This has been a defining week for me wrought with the miseries and battle scars of ministry. It may even go down as one of the worst weeks. But as God has a habit of doing, while not fun, it was a time of vital character development and relearning some foundational lessons.
The Great Commission is commonly viewed as a one-way relationship between teacher and student, mentor and mentee, father and son. It is the mandate of the current generation to properly prepare the next. Who better illustrates this in the New Testament than Paul? From the Road to Damascus all the way to the Roman jail cell, he exemplified every stage of Christ’s last words to his disciples.
He set out on three extended missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel, establishing churches, and providing strength and encouragement to the young but thriving Body of Christ. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13 of them in the form of letters. While he took great pride in his Jewish heritage, he recognized that the Good News was for non-Jews as well, becoming the great apostle to the Gentiles…no pressure.
Despite his long list of accolades, Paul couldn’t have accomplished the task alone. On the contrary, there were many times his spiritual sons were vital in the preservation of his physical, emotional and spiritual health. They were glorious previews of the reward awaiting him, the times where Paul would reap the benefits of having sown so greatly amidst adversity, sacrifice, and tears.
Barnabas, whose name means encouragement, certainly lived up to his name. Early on, he was on hand to instill CONFIDENCE in the heart of the former Pharisee. He validated Paul’s testimony, accompanied him in his travels, and endorsed his ministry in Antioch.
I could only imagine how arduous the road ministry was for him. Times he was totally outside of familiarity, facing threats, loneliness, and disillusionment. What I’ve always found is that while life guarantees challenges, they are always just a little bit easier when we’re not alone. Titus provided COMPANIONSHIP for the elder Paul in Nicopolis, and so proved himself that he became his emissary in Crete and Dalmatia.
Paul was known for disrupting the status quo wherever he went. He found himself arrested, beaten, and thrown into a Philippian dungeon. No doubt, he was suffering terribly. But right by his side was Silas who CONSOLED him. And in the midst of gloom and apparent defeat, God showed up in a major way enthroned on their songs of praise. The result: broken chains and salvations!
Fast forward to Paul’s last years while under house arrest. I speculate about Paul’s countenance. Did he start questioning? Doubting? Complaining that after all the years of faithfulness, this was the way it was to end? How much life would have been simpler if he had remained a true Jew and killer of Christians? Enter a very little known disciple named Onesiphorus (2 Timothy) who COMFORTED the condemned apostle. It is said that he sought out Paul in Rome (not an easy feat) and “often refreshed” him. While others deserted Paul, Onesiphorus was determined to return the favor to his pastor and friend. In Paul’s most vulnerable moments, Onesiphorus was unafraid to be associated with him and stood by him.
Finally, the crown jewel of Paul’s ministry was a young man named Timothy. There was none like him, favored among all of Paul’s spiritual children: Paul had “none like him.” He was selfless, faithful, genuine, and possessed sincere faith. He was Paul’s true son who wept for him in his trials and was called upon to join him in his final days. He was the CONFIRMATION that his tribulations were not in vain and that the ministry of Christ would continue. Timothy’s life proved to Paul that IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!
“And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus — who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you. As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return” (2 Timothy 4:1-8).