Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Imperative of ministry.

A mural at Sheffield, Tasmania
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15.

An ‘imperative’ is a word or statement of authority we do well to heed.  Scripture is saturated with them. Unfortunately we tend to do mental gymnastics with such imperatives. They are converted into noble suggestions. By doing this we rob them of their sense of urgency, warning or command.

Paul’s words to Timothy as recorded in the two epistles have a number of imperatives to take to heart. The one calling to study the word of truth is both a command and a warning. The aged apostle, restricted by imprisonment, never forgot to be a mentor to his ‘son.’ He wanted Timothy to be able to fulfil the work he was called to do. Also when called to give account of his ministry no shame would cling to his presentation. Surely that is our heart’s desire also.

‘Do your best’ is from a Greek word calling for diligence. In daily life and work there is abhorrence for the person who is lazy and not fulfilling his or her role. Such characters make things difficult, even dangerous, for others. The same is true in ministry. We are not all equal in scholastic ability or communicating skills but we can all give of our best. The motivation is surely for the honour of our Lord.

‘To present yourself to God’ has overtones of a formal meeting being arranged. Hebrews 13:17: defines God’s servants as ‘men who must give an account.’ There is an official reporting time already set by the Lord. We should not take this lightly. It will deal with our calling as ministers not about our salvation. Between now and that time we have opportunity to get ourselves ready to meet our Master.  The words used by Paul when taking Communion become good advice in this matter. 1 Corinthians 11:31: ‘If we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgement.’ Such a self assessment must be under the scrutiny of scripture. It requires of us honesty and an acceptance of what the Bible has to say on personal issues touched upon.

‘As one approved’ means you have passed the inspection. You have been tried, tested and you stand true. Your testimony of God’s faithfulness is vouched for by others and your conscience as you stand confident in His Word.  In a sense the words of Peter can be applied to you, ‘. . .your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may prove genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.’ 1 Peter 1:7– 8

‘A workman’ is often used in Scripture for a field labourer. How applicable! As workman with and in the Gospel we work in the harvest field called the world. From Jesus’ parables dealing with fields some ministry insights are gleaned. There are those who sow seed, rock removers, bird chasers, weed pullers and reapers. At any one time we might be found doing anyone of those tasks. We must know the tools of our trade. In this context it is of course the Scriptures. The Master’s equipment for the various tasks can be found in His ‘toolshed’ of His word. Do we know what ‘implement’ to use and how to handle it when confronted by weed scatterers or birds, thorns or hidden rock?

‘Who correctly handles…’ expresses competency and confidence in the equipment. It is apparent that Scripture can be mishandled, misrepresented and misunderstood. Some of this is from ignorance and at other times from evil intent.  As with any craft the implements take time to master. We who are the Lord’s field workers must apply ourselves with diligence to mastering the many facets of God’s toolbox. The wonder of what is in this toolbox never ceases to amaze the faithful student and experienced worker.

The word of truth’ is a confronting term. It doesn’t say ‘words of truth’ as though there are words in there somewhere which are untrue. It is the word! It is the Logos. Paul associated the spoken word and the written word with the Living Word named Jesus. We may, with reverence, rewrite this verse this way: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a fieldworker who isn’t ashamed and who knows how to properly handle Jesus – the Logos of Truth.

Reflection: The Lord and Saviour will one day call me into His presence to give an account of my ministry. At this moment what is a reasonable expectation of what He’d most probably say to me?

Request:  Equip me to be a qualified and diligent field worker within the place of your appointment. When I take hold of the Logos may I have the sense that in some way I am handling or hanging onto Jesus!

Ray Hawkins July 18 2016.

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