The Price of Preaching–part 4
The convictions necessary to preach biblically, 2 Timothy 4:5
There is a price to pay for pastoral leadership. There is a financial cost–full-time pastors are often paid poorly and typically, there is a limit to the kind of money you can earn as a pastor. Our pastors are supported well here, but if I were driven by finances, let me assure you I could make more money in a different career choice than in the ministry. But because Christ paid the ultimate price and gave up His life to save Jean and me, we happily gave up those type of financial ambitions with no regrets like many of you did as well.
There is an emotional cost to pastoral ministry–as you bear the burdens of people’s crisis, health issues, destructive sin choices they commit, and worst of all sinful decisions that dramatically affect family or friends. As a result, in pastoral ministry you can go from a massive high, like slaughtering the prophets of Baal to a massive low, like hiding from Jezebel in a single day.
There is a physical cost. There is blood, sweat and tears to be a spiritual leader–stress, study, meetings, never being off-duty, long hours, constant pressure, and weekly deadlines that sometimes make sleep difficult and rest impossible.
There is a spiritual cost–the more influential you become as a leader, the greater the intensity of spiritual attack against you. There is more criticism, more misunderstanding, more temptation and all-around spiritual warfare.
There is a personal cost in pastoral leadership. Your study requirement doesn’t allow you to take holidays off. When your family is most available on weekends, you are most distracted for preaching, and much more.
Sometimes pastors need a reminder of what they signed up for, and at times churches need a reminder of the price their elders and pastors pay in order to fulfill their duties. And in 2 Timothy, Paul is paying the ultimate price for his ministry, suffering in a dark prison cell–cold, hidden away in Rome, and now reminding Timothy the price he must pay in order to preach God’s Word to God’s people, for God’s glory in 2 Timothy 4:1 to 5. Turn there and follow along in your outline. Read aloud verses 1 to 5.
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
As we work our way through 2 Timothy, this is our fourth week on this passage and we have discovered some essential truths about preaching, God’s Word, Christ’s true Church, hearing God’s Word and preachers themselves. After investing almost all of chapter 3 commanding Timothy to build convictions about God’s Word as the best way to battle doctrinal error, Paul now commands Timothy to preach God’s Word in chapter 4.
In chapter 4 verse 1, Paul reminds Timothy of the seriousness of expositional preaching. Some suspect the church elite of overestimating the importance of preaching. If you’re the suspicious type, take note of the six intensifiers Paul includes in his charge to Timothy. Verse 1, 1) “I solemnly charge you” 2) “in the presence of God” 3) “and of Christ Jesus,” 4) “who is to judge the living and the dead,” 5) “and by His appearing” 6) “and His kingdom.” What? Verse 2, “Preach the Word.” Preaching is seriously important.
The command is to preach, and the content is the Word. And in verse 2, Paul reminds Timothy biblical preaching will require his dedicated preparing, persisting, correcting, confronting, encouraging, enduring and teaching. And preaching is difficult, because preaching will be opposed. Paul informs Timothy in verses 3 to 4, that when church-attending make-believers choose not to listen to sound doctrine, they will seek to be entertained, find teachers who agree with them, then turn away from truth with such intensity that God will cause them to believe mere ideas about Christianity–ideas equal myths which can’t save them, but only condemn them.
Preaching has always been crucial for God’s people–you know Ezra. Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” And Nehemiah 8:8, “They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”
And with that same passion, Paul wraps up this paragraph, verses 1 to 5, reminding Timothy the cost he’ll pay to preach. The price one pays to preach is found in verse 5. Look at verse 5, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” This verse contains four commands–” be sober . . . endure hardship . . . do . . . fulfill.” The main verb is the first one–sober. And the three that follow are identical in grammar, with the first two words Paul gives five powerful truths on preaching, beginning with a . . .
#1 PURPOSEFUL focus
The first two words in verse 5 are focused on Timothy, “But you.” Paul starts with a sharp, double contrast. “But . . . you“–as for yourself, . . . however . . . “you” is emphatic. “You” is first in the verse. You, Timothy–here is what you must do–making verse 5 both the climax of verses 1 to 5, and the introduction to verses 5 to 8.
