the brutal task

I know my blogging lately has been slim-to-none, and for some of you I am sure that has been a relief as that means I haven’t been chiding you as much as you actually need, and you can get on with your life.

And there is a handful of men waiting in line at the D-blog for to beat me down over the Trinity and Inerrancy. My apologies to them as I simply don’t have the time right now to blog every single day, and I appreciate their patience.

Just so none of you think I am sliding off my rail here, you may know that I have been blogging Paul’s letter to Titus over at TeamPyro, and we’ll get to the letters to Timothy eventually. It’s a good personal exercise for me as my family and I choose a new church, and I hope it’s been useful to, well, anybody.

But in reading those letters slowly and sort of deliberately, there’s something I have noticed about what Paul says to Timothy specifically: being an elder in the church, responsible for the doctrine people believe and the lives that they live, is a brutal task.

Paul says it this way:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Now, this is Paul’s last word to Timothy – maybe his last words to anyone via letter. And in doing that, what’s remarkable is that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy, “hey dude: pace yourself. Don’t make people too angry with that teaching you have from me because it’ll bring nothing but trouble if you do. On the other hand, there’s real freedom in grace, but if you go too far, you’ll find out that there’s real freedom in unemployment or martyrdom, if you see what I’m sayin’.”

Paul makes it very clear to Timothy – and therefore to us -- that those who are “guarding the good deposit entrusted to [them]” are putting their lives on the line, and they ought to be doing it gladly. They ought to be “not ashamed” that they suffer, because they really ought to be suffering if they are doing what God called them to do.

Indeed, Paul says this to Timothy:
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Think about that: Paul doesn’t tell Timothy that he should expect that the ministry he’s entrusted with should be one where there is no adversity: it is in fact one where there must be adversity because the church and the world are full of people who, frankly, hate the Gospel. Those imposters will only go from bad to worse.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that I have recently come across some stuff on the web where there are guys who are sort of co-miserating over the burn-out they are experiencing in pastoral ministry, glorifying it and sort of making their bitterness over it a badge of honor. I’m not going to link to it because it’ll just cause you to sin, one way or the other.

However, I’m not sure that sort of thing was what Paul had in mind when he said, “do not be ashamed of the testimony.”