Hardship in Ministry

2 Timothy has most assuredly become one of my favorite New Testament books. For the past couple of years, I have dedicated myself to studying and learning the ins and outs of effective discipleship. Throughout this time and study, I have realized that the only true way to have an effective discipleship model is to have mature, committed disciples (followers) of Christ who make disciples.

This seemed to be Paul’s model, especially in regards to Timothy.

We read in Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy (2 Timothy) what Paul encourages Timothy to do. In fact, Paul really gives several exhortations within the letter. The first exhortation from Paul was for Timothy to remember and cherish the faith of his mother and grandmother. This is where discipleship started for Timothy and Paul needed to remind him of this.

Moving further to 2:1-2, we see a paramount passage for discipleship from Paul to Timothy that has been claimed by many organizations and used for a purpose.

Discipleship is a wonderful entity of the church. It is a ministry that will stand the test of time, because it will advance the Kingdom until Christ returns. However, I want to look at one of the main reasons Paul wrote this last letter to Timothy and it has nothing to do with discipleship. Paul writes in 1:15,

“You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me.”

Paul is in prison awaiting his execution and is telling Timothy about what is happening in the churches he has dedicated his life to planting and watering (1 Cor. 3:6). These members who were once committed to Christ and His Church are now leaving and departing from the truth of the Gospel to once they were committed. I’m not sure if you have ever been in a situation like this where everyone has deserted you. I know I have not, but I can only guess it would make you feel like a complete failure. I cannot think of a worse feeling than to hear that everyone in a certain place has recanted their commitments to the Gospel and to the Truth. Paul had to have been depressed. And to only add to the problem, he is awaiting his aforementioned execution.

Paul is writing this to Timothy, not to discourage him, not to make him feel bad, not to receive sympathy, but to encourage him to keep going. He says,

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Paul tells Timothy, among all of this hardship – all these people leaving – all of the despair of the ministry , to stay the course in the strength of Christ through His grace.

As ministers of the Gospel, you are guaranteed to be discouraged – to face hardship. If you have been in ministry for longer than five minutes, you have likely experienced some form of discouragement or despair in ministry. It is a given. Yes, ministry is rewarding and I don’t want to downplay the rewards of ministry, not only on earth but also for eternity. However, there is still much discouragement. It is real. It is difficult to deal with. Sometimes, it makes the minister implode. Other times, it can rip his family apart. Unrealistic expectations come into play and make him run scared constantly. Critical church members who have not a kind word to say eat at his mind so much that he never gets a good nights rest.

Amidst all of these trials he is facing, Paul is writing Timothy to say one thing: Persevere. If there is one thing of which Paul is sure, it is that God makes no mistakes when he calls someone into the ministry.

Paul leaves Timothy with these words and I want to leave these words with you, discouraged pastor. Paul writes,

“The Lord will rescue me from eery evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.”

Be encouraged today: Your reward is coming.

“For we have no lasting city, be we seek the city that is to come.” – Hebrews 13:8, ESV

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