As a climax, the verse 5 “but you” draws a contrast between Timothy and the fickle multitude described in verses 3 and 4. Timothy, you must be different than those ear-ticklers. As an introduction, verse 5 draws a contrast between Timothy, who is still in the thick of the fight, and Paul, who has fought the grand fight and is about to finish by going to Heaven.
So in contrast to the flighty hearts of capricious listeners in verses 3 and 4, and the weird ideas they embrace about Christianity, Timothy must be purposeful and focused and pay any price to preach the Word. But you, Tim . . . be purposeful, stay on target, do not get distracted with lesser things. Timothy, here is the price you must pay to be a biblical preacher–the biggest command.
#2 PLANNED Discipline Verse 5b
“Be sober in all things.” Verses 3 and 4 remind you there is all kinds of weird teaching, false doctrine, and bizarre spirituality out there, but you, Timothy–“Keep your head in all these situations.” Churches, Christians, and especially preachers must remain sober or they will go crazy. The faithful preacher must “be sober in all things.”
“Be sober” is the sixth imperative in this passage, and it literally means what you think it means–to be free of intoxicants. But sober here is used metaphorically to describe living level-headed, well-balanced, and in control of one’s faculties. Sober includes the ideas of being stable, focused, self-controlled, attentive, unwavering, steadfast and to keep one’s head.
So what did Paul mean by telling Timothy to “be sober” as a preacher? And what can you learn from this command? The sober must not get distracted from preaching the Word of God. In the context of the broader Church, there are far too many distractions today. Maybe you were part of a church that moved from issue, to fad, to new trend, to political position, embracing one major fad after another. Churches do this in order to keep people thinking God is working in their midst. But it is like riding a roller coaster–it’s a thrill, but it ends up in the same place it began.
For appearance’s sake, they keep things moving from issue to fad to new approach–but no one grows to become more like Christ, and rarely does someone turn to Christ. The church that focuses on a new fad, then attacks an important issue, then jumps on a new trend may seem very alive, but in reality, it is a distracted church.
Even personally, you and I can become distracted. There are the believers who face a new emergency every single week–life is a crisis! They can’t serve or go to church or engage with others because they are facing another catastrophe. Then a week later, that thing is no longer a crisis. They don’t even remember what it was. It was the most important thing in the world, but now it’s over–but it is immediately replaced by another new and more intense distraction.
Pseudo-crises come and go. If you are not sober, you will totally get off mission. You won’t focus on Christ, you will not depend on His Word, and as a result, the Bible will not set your agenda. Crises, real or imagined, are not designed by God to dominate your life. The preacher must keep his head and not allow circumstances, hobbies, games, entertainment, sports, to distract his heart from Christ and His Word.
The sober preacher must curb his emotions. Christians are not to live by crisis nor circumstances. When you ask this person how it’s going they’ll say, “Pretty good, under the circumstances.” If you say that, someone should say to you, “What are you doing under there, under those circumstances?”
Paul commands Timothy to remain sober so that he will remain focused on preaching God’s Word. Soberness in the midst of the storms of this world and the latest trends in Christianity requires soberness in order to hold the rudder steady and head north. Stick with the main thing–God’s Word. Don’t freak out, don’t stress out, don’t get off mission, don’t allow anything to distract you, Timothy, from preaching the Word of God. There is a self-control and self-discipline to being sober and it should influence everything.
In the midst of a changing world, a changing church, the biblical preacher will remain committed to the changeless truth of God’s Word. While everyone is pursuing the new, the biblical preacher stands upon the old. The faithful preacher refuses to be trendy, an ear-tickler or a men-pleaser. Like 1 Thessalonians 2:3 to 5, the preacher or spiritual leaders will declare with Paul, “For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed.”
Being sober also means as a leader, you will remain spiritually alert. In some versions, the word sober is translated watch, which actually means to be alert. Timothy was to keep his eyes open. Paul told the Ephesian elders the same thing in Acts 20:28 to 30, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
“Be sober”–stay alert, Timothy, as you preach the Word, watch out for wolves. So practice planned discipline, be sober by remaining focused on the task of preaching, self-controlled in your lifestyle, and alert in your ministry focus. And . . .
