Gifts + Message + Mission: Lessons from 2 Timothy

Near the end of his life Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy. It is full of practical wisdom for every Christian. In the first two chapters we find three timely challenges for the church:

(1)    Fan the gift of God into flame (1:6)

Like many, Timothy battled timidity and fear. He needed lots of encouragement to stir up the gift within him. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us that every Christian has received a spiritual gift. Sadly some treat these gifts as if they were fashion accessories. But God has designed the church in such a way that we depend on one another (1 Cor 12:7). Each has a role to play and when we do – be it speaking or serving – it releases God’s grace to others. What is your gift? To find out, ask: “What is it that I do that, when others see it, it results in them giving thanks and praise to God?”

(2)    Get back on message

Paul exhorted Timothy to “guard the good deposit” by which he meant the message Tim had heard Paul preach (1:14). We have message from God for a sick and dying world and it is the good news of the kingdom. The gospel is the cure for the deadliest disease known to man – sin. Left untreated sin will poison you, cripple you, even kill you. But God has entrusted the church with His cure. The gospel is not something to be ashamed of for in it God’s saving power is revealed. The gospel is not something we do on the side. The gospel ought to be at the center of everything we do, just was it was in Paul’s life. The church has one message for the world and it is the message the world most needs to hear – the gospel.

(3)    Get back on mission

Our mission is not worship or sanctification or koinonia – it is to pass on the message of the gospel to “reliable men” and make disciples (2:2). Every Christian is called to be on mission. Jesus said “as I was sent, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). He is sending us all the way across the street to our neighbours, our workplaces and the nations to tell them the message of the kingdom.

We need all three: Gifts + Message + Mission. They go together like the legs on a stool.

If we only have the message and the mission we will end up frustrated, burned-out, and fruitless? Why? Because we’re not operating in our gifting. If God has made you a thumb you will never succeed as an eye. For God’s grace to be released through us, it’s essential we find our place in the team.

I grew up playing the position of guard on the basketball team, but in Hong Kong everyone wants to play guard. Sometimes my team mates insist I play center so they can play guard. My pride says, “Why not! I’m not afraid of the giant on the other team.” But I usually end up bruised, battered and scoreless. The problem is not the game, but my position in it.

Similarly, many Christians have lost their joy in serving the Lord because they’re not being who God made them to be. The problem is not the message or the mission but that they’re playing out of position.

If we only have the gift and the mission we will probably end up being a blessing to others, but we will have little impact for the kingdom. I have seen big-hearted Christians reaching out to the poor and needy but no one has got saved or healed. Why? Because the message was never preached. Yes, we should reach out to the poor and needy, but let us not lose sight of why we’re doing it. God has not called us to merely bless the nations but to disciple the nations (Matt 28:19). There is no greater blessing than to set people free from the power of sin and death.

If we only have the gifts and the message we will end up over-fed, in-bred sheep. A church that has lost its mission is of no earthly good. Why? Because no one is reaching out to the lost. Jesus called us to be “fishers of men.” If we’re not fishing, we can’t call ourselves followers of Christ. Rick Warren distinguishes worldly- and world-class Christians. Worldly Christians are self-centered and go to church because it benefits them. World-class Christians know they were saved for a mission – to represent Christ to others.

The Devil has switched the price-tags on us and got us thinking about the hassles of reaching out to the lost. His plan is to entangle us like Demas in the cares of this world (4:10). He hopes we will run from the battle for he fears the church that wears combat boots. But there are rewards for those who endure the hardships of obedience (2:4). That reward is to please the Commanding Officer. I find it astonishing that we can do things that bring pleasure to the heart of King Jesus!

The Devil is tempting us with trinkets while God offers us His pleasure, His promotion and eternal rewards.

God is not stingy. He wants to reward you. The rewards we get from our earthly bosses are trivial in comparison to the eternal rewards that come from pleasing Jesus.

Jesus said if we prove faithful with little things, He will put us in charge over big things like cities. In Roman times war veterans were given farms and estates by grateful emperors. If this is how wicked kings reward their faithful soldiers, imagine how much more the King of Kings will reward those who are faithful with their gifts, the message and the mission.

2 Comments on Gifts + Message + Mission: Lessons from 2 Timothy

  1. Andrew de Beer // February 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm // Reply

    This is outstanding Paul!! I think the issues begins to creep in when the Message that “we” have embraced for so long is not actually the Gospel that sets Satan’s prisoners free.
    When we ourselves have not seen or understood the true value and full implication of “Christ and Him Crucified”, then the only fueling factor to go out with it, is the dead droning of “I ought to” because its the right thing to do. This is the “war cry” of the religious church.
    Once we have come to know and believe this Gospel in truth, no urging or threat of punishment could ever hold us back from sharing our amazing Jesus with all who will listen. This has been the recent track record among the believers here.
    God blessed you
    Andrew

  2. What a brilliant and enlightening piece of writing, Paul. Thank you for that!! I was in church today, and was really moved by our closing hymn “Just As I Am”, it made me think of how utterly unworthy I am to receive anything from ANYONE, let alone our God and King. Just as the words of the hymn reduced me to tears, so your words of encouragement have returned me to a cheerful disposition.
    Last week, I had a discussion (at the local golf driving range) with our church pastor about the seeming lack of appetite for outreach in our congregation; he is from South Africa and has been in post for about a year, we are in Scotland, so the difference in both culture and environment are significant. Following our driving activities, we had a coffee and a chat and I was confronted with the question (on the reason for the lack of appetite for outreach) “are the people here ashamed of the Gospel?” I was unable to answer at the time, but I knew deep down that I had been confronted by the truth, and was too ashamed to admit, to myself or to anyone else.
    I realise that the culmination of last week’s discussion, today’s preaching and my own conscience being pricked by God’s Spirit to confront a truth I had been hiding from (with the majority of our congregation) led me to being unable to control my emotions today – not a “bad” cry, but a bubbling out of joy, a “good” cry which had long been repressed. So I want to run your piece on the front cover of our church newsletter, to see if it sparks any more episodes of repressed joy in anyone else!! God bless you for your ministry, you speak so eloquently what I am thinking – but unable to articulate with the skill you have been gifted with – I will just have to keep on singing!!

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