by Pastor Ron Thomas
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
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Text: II Timothy 4:9-22.
Introduction: These are the last recorded words written by the apostle Paul as he sat in a prison cell in Rome. Soon he would be offered, his life poured out like a drink offering to God by Nero. As Paul goes off the scene, he will leave behind a new generation of Christian leaders to carry on the work of the church and the cause of Christ.
This last portion of Paul's letter to Timothy is filled with the names of people, instructions, and admonitions. It is as if Paul is teaching Timothy, and teaching us, one last lesson about the ministry. This lesson is simple. Ministry requires a team effort. We need partners in ministry who will work together toward a common goal.
Moses learned this lesson the hard way. Moses was carrying the load of ministry all by himself, and it was about to kill him! God instructed Moses to gather seventy of the elders of Israel, delegate his authority and divide the load, the responsibilities! Moses needed help. He needed partners in ministry.
Jesus knew and practiced this from the beginning of His earthly ministry! When Jesus began His earthly ministry, he gathered good men around Him, ordained them, empowered them, and put them to work.
Although Paul was in prison, he had a support group to carry out the ministry! Because Paul had partners in ministry, the work of God continued!
Speaking of teamwork and sharing the load, the following came from "Morning Manna," a ministry of Northway Baptist Church, in Humble, Texas. Pastor David Stone writes:
Did you hear about the company that makes blank bumper stickers? They're for people who don't want to get involved! Those things ought to sell like hot cakes! There's just one problem. The people in that crowd don't want to admit it. They're not blind. They can see the needs just like everyone else, but they don't want to advertise the fact that they don't care. They expect somebody else to do it.
There are a lot of church members who fit in this category. They arrive at church and expect the doors to be open, but they don't want to get there early to do it. They walk into the building and expect the lights to be on and the temperature to be just right, but they aren't willing to give to help pay the utility bill. They expect the church to supply nursery workers and teachers, but they refuse to volunteer. They complain about the choir not having enough sopranos or bass singers, but they refuse to join the choir. The list could go on and on, but you get the point. Most people are critics, rather than contributors. They are getters, rather givers. Their favorite excuse for dropping out of church is, "I just wasn't getting anything out of it." They didn't put anything into it! That's the problem. Those who get the most out of it, are those who put the most into it. They get the most, because they aren't trying to "get" anything. Their interest is in giving, not getting. May their tribe increase. If you're one of those who don't want to get involved, I've got just four words for you. "Get a bumper sticker!"
Somehow I believe we can hear a loud "Amen" from a prison cell in Rome! We cannot do ministry by ourselves. We are in this together! Ministry takes everyone sharing the load, doing their part! We need to team up for the cause of Christ! We're partners!
What Does It Take To Be Partners In Ministry?
First: Partners can count on each other. Notice verse 9. "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me." Paul instructs Timothy to drop everything and come! In verse 21a, Paul says to Timothy, "Do thy diligence to come before winter." Paul knows he can count on Timothy, his "son in the faith."
Have you ever had a "drop everything" moment? Perhaps someone had an emergency, you needed help immediately, so you called a family member or close friend to come to your side ....now! What would we do without those people in our lives, who we can count on twenty-four seven?
This is one of those moments. Paul calls to Timothy for several reasons, but perhaps the greatest reason is his need for encouragement and companionship in his dark hour. Paul yearned for the fellowship of Timothy. Paul longed to see Timothy, to talk to him, and to pray with him. There's a deep spiritual bond between these two men. Paul knows that he can count on Timothy, when he says, "Come, I need you now!" He knows that Timothy will drop everything.
By way of contrast, Paul continues in verse 10a, "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica." What did Demas do? Evidently he abandoned Paul. The word "forsaken," speaks of being left in straits or left helpless. Obviously, Demas was not reliable! Some believe that Demas fell in love with the world of pleasures and possessions. Others believe that Demas could not take the heat of persecution that was breathing down the necks of Christians at that time! Whatever the case, Demas represents those who walk out on us in the ministry.
As ministry partners, we need to work at being "go to" people, people who are reliable and faithful. What a testimony it is when we are called upon to serve, to go here or there, with little or no notice! Can people count on you?
Second: Partners stick together. When I think of partners or friends, "sticking together," I think of a song composed and performed by Randy Newman. It goes, "You've got a friend in me, You've got a friend in me. When the road looks rough ahead, and you're miles and miles, from your nice warm bed, just remember what your old pal said, ‘Boy, you've got a friend in me.' You've got troubles, well I've got 'em too. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you. We stick together and we see it through. You've got a friend in me. Some other folks might be a little bit smarter than I am. Bigger and stronger too. Maybe. But none of them, will ever love you the way I do. It's me and you. And as the years go by boys, our friendship will never die. You're gonna see. It's our destiny. You've got a friend in me."
Friends, partners, stick together! Notice verse 10b-11a. It says, "Crescens (krace'-kace) to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me." Both Crescens (krace'-kace) and Titus were led to leave Paul and go to other places for ministry, yet Paul was not left alone. Luke was with Paul in prison. Luke, a physician, was attached to Paul throughout his ministry. We know that Paul had some chronic health problems. Luke had joined forces with Paul and was a faithful companion. When others had turned aside and forsook Paul, Luke stuck by his side, ...even in prison. In Colossians 4:14, we see the contrast with Demus again. "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you." It was Luke in prison with Paul, ......not Demas! Paul enjoyed the good company of Dr. Luke. Luke stuck with Paul!
We have all had our share of "fair weather friends." A "fair weather friend" is only a friend when circumstances are pleasant or profitable. At the first sign of trouble, these capricious, disloyal friends will drop their relationship with you. Someone said, "A fair weather friend, is a friend who is only around when they need you." Praise God for Christian brothers and sisters who will stick with you and support you as you experience both the pleasant and the unpleasant aspects of the ministry.
