Let's turn to the Scriptures to hear God's charge to Raymond Simmons. It is 2 Timothy 4:6-18
I have known Ray Simmons for many years - going back to when he was stationed in Guam. So it has been a privilege for me to be his friend, his seminary mentor, and more recently his pastor. And it is an even greater privilege to be part of his ordination and installation into the new church plant. This has been a long time coming.
I was asked to bring a charge to Ray, and I can think of no better passage than 2 Timothy 4, where Paul gives some last words of instruction to his beloved Timothy. These are words that have challenged me over the years to be a better elder. I am pretty much going to read the verses and then summarize the content in about a dozen words that begin with the letter “s.” Beginning at verse 6.
2Tim. 4:6 ¶ For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
The first “s” is sacrificial attitudes in ministry. A drink offering was a special sacrifice of expensive wine that was completely poured out to God with nothing left in the cup. It was totally devoted to God just as Paul's life was totally devoted to God. And Paul was so consistently sacrificial in his ministry that he stirred up the same kind of sacrificial attitudes in his people. In Philippians 2:17 he said, "Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." It is a joy to sacrifice in ministry because God receives it as a precious pouring out of our energies and life for Him. It’s not just a job, Ray - your ministry is a gift to God - a pouring out of your life.
The second “s” is spiritual warfare. Paul says in verse 7, “I have fought the good fight…” Fighting is essential to the ministry, but it starts with fighting on our knees in prayer. Fighting also implies that resistance will come against your ministry. You shouldn't be surprised when your ministry is resisted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. But how we fight is important as well, and the fact that he calls it a "good fight" shows his confidence that God’s grace would make him more than a conqueror. Fight with confidence that if God is for you, who can be against you? But you must fight.
The third “s” is steadfastness. Verse 7 goes on to say, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” It is so easy to want to quit when things get tough. But you can't quit. Finish the race. Some pastors start well, but finish poorly. Paul would urge each of us pastors to have steadfastness to the end. Be steadfast in your pastoral ministry. It’s a calling. It’s not a job.
The fourth “s” is sight. Spiritual sight or vision is critical if we are to keep going when the going gets tough. And in verse 8 I see Paul driven by an eternal perspective.
2Tim. 4:8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
When you evaluate the challenges you face here on earth in light of eternity, it helps to give perspective. Discouragement is a constant enemy for some pastors, but if they know without a shadow of a doubt that their labors in the Lord are not in vain, and that they will reap a harvest if they do not get weary, it can help pastors to keep on keeping on. Make sure your sight (or vision) is driven by eternity. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ, who is above.
The fifth “s” is stewardship. Verse 10 introduces us to Demas, whom we know from elsewhere was a valuable partner to Paul. Yet, Demas forsook Paul, having loved this present world. May that never ever be said of you - that you loved this present world. Demas' focus of stewardship had somehow shifted from serving God to loving the world. In John Bunyan's book, Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan symbolizes that love of the world with Demas' silver mine. But it is not just money that can skew a pastor's focus. Some pastors finish poorly because they begin to build their own empire, or begin to seek status, or they preach to gain the approval of men, or in some other way they begin to serve the creature more than the Creator. We ought always to maintain a careful stance as stewards, not as possessors of things. Ray, God has given you a stewardship trust in the ministry - fulfill it faithfully.
In verses 9-11 we also see Paul sharing his life with others, and that is the sixth “s” that I would admonish you with this evening. Share your life. Verses 9-12 say,
2Tim. 4:9 ¶ Be diligent to come to me quickly; 2Tim. 4:10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 2Tim. 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 2Tim. 4:12 And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.
Paul was not a loner. He almost always had a team that he could share his life with. He shared in ministry and he shared with them socially. He valued friendships and he developed friendships within ministry.
It used to be the standard wisdom in seminaries that you never make friends with your parishioners - that such friendship is not professional. But that is as far from Biblical wisdom as you could get. Jesus had friends among the apostles, and he was very close friends with non-officers like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and He certainly shared His life with them deeply. I think it is imperative that pastors learn to enjoy being around people and to not see your relationships as only being work. Life is not all work and no fun. But whether socially or in ministry work, your life is a life to be shared. And discipleship really is a pouring of one life into another life and teaching that disciple to pour his God-given life into another life. Share your life with others.
