Title: “But you…”
You know, initially, this consideration was inspired by a Steve Camp song titled Guard the Trust, based on Paul’s letters to Timothy, his protégé, and a young pastor. In the song, Paul is talking about how the world is going to pieces, and then moves to the bridge to the chorus, saying, “But you – be an example in your youth; But you – oh, be faithful to the Truth; But you – watch your life and doctrine closely to save you, and those who hear you too…” Whenever I hear that song, those words grip me, and they remind me of the call that God has called each of us to a service, a ministry, for Him, and of how He has called me to be a Pastor and Teacher in His house, the Church.
Every time I stand here in the pulpit, I am thankful to God, not only for redeeming me, but for calling me into His service. It took many years (about 30) and a lot of trials and tribulations and struggles to get to this point. Although I know that it isn’t all over (and won’t be until I am with Him), I confess that I am having the time of my life training for the ministry.
For the past 6 weeks, I have had the opportunity to lead worship at nursing homes, teach the very word of God to people, lead people to faith in Christ, be involved in the funeral of a church member (my Pastoral Mentor allowed me to be a part of Glen Currie’s memorial service planning), perform a wedding in the form of marriage vow renewal (the only kind I can legally perform at this moment), and even be involved in helping to plan a baptism, though that one kind of tripped me up at first. Hey, I had to leave Maryann something to do, right? [snicker]
I have had the opportunity also to work with two other servants of God in this, those being Gordon and Al, my partners in ministry, as it were. Maryann called us the “three amigos” when she went on medical leave, telling us that she was leaving the three of us in charge. I very quickly called dibs on playing Billy Crystal, while Gordon claimed Steve Martin, and Al picked Martin Short. (Yes, we actually had that conversation, with laughter.) With Gordon in the lead planning role, we tried to make sure everyone was taken care of, and that at least a minimum of pastoral care was present for the congregation, and under his leadership, I think we succeeded, volunteers that we were.
I need to tell you all that we did not succeed alone, either. We had help from other volunteers in the congregation. Coleen, the church secretary kept us informed and on track with her calendar skills, Cia, our Music Director, has used her musical skills every time we’ve had a worship service, and I for one think we are blessed to have her gifts here. I know I’m not alone in that. Jason has kept things running smoothly at a technical level. All the assistance of the worship leaders, the tellers, the people that made the coffee for afterward, and the people who give rides to others when needed, especially those that gave ME rides, thank you all! Every single one of you was in some way answering God’s call for you to serve His people, and God is faithful to reward you, even if you don’t see it right away.
That brings me to the topic today, and the list of those that were not specifically mentioned earlier, and to that potential pool of volunteers. I know because you are here that you want to serve the Lord. You may even be saying to yourself, “I have no specific gift. I’m not important. I’m just a butt in a seat. I can’t make a difference. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too sickly. I’m too busy. I’m too lazy.” Whatever you are telling yourself, stop it for just a moment. Be quiet and listen – because God is calling your name to His service as well. As an example, Timothy is a young man I like to focus on, because God’s call to him was clear, and God used HIS call to ministry – to call ME to the ministry. Take a look at it.
[Read 2 Tim. 4:1-8]
Thirty-three years ago on the 18th of this month, I will have been a Christian for 33 years. I have shared before the story of how Jesus found me, broken and abandoned by every significant person in my life. My father was an abusive alcoholic, my mother had her own problems with my dad that kept her busy, my first girlfriend – my first love, really – had dumped me unceremoniously (just before Christmas ironically), and none of my friends knew any of it, because I couldn’t figure out a way to tell them or ask for help. I was truly alone. Then Jesus found me, and I heard Him knocking at my heart’s door. I answered, and I was forever changed from that point. If I were just sharing my testimony, we could end the meeting here, and we could all go home thanking God for the redemption we can find in Jesus and His work on the cross. However, this is not the story of how Gerry Brinkman was found by the Great Shepherd, it is the story of how I was called to be pastor (the Latin word pastore is just the word for shepherd in English) and teacher of the Word of God. Can anyone tell me how on earth a wimpy, short, fat, and bullied kid from Kenora, Ontario, who grew up on a beef and dairy farm, ends up being a shepherd of people and a teacher of Scripture? Yeah, neither can I. And yet God saw fit to do it. And He wants to use you too.
What comes to your mind if I say, I heard the voice of God?
[Survey the congregation a bit]
To me, it means that God puts a sense of direction into your mind, an impulse, a burden perhaps, about something. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t typically hear voices! But one morning, in 1987, while I was in Kenora working for the summer, I was having my devotions – and I got an impression. It grew quickly into a thought. Then in my mind, I “heard” a voice – Gerry, I want you to be a shepherd to My people. I had no doubt that what I had “heard” came from God Himself. I did, however, have serious doubts about ME being a pastor. Like Isaiah, in chapter 6, I was a man of unclean lips, from a people of unclean lips. But I spoke to the man who was then my pastor, and he agreed to follow up with me on seminary choices. For a number of reasons, none of them his fault, that second conversation never happened, and I was able to ignore God’s call in my life for 30 years.
Maybe you’re in the same position. You’ve known God’s call for service. Maybe not to be a pastor and teacher, maybe to be an evangelist. Maybe to be a Deacon. Maybe to bake pies to sell at garage sales. I don’t know, it was God’s call to YOU. Maybe you, like me, have ignored God’s voice for a while. Or maybe you just didn’t recognize that still, small voice He uses. Whatever the case, He is addressing you right now, calling YOU to His service. And there are some things we can see from this text that may just help you recognize that call of God to YOU in YOUR life.
- That call is serious.