#3 PREPARED to suffer
Next, in verse 5c, Paul says to Tim, “endure hardship.” There is no such thing as a faithful ministry that is not costly. A painless ministry is often shallow and fruitless. Paul might have written the letter to the Hebrews, for we know the author of that epistle knew and loved Timothy. In Hebrews 13:23, the author rejoiced. “Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you.”
Hebrews was likely written about the same time as 2 Timothy or shortly after, and Timothy, the young pastor of Ephesus, must have been arrested and jailed soon after he received 2 Timothy. The time quickly came for Timothy, as verse 5 states, to “endure hardship” in service of His Lord.
This is Paul’s seventh command to Timothy in this preaching paragraph. The verb “endure hardship” literally means to suffer evil, and was used by Paul in this same letter, 2 Timothy 2:9, to describe his own suffering for the Lord. It means to experience harm–to be emotionally hurt; to get some physical or emotional scars. Be prepared to be hurt.
A few verses earlier, the apostle used a closely related verb in asking Timothy to “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” in 2 Timothy 2:3. At the time Paul wrote these words, in the very next verse 6, Paul was preparing to die and go home to Heaven. Yet Paul’s ministry for Christ had been filled with hardship.
So harsh was his treatment, Paul actually remembered the number of times each painful, evil, treatment occurred in 2 Corinthians 11:23. He never forgot how many times he was scourged, beaten with rods, shipwrecked and more. “In far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:23 to 27).
I have not been beaten, but I have been blamed countless times. I have not been stoned, but I have been slandered in newspapers. I have not been lashed, but I have been lied about. I have not been imprisoned, but I have been threatened at a police station in Russia and threatened with lawsuits here. I have experienced sleepless nights, cold, in unclean places, literally surrounded by black widow spiders as someone’s guest speaker. (I didn’t accept their invitation to come back.) I have had people gnash their teeth at me with out of control anger over God’s Word I taught.
I also currently live close to and actually like people who live in Hemet and have cats. Timothy–there is a price to pay for preaching God’s Word. The external suffering will be different for each leader, but most of the suffering of spiritual leadership is internal. Much of the suffering of preachers comes from the spiritual weight of leadership.
As Paul wraps up his list of external sufferings, he references the internal suffering and pressure of representing Christ and preaching His Word. “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). Paul was under no illusions. There will be an increasing cost for being a Christian in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christ. So Paul challenges Timothy and you–be willing to suffer for your faithfulness to the truth.
The apostle had already told Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier. Now in light of his own death in verses 6 to 8, as the shadow of the axe is about to fall on Paul’s neck, I believe Paul is telling Tim be prepared to die as well. If you obey the Word of God, your life will experience hardship. Some of you were told if you accept Jesus everything would be better–they lied. They actually altered the Scripture to manipulate you to turn to Christ. When you turn to Christ, you agree to die like Christ–that is biblical. There are no shortcuts to a holy life. Hardship is required for those who want to live a life pleasing to God. There’s no shortcut.
We live in a day of shortcuts. That’s why there are 57 million diet books, and every other news-byte on the web is how to lose 20 pounds fast–eat mangos to get skinny. I tried that–I ate mangos, washed ’em down with Krispy Kremes and it didn’t work. Take this pill and suddenly you’ll get smart. No, you won’t–you’ll be broke. They know you’re not smart. That’s why they’re selling you stuff to make you smart, right?
We live in the age of sitcom reality–everything is easy and is fixed in 30 minutes or less. But genuine reality is this–you and I must endure hardship. Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” The godly preacher must be willing to suffer evil. If Christ suffered and you follow Christ, then you will suffer too. Next, the price of preaching includes . . .
#4 PREMEDITATED efforts to proclaim the GOSPEL
Next in verse 5d, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Paul does not call Timothy an evangelist, but rather calls him to do the work of an evangelist. In other words, proclaiming the Gospel of salvation was an important part of, but was not all of, Timothy’s ministry. As he preached, taught, and pastored those who already belonged to the Lord, he also was to confront the lost–particularly nominal Christians within the church, with their need of a Savior.
