One of my favorite friendships in the Bible is that between Paul and Timothy. Today, we would say that Paul was this young man’s mentor, and his “father in the faith” constantly sought to uphold and encourage him to stay the course, even though his challenges were plentiful. You see, Timothy was a pastor in a city called Ephesus in Asia Minor, which is the modern-day country of Turkey. Back then, it was one of the most affluent places in the Roman Empire, and it was an especially difficult location to be a Christian leader due to its many pagan influences, not to mention conflicts within the church itself. Whenever I consider Timothy’s plight, I’m reminded of my own early days as a pastor (though I’m certain I never had it quite as rough as he did). Nevertheless, when I was a young man of 27 years, dealing with a congregation’s spiritual problems, mental problems, addiction problems, and sin problems, in addition to the church’s money and civic problems, was a huge load, and there were times it felt like too much to endure. Since I’ve lived it, I can imagine how burdened Timothy was as He sought to keep his footing and maintain his bearings in a sea of troubles. Clearly, the Apostle Paul understood the load too, and that’s why he wrote to his spiritual son to encourage him not to give up. In fact, the book of 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter to his young mentee before he died, and it’s possible that it didn’t reach him until after his passing. Of course, this would have made its message of perseverance all the more poignant to Timothy, and truth be told, its powerful admonition is as applicable to us today as it was 2,000 years ago!
My friend, as one chosen to do the Lord’s work in any capacity, challenges are guaranteed. Even if your calling is not full-time ministry, you have an adversary who works overtime to get you discouraged, and his ultimate goal is to cause you to quit. As a disciple of Jesus, you will be tested and stretched, often to the point of breaking, but when you reach the end of your own strength, He will be there to pick you up and carry for a season so you can rest. He is God of the hills and valleys, and He will never give you more than you and He, together, can handle. As you choose to embrace the difficulties that feel as if they will tear you apart, His rivers of grace and mercy will refresh you and empower you to carry out His good, pleasing, and perfect will until it is completed!