My dear son,
I realize you will be serving Christ in a world far different than the one where I was trained and first released into ministry. Your methods, your dress, your vocabulary, the technologies you use and even the problems you face may have little in common with the world I knew, or even the world in which we both minister today. You will be a faithful servant of Christ not because you mimic my words or imitate my ministry style, but because you live out the timeless values we share – values that come to us from the Word of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So while I still have the opportunity, I want to take a few minutes to summarize in writing the values and life lessons I have attempted to live out before you and most want to pass on to you…
First of all, above all else (to use the words of King Solomon), GUARD YOUR HEART! This world and the enemy of our souls will try to derail you in your walk with God. So flee youthful passions and pursue a righteousness that comes as you not only know God’s word but live it!
Secondly, GUARD THE GOSPEL! When it comes to all the “things” in your ministry always remember the Gospel is the main thing! You will be pressured by circumstances and yes, even people to pursue matters that don’t really matter all that much . . . Or you may be tempted to “water down” the demands of the Gospel. Don’t do it! In addition, not only must you work hard at keeping the gospel pure, you must also work hard at giving it away!
Thirdly, BUILD INTO FAITHFUL MEN! One day you will find yourself in my situation. The finish line lays just ahead. Your race is almost done and the fight is almost over. At that moment, you will want to know that the work God called you to do which you faithfully carried out will now be carried on by those who are coming behind. Look for faithful men with a sincere faith. Spend time with them. Speak into their lives and allow them to speak into yours. The lessons you have learned from me pass on to them. Encourage them as I have encouraged you!
Fourthly, ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT YOUR AUTHORITY FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO IS THE WORD OF GOD! The Bible is sufficient to prepare you for any and every good work that God is calling you to do. So you must work hard, you must be diligent when it comes to understanding the scripture and applying it to your life first, and then the lives of your listeners. There will be times when people will not want to hear what God has to say. At those times especially, you must be bold and courageous and live and proclaim God’s word!
Finally, NEVER STOP PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF! Mark my words, there will be times when you will be very tempted to take the credit for the successes in your ministry. This is why you must never stop preaching the gospel to yourself. For the gospel message will always remind you that you are what you are and you have what you have solely due to the grace of God. Without the Gospel, you, like all men, would still be without God and therefore without hope in this world.
Timothy, I wish I had more time to write more thoughts that I have for you. But I leave you with these closing words:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Your father in the faith . . .