See how Paul charges Timothy here. He says, “I solemnly charge” you.” The Greek here has a sense of warning about it – pay attention, Paul says. This is as serious as a heart attack. “…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…” See who Paul calls on to witness the Call! God Himself, and His Son the God-man, Jesus. Paul even qualified Jesus – Jesus is THE one who will JUDGE the living and the dead – and by His appearing [epihaneia] and His kingdom [basilea, realm of His authority]. Every call of God for any service is this serious.
- That call is specific.
Preach [kerrusso, be a herald of] the word [logos, the Divine expression]. Remember, this is God’s call through Paul to Timothy. The details of YOUR call might be different. Maybe your call is something like Crochet winter clothing for the homeless of Ottawa. Make Christmas Hampers for the Poor this year. Serve as Church Clerk at Bethany this year. Whatever the case, there is a skillset that God has given you to meet the need. In Timothy’s case, it was outlined for him: “Be ready whether it is convenient for you or not – reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction.” Maybe this is a bit different for you – crochet with great skill and knowledge whether you are tired or not, hats, mitts, and scarves with all speed and diligence. That’s just an example. You know what God is saying to you, if you are His.
- That call is time-limited.
Paul tells Timothy here that there will come a time when people will no longer listen to sound doctrine and the truth as it is in Jesus. At that time, no preaching will be possible (verse 4). For our crochet example, there will come a time when Ottawa will run out of winter weather. This typically happens in late April or early May in Ottawa, and then things get misplaced and they will lose their winter wear. They will need new clothing, regardless of reason. (Remember, whether it is convenient for you or not, whether you are tired or not…)
Whatever God has called you to, it is very different from what you plan in the old nature, and there is a sort of code of conduct that goes with it. It is as if God is saying, “I know what the world is doing as that entire system destroys itself – BUT YOU…YOU are different! YOU are precious! YOU are my servant.” What is that code of conduct?
- Be sober in all things
The Greek nepho means to abstain from wine, but it must mean more than that, because in a different place, Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for health reasons. In a figurative sense, this is all about a state of sobriety, a spiritual calmness and collectedness that allows one to remain in control of one’s own faculties under pressure.
- Endure hardship
[Kakopatheo, suffer evil] The meaning here again is a reference to “whether it is convenient or not – Paul tells Timothy in another place to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. At times, we all suffer things that shouldn’t happen, but still do. Endure it, maintaining your sobriety of spirit. Suffering always has a purpose and a reward.
- Do the work of an evangelist (fulfilling your service to God)
Be ready to share the good news of how God became a man to die in our place to redeem us to Himself. Everything we do, everything we suffer, every word we say should in some way communicate Christ. By doing this, you “complete” your service to Christ. The sense of the Greek is that you “fill the container up to the full line.”
How does this relate to crocheting winter clothing items for the homeless in Ottawa, Ger? I don’t see it, I hear you say. Well, it takes discipline, a part of a spiritual state of sobriety to crochet things. And to do it for a greater purpose than yourself takes courage and discipline as well. And I’ve seen my wife’s hands cramp while she does it, and she just works through the pain or takes a short break and then picks it right back up again. It’s a level of enduring hardship. Not having the resources to make enough. Having other trouble as you crochet. It’s all part and parcel of the same thing. And when people see you doing it, tell them what you’re doing and why. I’m crocheting a hat, mitt, or scarf for the homeless in Ottawa because Jesus met all my needs and now I want to share that with everyone! Right, Susan?
Whatever your specific call from God, it is appropriate to say that God will reward you for your service. Now, I’m not a proponent of focusing on one’s rewards as motivation, because I’m not in this for reward or gain. I do what I do because Jesus found me when I wasn’t looking for Him and saved me from the mess I called a life, and gave me His eternal life in exchange. All of that makes me thankful enough that I will serve Him as long as there is breath in my body. However, it is worth knowing that God loves His servants and will not mistreat them. In verse 6, Paul tells us that he knew he was about to be executed for his faith. And look what He could say as a result: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” That in itself is amazing, what with all the distractions on the course, all the opponents (and some who should not be opponents) in the way, and all the challenges to that firm persuasion we have that Jesus redeemed us on the cross to God. And Paul continues by talking about a specific reward, the crown [stephanos, the crown of Olympic victory] of righteousness awarded to all those that love Jesus’ appearing.
You know, I think there will be a lot of surprises on that day. It goes without saying that Paul will receive this crown. Great preachers like Charles Spurgeon and Billy Graham will likely be there. R. C. Sproul. John MacArthur. And then a name will be called to the podium of someone that no one ever knew well. What? Who is that? And it turns out that this unknown person simply prayed for John MacArthur as he preached. Same crown. Then YOUR name is called! You prepared hampers for people who wouldn’t have had a Christmas otherwise because you love the Saviour’s appearing for you. Same crown. For all those that loved His appearing.
Friends, remember where we started this consideration? Everyone has a serious, specific, time-limited call from God to serve Him in the house of God, the Church, and the world around them. Whatever that call is, we must answer that call with self-control and sobriety, enduring whatever trial and trouble comes our way, using it as an occasion whenever possible to share the news that God has become a man and paid our sin-debt to Him and redeemed any who will choose to respond. This leaves us with simple but critical question: What is the Lord calling ME to? Will you hear His still, small voice and answer his call?
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you today that you have saved us by grace, through faith, and that salvation is your gift to us, not a result of anything we have ever done to earn it. We have nothing to boast about before You. Instead, we stand before You today to give thanks for the good works You have created Your people to perform after answering Your call to us. Help us to hear Your voice with our hearts and finally obey your call to Your service. Help us to hear you clearly, and help us to do what you have called us to out of a sense of gratefulness to You for saving us from ourselves. And Lord, let us never pursue the rewards that You give, but rather let us remain thankful to You all our days. We humbly ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.