called us to Himself. Motives and methods need to be according to His standard and not ours. How sad it would be to have spent vast amounts of time and money in the Lord’s work, only to have those works burned up because it was not deemed to be “gold, silver or precious stones” in its quality (1 Cor. 3:12-15). “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Let us keep in mind there is a great assize coming in which our works will be reviewed and rewarded accordingly. The Lord said in Revelation 22:12, “Behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to His works.”
The Responsibilities for Faithful Servants
Another timely word by Paul to Timothy comes in verse 2. It is the preaching of the Word. How important this is! It is only the Word of God that is going to change lives. Only the Word of God can penetrate the life of a person and convict an unbeliever of their need for salvation or a believer to get back on track with the Lord. The Word of God is both living and powerful and it is the only thing that pierces the soul, something that mere words cannot do. Every servant of the Lord must know the Word and use it like a master swordsman to be utilized on every occasion. Someone has well said that there are only two seasons for the Christian to share the Word—in season and out of season. This means all the time, whether it is “convenient” or not. We should be able to convince others (saved and unsaved alike) through the logical, clear, and accurate use of the Word.
The Reasons for Faithful Servants
The reason for faithfulness to these responsibilities is given in v. 3. Both Paul and Peter his associate in ministry, as well as John warned of a coming apostasy, when there will be widespread departure from the faith. We are clearly seeing it in our day, when men will call good evil and evil good. The population in general will have turned their ears to fables to the sensational, to accounts of aliens from outer space to movies with demonic themes—to anything and everything except toward that which will give them the help and hope that they need. “Room for business, room for pleasure, but for Christ the crucified, not a room where He can enter for the heart for whom He died.” Room for everything but Him who gives the promise of eternal life and peace and joy and everything that they need but whose eyes have been blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The Bible says it clearly: they have been “turned aside” because they have rejected the truth of God’s Word. Because of this widespread departure, there is a corresponding need for faithful men of God to fearlessly stand out, stand up, and stand for Christ. Men who in the power and spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist bravely speak for the Lord “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).
The Requirements for Faithful Servants
For faithful service to come about, there are certain requirements that need to be present in the life of the servant in order to be deemed faithful to the Lord. Faithful service to the Lord for every Christian means to be watchful in all things. The private lives of Christians need to be an open book. Hebrews 4:13 reminds us that “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him, with whom we have to give an account.” Paul told the Ephesian elders that he taught them “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). He had both a public and private ministry and was a model of consistency, having always lived in a manner that was above and beyond reproach (Acts 20:18). Paul was a faithful servant! Because he endured affliction, his advice to Timothy was the same, to always be willing to share the gospel with others and to do the work of an evangelist. That is our calling also, to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and to help fulfill the Great Commission as the Lord asked us. Am I doing this? Are you? For Paul he was ready to present his body as a living sacrifice. He was ready to have his life poured out like a drink offering, a final deliberate act to designate the completion of his service for the Lord, knowing the time of his home call was near at hand. Paul was always ready – ready to submit to the Lord, ready to serve, ready to suffer, and ready to see the Lord. Are we ready in the same way? If we are, then (and only then) can someone say of us that we are a faithful servant.
The Rewards for Faithful Servants
For Paul and every faithful servant of Christ there is a glorious reward ahead. It is not just having a sense of fulfilling our ministry given to us in the Lord, but instead it is receiving the crown or crowns that will be given at His appearing (v. 1; 1 Thess. 2:19-20). Paul had indeed fought the good fight. It was not an approbation of his spiritual achievements, but rather it was declaring that it was a fight worth fighting, the battle for the truth of God. He had indeed finished his course, the course that had been laid out for him when he first came to know Christ (Acts 9:15). More importantly, he had kept the faith—not his own faith (the Lord was responsible for that, John 17:12), but instead he had faithfully kept that which was entrusted to him and passed it on to others without compromise (1 Cor. 11:23) as a faithful minister of the gospel (1 Tim. 1:12). Praise the Lord for these final words of a faithful servant!
And how about us? Are we aware that just as Paul was charging Timothy, so the Lord is charging us? Are we aware of the responsibilities and reasons for faithful service and what it requires of me? If we do this, and expectantly look for His return, we can be sure as Paul was, that there is a crown (and perhaps more crowns) waiting for us in heaven. May the Lord challenge us day by day to be faithful to Him who has been faithful to us.