On Your Mark, Get Set…

What would you write as a mentor if you only had 27 sentences left to write in the last letter of your ministry? The Apostle Paul is drawing this final appeal, to his spiritual son Timothy, to a close. He will no longer be available to Timothy in a direct supervisory role. The mantle of leadership is about to descend on this timid successor.  What must be said?

Paul launches into the fourth chapter of this mentoring manual we know as Second Timothy. His opening sentence in this final section is framed with intensity and purpose. There is no time to waste, no secondary issues to speculate about.  These final instructions will be the marching orders for years to come.  Others will read them and imitate their fervency.  The pattern set forth in this apostolic era will shape godly leaders for centuries to come.  

By the Spirit of God, Paul frames these intense imperatives with a clear doctrinal conviction.  Ministry is to be God-centred.  Ministry and ministers will be evaluated by the Lord Jesus Christ, the appointed Judge. Personal opinion doesn’t count.  The stakes are too high.  The Spirit of God is compelling this Senior leader to passionately press his successor and others into urgent, devoted activity.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,….”

Paul lines up as an apostle of Christ Jesus (1:1).  His ministry and Timothy’s are conducted in the presence of God.  Christ will evaluate all people and will return as He promised.  Kingdom principles apply to those called to serve the King of kings.     The truth is every doctrinal truth provides a solid foundation.  Paul amplifies this principle in the Book of Romans when he lays down 11 chapters of DOCTRINE and then builds upon that firm foundation 5 chapters of PRACTICE.  E.g. Romans 12:1 “I urge you therefore brothers, in view of God’s mercy (chap. 1-11), that you present your bodies as living sacrifices….”

“I give you this charge…” These are not a few rambling thoughts of a dieing senior leader. These are imperatives not indicatives – commands not statements.  So what are these urgent commands for ministry? What are Timothy’s marching orders? The next marathon needs to be run. Timothy and other runners are in the starting blocks.  It is as if Paul is saying, “On your mark, get set….”

Preach the Word;

Be prepared in season and out of season;



and Encourage —

with great patience and careful instruction.

Holistic pastoral ministry involves focused obedience.  Godly leaders have one main textbook – the Scriptures.  It must be preached.  It must be used in corrective and instructive ways.  Ministry has seasons.  Regardless of the season Timothy, be prepared.  Don’t wait until the battle starts before you put your armour on.  Launch into your ministry with focus.  

This passage has been taught, preached, and used in a variety of other ways at ordinations, commissionings and workshops.  The clarion call still echoes into the halls of churches and institutions where the Book, God’s word, remains the standard for all matters of doctrine and practice.  To ignore these clear commands is to miss the main point of what ministry is all about.

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