Third: Partners forgive each other, and refuse to hold grudges. David Letterman said, "People say New Yorkers can't get along. Not true. I saw two New Yorkers, complete strangers, sharing a cab. One guy took the tires and the radio; the other guy took the engine."
Notice verse 11b. It says, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." Paul sends for Mark. For those who have read the book of Acts, you understand that this is a big deal. Why? There was a dispute between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. We read in Acts 15:37, "And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work." Now, we discover Paul sending for not only Timothy, but for John Mark. Though John Mark was once rejected by Paul, he had proven himself with Barnabas, and now was profitable. By this request, it is obvious that Paul had forgiven everyone, and released any personal grudge against Mark!
A ministry team could not stay together very long, if they refused to forgive each other and drop grudges! We must remember that failure is a great opportunity to learn and grow. Just because someone failed, doesn't mean that he or she is no longer profitable. As a matter of fact, he or she may be more profitable!
Fourth: Partners are willing to serve each other. Notice verse 12. It says, "And Tychicus (Ti-kee'-cus) have I sent to Ephesus." The apostle Paul was always sending members of his ministry team here and there. In this particular case, he is sending Tychicus (Ti-kee'-cus). This man was a servant of Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice Ephesians 6:21-22. "But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, (Ti-kee'-cus) a beloved brother and faithful minister (servant) in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: 22 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts."
Are you a servant? Servants must be willing to obey orders. Servants are not ego driven. They are never concerned with titles, positions, or offices. There is no "I" in teamwork. Servants simply make themselves available to go and do!
In verse 13, we gain another example of serving others. Paul makes a list of things for Timothy to bring him. He says, "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments."
"Bring my cloak." Winter was coming and Paul foresaw the need for the "cloak" he had left behind, to warm him in the damp, cold prison cell. He asked Timothy to please bring him his "cloak."
"Bring my books." Paul was an intelligent, studious man. These books or papyrus rolls could have been his own writing or the writings of others. Paul was known to quote the authors of his day.
"Bring the parchments." Paul asked for the parchments. These were skins of vellum used for more precious documents. In this case, they were probably Paul's personal copies of portions of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Ministry partners must be willing to do whatever needs to be done, no matter how menial the task may be! Its amazing how much can get accomplished, when it doesn't matter who gets the credit!
Fifth: Partners watch out for each other. Today we call it, "...watching each others back." Notice verses 14-15. It says, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words." This man named Alexander, was a worker, or "smith," in copper or iron. If this is the same Alexander who is mentioned in I Timothy, he is linked with the name Hymenaeus. The apostle Paul had instructed Timothy to set both men outside the church, and deliver them to Satan, so that they would learn their lesson and no longer blaspheme. Obviously, this would provide Alexander a motive to hurt Paul. Evidently on the occasion of a recent visit paid by Paul to Ephesus, it was pay back time! Alexander personally opposed Paul's preaching and hindered the gospel! As Timothy was now in Ephesus in charge of the church in Ephesus, Paul warns him, "Watch out for Alexander! He'll hurt you if he gets a chance!"
Ministry partners watch out for each other. There are pitfalls and personalities in ministry, that will disqualify from service! Hopefully we all learn from our own mistakes, and we don't want others to repeat them.
Sixth: Partners keep their eyes on Jesus, as their source of strength and faithful partner. Paul knew about the failures of ministry team members. Notice verses 16-18. It says, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." At a critical time, Paul was abandoned. There was no one to stand with him.
How many ministry partners do you know who are out of ministry, out of church, all because someone failed them, or someone disappointed them, someone didn't appreciate them?
Paul stood alone, yet he gives testimony that he was not alone! The Lord was with him! In the test of Paul's commitment, he discovered that he had a friend and companion who would never leave nor forsake him. When no man would stand with him, Jesus was there!
Here is another warning. Earthly partners will surely fail us and disappoint us from time to time. If you focus on people, you will get discouraged and disillusioned about the work of God. Jesus is the only friend, the only partner, who will never let us down! Jesus never fails us or forsakes us! Hebrews 12:2 says, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Get your eyes off of others, and place them on Jesus!
Seventh: Partners are kind and considerate to each other. Paul concludes this letter by mentioning several of his fellow workers, partners in the work of the Lord. Notice verses 19-22. "Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus (on-ay-sif'-or-os). 20 Erastus (er'-as-tos) abode at Corinth: but Trophimus (trof'-ee-mos) have I left at Miletum (mil'-ay-tos) sick. 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus (yoo'-boo-los) greeteth thee, and Pudens (poo'-dace), and Linus (lee'-nos), and Claudia, and all the brethren. 22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen." Paul never forgot the people who labored with him in ministry, simply because they were the ministry. While Paul was ever concerned about the millions who would never hear or receive the gospel message, he never forgot his ministry partners, both men and women. He was always careful to mention their names and contributions to his ministry, and express his gratitude.
It is a great investment, when we are thoughtful, considerate, and kind to each other as ministry partners. A compliment will often go much further than a criticism. When we must offer criticism, (and sometimes we must), we need to do it in a manner that it will not destroy or undermine the ministry.
Winston Churchill once said, "If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail." As Christian leaders in the 21st century, we must work together for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When a church is divided, refusing to work together, refusing to forgive and release grudges, demanding to be served, rather than serve, we will fail! Jesus said a house divided will not stand. Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success!" God help those in the individual churches to always come together, keep together, and work together, toward the greatest cause on earth! We are ministry partners for Jesus Christ; Christian leaders in the 21st century.>