Neither ministry or ministry leadership is easy. If you lead in God's kingdom or do ministry as a way of life, you know that there is a cost to be paid. The Apostle Paul is a great model of one who lead and ministered well and he had several commitments that made his ministry powerful.
In his final charge to Timothy, the Apostle Paul makes a statement about his life and work which ought to be carefully considered by all Christ followers and leaders. He specifically lists nine things that he wants Timothy to remember and consider for his own life and leadership. These nine characteristics ought to apply to everyone, not just leaders.
"You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, Sufferings...(2 Timothy 3:10-11).
We know from Paul's own messages, writing and admonitions to Timothy and Titus how careful and thorough Paul's teaching was. He never took his teaching lightly and he was a master at both theology and practical application. His teaching was never divorced from the text or from the realities of every day life. Would those who know us best say that about us?
Way of life
Paul lived in a way that was consistent with his teaching - a major challenge for all Christian leaders. Not only was his teaching above reproach but his life was as well. There was no dichotomy between how he lived and what he taught - and Timothy knew this because he had traveled and worked with Paul and knew him inside and out. My test for this is whether my spouse and closest colleagues would say that my way of life is consistent with what I write, speak and teach?
Paul, like all good leaders was crystal clear on his focus and purpose which was to bring God's Gospel to the Gentiles. That God given purpose drove all of his activities, energy and direction. His was not an accidental life but an intentional purpose driven life. Would those around us say the same about us and would they be able to articulate what motivates and drives us?
Paul's teaching, way of life and purpose were all driven by a deep, abiding faith in the living God who was able to work powerfully in any situation in which he found himself. One of the amazing things about Paul, given the terrific suffering he experienced and the crazy situations he found himself in was that he was always optimistic and always confident of God's ability accomplish through him what needed to be accomplished. This was a direct reflection of his faith in God.
There is no ministry without a great deal of patience. Ministry takes time, people can be slow to respond, they can disappoint and do dumb things. That is why anyone who is going to lead or be involved in ministry must develop the same patience that God has for us. It is the patience that understands that growth takes place as the Holy Spirit works in people's lives and cannot be forced by us. Impatience with people is usually a sign that we are not content to let the Holy Spirit do His work. Would those we minister to describe us as patient?
I am always amazed reading Paul's letters to folks, how much love he expresses toward them, including some pretty intransigent folks. Love for God and love for people are prerequisites for anyone in ministry. Without a real love for people, knowing that they are made in His Image, we cannot minister to them in ways that exude His love. It is the love of Jesus that compels us to love all those whom He made, even the most unlovable from the world's point of view. Interestingly, those we minister too are often able to determine whether our ministry is driven by our own needs, desires and ego or by a genuine love for them.
Paul never quit! He never retired from ministry! He did not allow the discouragements he encountered from both believers and non-believers to take him out of the game! Going the distance and staying the course is the mark of a good soldier who endures the hardships of war which is why Paul uses that metaphor with Timothy along with that of running the race and claiming the prize. It is one thing to do ministry when times are easy. It is another when times are hard and it is all that one can do to hang on. Endurance is the willingness to go the distance and to do so without complaint or feeling sorry for ourselves.
Jesus said that all who follow Him will face persecution and Paul had his share of it. What is interesting is that rather than complain about persecution, Paul regarded it as a badge of honor to suffer for His Lord. He expected it, told others to expect it, assumed that it would happen to any who faithfully followed Jesus and wore he his badges of persecution as his credentials as a follower of Jesus. His persecution sometimes came from those who called themselves Christ followers and sometimes from pagans who did not. We should not be surprised by either form as well. The hardest persecution is always from those inside Jesus' camp who ought to know better.
Like persecution, Paul spoke willingly and often of the sufferings he endured for the cause of Jesus. More than that, he saw it as a privilege to suffer on behalf on Jesus. He told the Philippians, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him (Philippians 1:29)." He said that "I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings (Philippians 3:10)." Not once did Paul complain about the suffering he endured for Jesus. Could the same be said for us?
How do we measure up to these nine characteristics of Paul's life and ministry? Where are we doing well and where do we need to revise our attitudes? These nine characteristics make for a very powerful ministry combination. What would those closest to us say?