The seventh “s” is studies. Paul says in verse 13:
2Tim. 4:13 Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.
Brother, I hope your congregation gives you a book allowance above and beyond salary to enable you to study and constantly improve yourself. Leaders must constantly be readers. I love Spurgeon’s comments on this passage. He said,
A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so... How rebuked are they by the apostle! [The apostle Paul] is inspired, and yet he wants books. He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!
The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, ‘Give attendance to reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read… Paul cries, ‘Bring the books’; join in the cry.
I agree with Spurgeon. Don't ever neglect the "s" of studies. You never do arrive; its a constant journey. You must always grow in learning.
The eighth “s” is surrender. Paul had learned how to surrender judgment to God on even the most atrocious of his persecutors. Don’t see verses 14-15 as bitterness. Rather, it is an ability to hand enemies over to the Lord for Him to deal with them. That frees us up to not get bitter. So Paul says,
2Tim. 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 2Tim. 4:15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
While we must warn our flock of wolves, it is especially important that we learn to surrender our enemies to the Lord, and not harbor those enemies in our hearts. That’s a sure recipe for bitterness. David wrote most of his imprecatory Psalms against King Saul (whom he loved) and against Absalom (whom he loved even more). But by surrendering them to the Lord, He could trust God’s judgment on how they would be dealt with - whether by conversion, in which case the enemy is taken out, or by some judgment, in which case the enemy is taken out. But don’t wrestle with enemies in your heart. Hand them over to the Lord, and you will keep your ministry joyful, fresh, and flourishing. No bitterness allowed.
Related to this is another “S” - slate wiped clean, or forgiveness. Paul couldn’t speak imprecations against fellow-believers. Instead, he forgave them and asked God to bless them. Verse 16:
2Tim. 4:16 ¶ At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
And the result of Paul’s graciousness to hurts from his sheep (and sheep can bite) was that he gained a sense of God’s solace. So solace is the 10th “s.” Verse 17 says, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…” Paul sensed God’s presence with him, and it gave him peace. Inward peace; strong peace. And we need to learn how to find solace in God more than we find solace in others. It sustains us even when all men forsake us.
The eleventh “s” is sola Scriptura. Paul says, “so that the message might be preached fully through me.” In Acts Paul stated that he declared the whole counsel of God. Here he simply says that he preached it fully. But there is no portion of Scripture that we should shy away from if we are to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God. We might approach some texts more humbly, acknowledging that we don’t know everything perfectly, but we can't avoid texts.
The twelfth “s” is security. And as I read the last two verses, I want you to notice where His security was. It was not in money, outward safety, people, a successfully lived out vision, etc. His sense of security was totally in the Lord. Make sure that is where your security lies.
2Tim. 4:17 ¶ But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 2Tim. 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom…
Paul had security from the Lord - not from lack of troubles. He had no end of troubles. Instead, his security came because he walked daily with the Lord and was strengthened daily by the Lord and because Paul had an absolute trust in God’s providence. Whether in life or in death, he knew that nothing could separate him from God’s love. It was a divine security.
But just so that I can have a baker’s dozen, I’m going to give you one last “s” - you can label this selflessness or you can label it soli deo gloria. But verse 18 ends by saying, “To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” That too should be your passion. No matter what success you may achieve in your ministry, may God receive all the glory. I will end by quoting one more quote from Spurgeon, this one from a different sermon. Spurgeon said,
“To whom be glory forever” (2 Timothy 4:18). This should be the single desire of the Christian. I take it that he should not have twenty wishes, but only one. He may desire to see his family brought up well, but only that “to God may be glory forever.” He may wish for prosperity in business, but only so far as it may help him to promote this: “to whom be glory forever.” He may desire to attain more gifts and more graces, but it should only be that “to him may be glory forever.” This one thing I know, Christian: You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than the one motive of your Lord’s glory.
Ray, may your ministry be characterized by this Baker’s Dozen of s characteristics. And we look forward to holding you up before God’s throne so that you can achieve this. May we enjoy many years of fruitful ministry together in God’s vineyard. Amen.