by Andy Saperstein
Last words matter. And when we get the opportunity to carefully choose those words, people listen, and powerful things happen. The Apostle Paul had just such an opportunity and took it in his Second Letter to Timothy. Paul was in prison in Rome awaiting his execution and wrote Timothy a letter of encouragement, instruction, and commission – the last recorded words of the great apostle to Timothy, his “beloved son” and devoted partner in the Gospel. And as leaders, disciplemakers, and partners in the Gospel, we also do well to pay attention to what Paul says.
Paul exhorts Timothy in many ways in this short letter, but three of his admonitions are particularly important as we step into another year of ministry together. The first is this:
For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6)
First of all, as disciples of Jesus and leaders in His church, do we even know what gifts God has placed in us? The gifts He has given us are not from ourselves, but are part of His sovereign choice, distributed by the Holy Spirit to each one individually just as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). Are you gifted as an evangelist or a teacher, a servant or an encourager, a prophet or a healer, a leader or an administrator? What gives you joy and consistently bears fruit in the lives of the people around you? Were you to fill in the blank in Eric Liddell, the great Scottish runner and missionary featured in the film Chariots of Fire’s statement “When I run, I feel His pleasure,” what would you put down? Of all you do as a child of God, as a disciple, and as a leader, in what do you most deeply experience God’s pleasure? Think on these things, ask God to show them to you, identify them, and then rekindle them – stir them up, develop them, practice them, and keep on developing the graces God has chosen to give you.
Paul’s second crucial admonition for Timothy and for us is this:
Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14)
God has given each of us a treasure that is not ours, but is a stewardship – time, spiritual gifts, financial resource, bodies and minds and hearts that belong to him. But as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics teaches us, unless we put energy into a system, things begin to fall apart. Unless we tend to and take care of our gardens, they dry up and overgrow with weeds, no matter how lush they may once have been. Are you caring well for what God has given you? Are you tending your garden? Are you receiving the simple graces of a good night’s sleep, exercise, and eating well? Are you investing in your key relationships – your marriage, your renewing friendships, your families? Are you regularly taking time to drink deeply from the wells of time with Jesus and time in His word? Guard – take care of – the treasure that has been entrusted to you – and remember, you yourself are a big part of that treasure.
Finally, Paul’s third admonition to us is this:
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Paul elsewhere tells us that to each of us is given “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7) The treasures entrusted to us – His word, His Spirit, our very lives, all that we have – are not in the end for us to indiscriminately spend on our own pleasures, but are a sacred trust to be reinvested in the kingdom. Do you know the names of the people who God has specifically called you to entrust the kingdom resource He has placed in you? We should be able to name these people – it may be only one or two key people, or it may be many, but each of us is called to intentionally invest in others – not just anyone, but to faithful people who will be able to entrust what we give to yet others still. Who are the ones to whom you are entrusting the treasure placed in you? In these simple ways the kingdom is built.
So dear friends, this year, let us make it our purpose together to rekindle what God has placed in us, to guard it and take care of it, and to intentionally entrust it to others who will do the same. Rekindle. Guard. Entrust.