I recently read through 2 Timothy several times and journaled the specific ways Paul instructed Timothy to overcome his discouragement. Last week I shared the first four. Here are some more.
5. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)
Man up! That’s probably how we would say it today. But Paul wasn’t urging Timothy to be self-confident, relying on his own strength of character, skills, or resolve. He reminded Timothy there is a source of strength available to every Christian – “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Generally, grace is God’s favor that we don’t deserve. Specifically as it is used here, it is God’s personal help for challenging responsibilities. We have access to this help in Jesus because He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
How can we get this grace? Hebrews tells us that we can simply ask for it. Because Jesus can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15), He understands the overwhelming sense of inadequacy and inability that leads us to discouragement. Because He is full of grace, and because He understands our need for it, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
So when I am discouraged, I can openly acknowledge it to my Savior and ask Him for the help I need. As He pours His grace into my life, I am able to be strong and “man up” to the overwhelming responsibilities, problems, decisions, and needs I face.
Take a walk. Or go to a quiet place where you can freely commune with God. Tell him you’re weak, faltering, and discouraged. Tell Him! Pour it out. Then ask Him, your understanding Savior, for grace.
Return strong. But keep going back to that place – the place where you ask for grace.
6. Gather some faithful men and teach them so they can do the same. (2:2)
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
When I get discouraged I question my effectiveness, withdraw from people, and fall into a cycle of negative thinking about my influence on others. My thoughts focus on the people who are not receptive to my leadership.
Paul told Timothy to do one of the simplest and most effective things a pastor can do. Select a few men who are receptive to your leadership and teaching. Get them together. Talk about the Bible or some topic that will help them grow in their personal lives and in their leadership. Do this with a view to developing and encouraging them toward being a positive influence in the lives of others – their buddies, their acquaintances, their families, additional study groups, etc.
This will accomplish two things. First, it will encourage you to spend time with people who want and respond to your leadership. Their receptiveness and growth will be something positive in your ministry that will lift your heart. Second, if negative things are happening in your ministry, these men will become forces for good. They will carry truth from your discussions into conversations they have with others. They will generate positive energy in the church body.
Put a few names on paper. Pick a book or section of the Bible, or a good book on some aspect of spiritual life and growth. Find out who’s interested in getting together. Set a time frame on it – 3 months, or whatever. Get started. You’ll be encouraged, and they will grow.
7. Endure hardship. (2:3)
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
This is sort of like “man up”, but with a little different emphasis. Soldiers face long marches, rough terrain, lack of sleep and food, constant life-threatening danger, fierce hostility from enemies, and more. Pastors face tough conditions and hostile people too. It goes with the territory. None of us gets special treatment that protects us from the hardships of life and ministry. We shouldn’t be surprised when there’s hardship.
It’s painful, tiring, and discouraging. It isn’t pleasant or fun. Oh, yes, there are many joys in ministry. But sometimes those are overshadowed by the hard stuff. When the hardships are especially heavy or long, our tendency is to want to escape. Check out. Move. Quit.
What are we to do? Endure.
The words “endure hardship” in this verse reflect one Greek word, kakopatheo, that means to “suffer affliction.” Paul tells Timothy, not to run from affliction, but to suffer through it. Paul used the same word in verse 9, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains.
Additionally, notice verse 10, Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, and verse 12, If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. The word used here for endure is upomeno, to remain under. We might say, Stay in!
Yes, there is a time to depart. I think a pastor can realize he has completed what God brought him to a church to accomplish in the life of that church. There can be another assignment ahead for him and another leader who will take his present church where it needs to go. But hardship is not the signal that your assignment is over, your work done. Sometimes you just need to stay.
In your time of hardship, open your heart to God, listen carefully to Him, and let Him tell you. Is it time to go, or time to stay?
8. Remember, Jesus rose from the dead, and the Word of God is not chained. (2:8-10)
I love this one. Paul literally tells Timothy, Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead! And, I may be in chains, but the Word of God is not chained! He applies these wonderful, powerful truths to his own painful, discouraging situation: Therefore I endure all things!
In your powerlessness over people, problems, and your own inadequacy, remember, Jesus rose from the dead! He is all-powerful and even conquered death. Your weakness is an opportunity to experience His power. And in the end, He wins, and we will all reign with Him.
In your limitations and seeming ineffectiveness, remember, God’s Word is not limited or bound. It is not chained by your circumstances, other people’s hardness and apathy, or your lack of ability.
Unleash the Word! If you can do nothing else, if you are paralyzed by discouragement, insecurity, lack of direction, criticism, or consciousness of your imperfections and limitations, open the Word. Infuse it into your own heart. Exposit it into the hearing and hearts of your people. The Word works.
It will accomplish what God wants.
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
I’ll share more of these points from 2 Timothy for discouraged pastors in the next post.