I once saw a young reporter interview Bud Wilkinson, who was then the coach of the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners football team. The reporter enthusiastically bubbled, “Coach Wilkinson, tell us what contribution collegiate football has made toward physical fitness in America.” He was rather stunned when Wilkinson replied, “I do not believe that football has made any contribution to physical fitness in America.” “What do you mean?” asked the dumbfounded reporter. “I define football,” replied Wilkinson, “as 22 men on the field desperately needing rest, and 50,000 people in the stands desperately needing exercise.” Dr. Hendricks concludes by saying, “What a description of the local church!”
Sadly, Christianity in America is often a spectator sport. You go on Sunday and sit and watch while the pros perform. After all, that’s what they’re paid to do, isn’t it? “But me? Well, you see, I’m just a layman.” But as we saw last week, “there ain’t no such animal in the Bible.” In the New Testament, there is no special class of persons called “ministers” or “clergymen” or “priests.” Preferably, every believer in Jesus Christ is a minister and priest before God. Every believer is to be a functioning member of the Body of Christ, with a God-given ministry to fulfill.
I emphasize the point because we have been so indoctrinated with the faulty viewpoint of our culture that it’s difficult to shake. I’ll bet that if someone new in the church asked, “Who is your minister?” most of you would reply without a thought, “Steve Cole is our minister.” Do you know what you should reply? You should say, “Which minister did you have in mind? We have about 300 of them here. If you’re asking ‘Who is it we support so that he can devote full-time to teaching the Bible and shepherding the flock?’ The answer is, Steve Cole. But he is only one minister of many in the church.” We need to challenge faulty cultural views and evaluate everything in light of the Scriptures.
Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to confront some false teachers who were leading people astray through their wrong teaching from the Law. That wasn’t a “fun” assignment, especially for someone of Timothy’s timid disposition, so he was probably tempted to look for a more peaceful situation. Paul urges him to remain on and confront the problems (1:3). As he reminds Timothy of the gospel he is to preach (1:11), Paul is diverted to remind Timothy again of the life-changing power of that gospel as experienced by Paul (1:12-17). In our text (1:18-20), he returns to his task of urging Timothy to “hang in there” in the ministry to which God has called him.
These verses reveal seven principles of ministry that apply to every believer because every Christian is in the ministry. These are not the only principles you need to know, nor are they even the most basic. But you won’t survive in Christian service and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from our Lord without them