The Work of the Ministry
Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.
1 Cor. 16:10
What did Paul mean when he said that both he and Timothy worked the work of the Lord? Certainly it did not mean a perfunctory attendance at the assembly meetings only to return home afterwards to a dull, every day routine. Nor would it seem that he was only referring to the occasional opportunities to witness to someone who just "happened" to ask him about his faith and why and what he believed? Neither would it seem that he was referring to a glib, half-hearted promise to pray for a brother or sister going through a difficult trial or to "pitch-in" when there was a request to help out with a physical and financial concern in the assembly. It would not even seem that it meant spending long hours writing up detailed reports of their latest ministry activities, as legitimate as that would seem. Both of them were far too busy for that and probably would have taken the stance of letting the record "speak for itself". So what then, did Paul have in mind when he said to the Corinthian believers that he and Timothy worked the work of the Lord?
For starters, he probably had in mind that the work of the Lord was not just a matter of filling up the schedule, but rather being led of the Spirit to utilize every moment in the best way possible for the Savior. He wrote to the Ephesians and Colossian believers of the importance of "redeeming the time", (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5) knowing that the days were evil and that the Lord Himself said "that the night is coming when no man can work". (John 9:3) He could urge the Philippian believers to "approve the things that are excellent" (Phil.1:10) with the knowledge that good things are often the enemy of the best. Paul and Timothy alike understood that the work of the ministry was a very real and very serious issue that involved in many cases real life and death situations. Their example should cause us to ponder the path of our feet so that we don't mistake activity in lesser things for productivity in greater things.
Having both been imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 20:23; Heb. 13:23), Timothy and Paul seemed to make good on every opportunity to serve the Lord. Paul was always "ready to preach the Gospel" with all that was in him (Roms. 1:15). He urged Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5) even though he had a pastoral gift, thus stressing the importance of Gospel ministry. Preaching the Gospel to them was not merely fulfilling a duty, but an awesome responsibility of standing between the living and the dead (Num. 16:48). When in Athens, he did not wait for an opportunity to witness but he made one instead, confronting and challenging the Jew and Gentile worshippers daily with a powerful message of hope. It was not a strategized approach to evangelism - it was bold, courageous and upfront. He did not work up to it over a period of weeks and months, instead he got right down to business. How different his experience is compared to ours! How often do we engage the lost in meaningful discussion about eternal truths? Inviting the unsaved to an assembly function is one thing (and sometimes a necessary link in the process), but if it does not lead to initiating a substantial spiritual conversation with that person, it may just end up in the file labeled, "Good Intentions".
From a service standpoint, both men were a model of intensity and fervency. "Be not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Roms. 12:11), Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome. To the Colossian believers he said that whatever they did, they should do heartily as to the Lord and not unto men. (Col. 3:23). When Paul met with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20), he unabashedly told how he had been with them "at all seasons" and not just at his own convenience showing his flexible schedule to accommodate the needs of the saints. His contact with the saints was far more than a brief passing on a Lord's Day morning! He urged his brethren of the importance of admonishing and exhorting one another and walking in wisdom to them who were outside, something he did regularly. He warned the Corinthians and the Galatians both of the dangers of false teachers and to keep up their spiritual guard; to the Ephesians and Thessalonians he exhorted to walk in the light (Eph. 5:8) and warn the unruly and to support the weak (1 Thess. 5:14). He encouraged all believers to exercise their spiritual gifts and talents given by the Lord to equip one another to do the work of the ministry and to edify the Body of Christ. His Christian experience was anything but mediocre and mundane!
As for Timothy, Paul could say of him to the Philippians that there was no one more like-minded who would naturally care for their state (Phil 2:20). He was mindful of Timothy's tears (2 Tim.1:4), reflecting of the deep personal investment made by Timothy in spiritual things. He could affectionately esteem him as a beloved son and fellow laborer, and confidently entrust to him the work that required the qualities of a good soldier, disciplined athlete, and hard-working farmer (2 Tim. 2).
When Paul spoke about the work of the Lord, maybe he had in mind something a little bit different - perhaps a lot different than what we might think at first. Does it remind us that maybe there is more that we can be doing in our current "work" for the Lord? Perhaps it means a bit more effort on our part in presenting the Good news of Christ rather than "sharing" only when asked. It is after all, Good News, isn't it? Perhaps it means a purposeful phone call to cheer a shut-in, or to encourage the drooping spirit of a weary saint. Or maybe it means confronting a careless and cavalier believer with gracious, but firm words of advice that have some "teeth" to them that will actually make a difference and a demonstrable change in their behavior. Perhaps, we need to add more spiritual substance to our conversation and to be willing to speak a word in season to others around us so that the thin veneer of public persona is lifted, revealing the deeper needs and difficulties that many of the Lord's people have. Perhaps it means more giving, more praying, more visiting, more helping. Frankly, it may mean more of a lot of things. And when it comes right down to it, it is more love - for Christ and for His people, those that He has saved and those He wants saved. What an example Paul and Timothy were as they "worked" the work of the Lord!