Tip #11: Prepare Them (2 Tim. 4:6-18).
“Aw, you poor thing!” These are the words of a candy-prone grandma seeing her darling grandchild get punished for eating too many sweets. These are the words of a doting pet owner when they find their dog’s head caught in the toilet seat. Or the cry of the mother when she sees her toddler get one scrape. It’s the catchphrase of pity. I like to say it differently—“How pitiful!” Now, some people get onto me for saying that. They think I mean that the person is pathetic or helpless or should’ve known better. But if that were the case, I would’ve used those words. Instead, I mean they’re literally “pitiful”—I’m full of pity for them because they have received unfair treatment by someone…or just by life itself.
You see, life is not one to show much pity. Life doesn’t play fair or give it to you easy. Life…stinks. Trust me, I just finished my first full week of classes for my senior year of college—yep, life ain’t no bed of roses! And sometimes, we all need someone to take pity on us.
Paul knew that well. I was nearly moved to tears reading 2 Timothy 4. This is likely Paul’s final written words recorded in Scripture. He’s about to be killed—he’s likely sitting in a Roman prison awaiting his head to come off. And worse yet, he’s practically alone. Listen to his sad state of affairs: “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus” (2 Tim. 4:9-12).
Reading that, I cried out, “How pitiful—poor Paul!” He’s begging Timothy to come to him soon. He’s lonely—hear the desperation of his voice. Demas, a good friend, has not only left him but left the faith altogether! One of his mentees had abandoned all that Paul taught him. Crescens and Titus are both off in ministry, as well as Tychicus. All Paul has is Luke (and we all know how fun a doctor is for company! JK!). Paul’s so desperate that he asks for Mark, who earlier had deserted him, to come! He’ll go on to talk about how this guy Alexander treated him so poorly and how in that trial, in the “lion’s mouth,” in the midst of fierce opposition…no one stood by him. All deserted him, just as all had deserted his Lord on the eve of His death. Not one of the twelve stood by Jesus and not one of Paul’s mentees did either!
I hope after all this that won’t be said of you and your mentees. But the fact of the matter is that you need to prep them for this kind of life. A lonely life. Life in the ministry is not a cakewalk—it’s a long series of tears! People will abandon your church regularly. Worse yet, they’ll betray you! The ones you counsel will accuse you of unlawful deeds. You may be sued, threatened, or mocked publicly by papers and politicians. It’s happening now, and it’s not likely to stop—but only get worse! From Kentucky to Kadikoy, Turkey, it’s happened and will continue to.
Are you preparing your mentor for this life? Are you showing him by example to so live as to be able to look back on a life of ministry and say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (vs. 7). No matter who fights against me, a disgruntled former member or a federal judge, I will fight the good fight. No matter what hurdles come my way, be they an unfaithful spouse or spiteful child, I will finish the race. No matter what tempts me to give up, whether deceitful desires or a death threat, I WILL KEEP THE FAITH.
Paul was telling Tim this to prepare him. Ministry is tough. You do that to—don’t make it sound too glorious, too romantic. Tell your mentee what you’ve gone through—show them how tough it is. Tell them how many lonely nights you’ve had, where not even your wife knew what you were going through. Explain to them how awful it feels to be deserted on the other side of the world. Tell them how to keep going in faith…in a prison cell.
But don’t stop there!
Finish majestically as Paul did and remind them…
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (vs. 17-18).