The verb “do the work” is the eighth imperative Paul here gives to Timothy. The noun “evangelist” is used only three times in the New Testament, always in reference to a specific office of ministry. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells us that . . .
FIRST “God gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”
SECOND The only person specifically called an evangelist is Philip in Acts 21:8, who was among the first deacons chosen in the Church, and was used by the Lord to bring salvation to the Ethiopian official as he returned from worshiping in Jerusalem.
THIRD Here, Timothy is called to work hard, doing the labor of the evangelist. The related verb to evangelize is used 54 times, and the noun gospel and good news is used 76 times. Both words are used in relation to the call of every Christian to witness for Christ and the responsibility of every preacher to proclaim the Gospel of salvation.
The purpose of this work of evangelization–whether by ordinary Christians toward a neighbor, or by a pastor to the unsaved in his congregation, or even by an evangelist to the general public is to simply help unbelievers become aware of their sinfulness and lostness, and to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord they must answer to. Any human manipulation in that process and any alteration of that message, no matter how well-intentioned, always becomes a barrier to genuine belief and true salvation.
But it is crucial to notice, Paul’s exact phraseology, “do the work of an evangelist.” Timothy wasn’t an evangelist. As you read the New Testament about his ministry, Timothy was a missionary, apostolic assistant and an elder/pastor. Timothy had a shepherd’s heart; he cared for the sheep of Christ’s flock. So what is Paul saying to Timothy then? “Timothy, do not forget the Gospel–men are dying in their sins. Do not be so occupied with feeding the flock, you overlook the need of those who are outside of Christ. ‘Do the work of an evangelist.’ ”
Some ministers say, “I don’t feel I have any evangelistic gift, so I never preach to the unsaved.” It is not necessary to have any special gift to preach to the unsaved. Just give them what God says in His Word about the salvation He has provided in the Lord Jesus Christ. Personally, in some way, every single week, even if only in the application, I seek to proclaim the good news.
Think about the importance of preaching to evangelizing the lost. Do you remember Romans 10:9? “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then verse 14, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
It’s preaching the Word which brings people to Christ. Churches that don’t open the Bible don’t see people come to Christ. If you do not open the Bible, non-Christians might respond to emotion, but they will not come to genuine salvation. You might draw a crowd with drama, but you won’t see people genuinely turn to Christ.
When you open the Bible, people see their sin and discover Christ as their only hope to be saved from their sins. That’s evangelism. People are not saved unless they hear God’s Word. Give them a Bible, share the message of the Gospel, show them what God says in Ephesians 2:1 to 10, walk through the book of Romans, have them read the gospel of John, tell them who Christ is and what Christ has done for you. If you know enough of the Gospel to receive it, you know enough to share it with others. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Paul’s sitting in a hole. They’re gonna chop his head off. In 2 Timothy, he writes the very last things on his heart. And what he writes is for you to build convictions on the Bible in order to navigate truth in this world of error. And he proclaims the Scripture so those without Christ might be awakened to the Gospel. That’s what’s on his heart. That’s what he cares about. That’s what he lives for. That’s what Paul will die for. So he wraps up his final preaching challenge with . . .
#5 PURSUE your Ministry
Verse 5e, “fulfill your ministry.” Timothy, don’t bail out of the ministry and pursue an easier profession. Don’t make bricks, preach the Bible. Don’t be a tailor, proclaim the truth. Paul says, follow me in the great fight, right? Verse 7, “I have fought the good fight.” Did you know, spiritually, every profession on earth is easier than preaching the Word? No profession invites the focused attack of the enemy as much as preaching the Word.
So Paul commands Timothy to fulfill the unique ministry given to him by the Lord. Fulfill is the ninth and final preaching imperative and carries the basic idea of giving full measure or bringing to completion. In relation to a person’s work, it also carries the ideas of eagerness and wholeheartedness. Fulfill means to accomplish thoroughly. Fulfill is used of filling a container to the brim.
No matter what you do in ministry, Paul says, “Do not be half-hearted, Timothy, and do not be content with halfway measures–give your whole soul, all your strength, all your ability, all your talents, all your heart, your whole life to the great work to which God has called you”–for Timothy here, to preach the Word.
When you serve Christ with your life, bring a full measure, fulfill your ministry. The Greek word paints a picture of a ship moving along with all the sails set, even the sweeps–those extra sails which help you maneuver in a difficult harbor or in battle with an enemy. Timothy needed to set his sails and make an all-out effort. There is still a fair wind in Ephesus. A storm might well be coming, but no sails needed to be shortened.
Timothy was to keep moving forward, whether under full sail with a favorable wind or with sails furled because of the howling tempest. You and Timothy have Ephesians 2:10, “good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” You and Timothy have a purpose in Acts 13:36, “… he had served the purpose of God in his own generation.” Christ purposely chose you to be His child–are you fulfilling your saved purpose?
Here in 2 Timothy, Paul is discharging the duties of his ministry. He hands it to Timothy and tells Timothy to pick it up, run hard, then hand it off to someone else. It’s like being discharged from a hospital. When you’re discharged, you’re on your own. If you need follow-up or treatment, let us know, but go. The ministry here is being discharged to Timothy and to you. FBC–you are ministers. You have ministry. It is discharged to you. You’re to go and do ministry. You’re to love people, follow the Bible, depend on the Spirit. Love your spouse, disciple your kids, serve in your giftedness in the church, proclaim the Gospel in the world and that is your ministry.
And that ministry is discharged to you. Aren’t you glad Paul doesn’t say, “Well, it’s me Paul. I’m in a hole. They’re gonna chop my head off. Christianity ends here. The churches will not know how you’ll continue on without me. Most of the New Testament, that’s mine. So sad. I didn’t proclaim to everyone, so all who didn’t hear it from me will all go to Hell.” Paul doesn’t say, “I’m gonna die, so it’s over.”
No, Paul says, “Timothy, fulfill your ministry; and those you preach to through the ages–all of you fulfill your ministry.” You’re not in a hole. It may be bad, you may live in Hemet and have a cat, your health may be bad. you may have a difficult spouse and rebellious kids, and a lousy job, but you can fulfill your ministry. Jesus chose you to fulfill a purpose here on Earth–are you pursuing that purpose? To do that . . .
First LABOR for Christ who labored for you
Colossians 1:28 and 29, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Christ labored to the point of death, are you willing to labor for Him? Labor means to work to the point of exhaustion, in Spirit-dependence upon His power to fulfill His purpose. You can’t labor in your own strength, but His strength.
As you minister to others, listen to the willingness of Paul’s labor. Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” First Thessalonians 2:9, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
Keith Green sang, “Jesus rose from the dead, and you can’t even get out of bed.” Friends, does the perfect Son of God’s death for you motivate you at all to labor for him?
Second Remain FAITHFUL
Faithfulness is defined by what you allow to discourage you. Stay on target, depend on God’s Spirit, saturate your heart in God’s Word, practice discipline, expect difficulty, share the Gospel and pursue your ministry. Do not allow anything to hinder your worship of Christ, your walk with Christ and your work for Christ.
Worship, walking and working for Christ are almost all done in community–so remain close to Christ in community; brothers and sisters who worship, walk and work with you.
Third Use verse 5 to motivate your ENDURANCE for Christ
When life gets tough; when ministry is impossible, when you want to quit, walk away or disappear, when you need encouragement–then quote verse 5 aloud. “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” When the storm waves wash away your resolve, when you have lost your way, when others have discouraged you, when your own sinfulness crushes your heart–then verbally recall verse 5. “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Endure, Christian. Remain under, stay with it, remain faithful.
Fourth Be an evangelist, but first be EVANGELIZED
You cannot fulfill your purpose, exercise self-control, endure evil, proclaim the Gospel, or fulfill your purpose on this planet unless you personally know the One who created you and designed you for His purposes.
Sin separates you from God, and only Christ can satisfy God’s hatred for sin. You must be perfect to stand in the presence of a perfect God. You depend on Christ by faith and you turn in repentance from sin, then Christ will take your sin and give you his righteousness, transform you internally and forgive your sin. But you must turn to Christ today–ask Him to open your heart and give you life. Let’s pray.