Sermon Transcript

Famous last words. There have been a lot of famous last words throughout history. Some of my favorite famous last words were the actor John Wayne’s last words to his daughter. John Wayne lay dying of cancer, and apparently the cancer had affected his cognitive function. His daughter wondered if the famous actor still recognized her so she asked her dad if he knew who she was. Wayne looked up at her from his deathbed and said to her, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” Famous last words. You can learn a lot about what matters and what is really important from someone’s last words. 2 Timothy is the Apostle Paul’s famous last words. 2 Timothy was almost certainly the Apostle Paul’s last letter and, likely, his final words to his beloved son in the faith, a young pastor named Timothy. We can learn a lot about what matters in life and, especially, in the ministry of the gospel from 2 Timothy. These are the Apostle Paul’s famous last words. They are words for everyone, but today they are especially words for you, Tim. 


Pastor Tim – Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” For eleven years you have been to me – and many others – a friend who sticks closer than a brother. To strive side-by-side with you for the faith of the gospel has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. You are a godly man, you are a wise counselor, you are a creative leader, and you abound with optimism as a Christian should. You have left an indelible mark for God’s glory on Citylight Church. Because you have shepherded the flock of God among you here at Citylight, hundreds and hundreds of people look more like the Savior, Jesus Christ. We respect you. We love you. We are excited for you to go and lead your family and your team to plant Citylight NYC, but we are sad to see you leave. 


Tim – 2 Timothy is encouragement to persevere in gospel-ministry, especially pastoral ministry. I’ll say that again: 2 Timothy is encouragement to persevere in gospel-ministry, especially pastoral ministry. Everyone in this room needs encouragement to persevere in advancing the gospel in our generation, despite all obstacles. We are all called to gospel-ministry. 2 Timothy is encouragement to persevere in it. Tim, while 2 Timothy is encouragement to persevere in gospel-ministry, it’s especially encouragement to you to persevere in pastoral ministry. Research groups like Barna report that pastoral satisfaction is rapidly declining and pastoral isolation and loneliness are rapidly rising. The call of God to preach the word and plant a church is glorious, and yet it is fraught with suffering within and without. Therefore, Tim, I want to send you with four encouragements that will help you persevere in pastoral ministry. I pray these encouragements will help all of us persevere in gospel-ministry, and help you be tireless encouragers to Tim to persevere in pastoral ministry. Four encouragements to persevere in gospel-ministry. 


  1. Be strengthened by grace. 


2 Timothy 2:1 – You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…. Tim, 41% of pastors admit to seriously considering quitting in the last twelve months. Why might such a consideration assault you, Tim? Well, to put it simply, you do not have the resources in yourself to walk with God, lead your family, to preach the word, shepherd the flock, do the work of an evangelist, and plant the church in your own strength. You need to be strengthened by grace everyday. That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:28-29, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. [29] For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Tim – you will need to be strengthened by grace every day. But Tim – there is an additional reason why I want to encourage you to be strengthened by grace: church planting success or failure, real or perceived, can easily become your identity and determine your joy. It’s very tempting, especially in church planting. Deriving your identity from church planting success or failure is like riding a rollercoaster that always makes you throw up. You can’t find strength there. Tim – you need to be strengthened by grace. Citylight – who of us has the resources to do what we’re supposed to do or be who we’re supposed to be in our God-given vocations and responsibilities? Who of us isn’t tempted to find our identity in our work, our marriage, our parenting, or our accomplishments? We all need to be strengthened by grace and, Citylight NYC team, your pastor and his wife need you to regularly strengthen them by grace.


So, how can you be strengthened by grace? Well, notice that it says, “…be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” I love the way the great NT scholar Robert Yarbrough puts it, “Grace, available via personal relationship with Christ Jesus, mediates God’s saving resources. Whatever Timothy might need to face his challenges—and both 1 and 2 Timothy bristle with references to them—“grace” is the shorthand Paul uses here to summarize God’s limitless undeserved means of coming to his aid, bearing him through difficulties, and making his labors fruitful.” Tim (and all) – be strengthened by grace through personal communion, relationship with Jesus Christ. Always reject the lie that there is too much to do and too many people to serve for you to come to Jesus and receive fresh, limitless, and undeserved aid from God himself. Preach the wonderful news of grace into your heart, in the presence of Christ, everyday. Being strengthened by grace glorifies God, it strengthens you, and it’s the best thing you can do for your church. Citylight Church – strengthen your pastors by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 


  1. Build to last. 


2 Timothy 2:1-2 – You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Timothy heard Paul preach the gospel and teach the word in the presence of many witnesses. Now, Paul provides Timothy with his final pastoral instructions: what you heard from me, entrust to the faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Paul is urging his pastoral protege to give himself to multi-generational discipleship. Paul wants Timothy to select faithful men, do intentional spiritual good to them, so that they can teach others also, and the gospel can continue to bear fruit and multiply until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.  


Citylight Church – this strategy of entrusting the word of God to others who will be able to teach others also, and so forth, was the master plan of our Lord Jesus Christ. He carefully selected twelve (mostly) teachable men who could carry on his message after he went to his Father, he gave his life to them for three years – teaching them to follow Him, demonstrating how to preach the message, leading by example, and empowering them with the Spirit – and then he commissioned them to go and take what they heard from him and teach it to faithful men who could teach others also. What began with a dozen has turned into billions because our Lord and his apostles built to last. Tim – follow the Master’s plan to build to last. Citylight Church – while the pastor must give himself to personal discipling, every one of us with the Holy Spirit in our hearts and a Bible in our hands can do intentional spiritual good to someone so that they will become more like Christ. You can participate in the Master’s plan by discipling someone starting today. Tim – in the church planting world there are many flashy strategies and leadership gurus that will vie for your attention. But you, build to last. Instead of building fast, build to last. The gospel and the sound doctrine that you’ve heard from me and many others, entrust to faithful men through personal discipling, so that they will be able to teach others also. Build to last by aiming for multi-generational discipleship. Give yourself to it. Build to last. 


  1. Share in suffering like a good soldier, victorious athlete, and hard-working farmer


2 Timothy 2:3 – Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To explain the high cost of fruitful gospel-ministry, Paul utilizes the metaphors of the soldier who doesn’t entangle himself in civilian pursuits but aims to please the master, the athlete who undergoes the rigors of training and disciplines himself to compete according to the rules, and the incredibly hard working farmer who labors long for a crop. Tim (and all of us) – each metaphor should remind you that you’re not in for a comfortable calling and there is a high cost for faithful fruitfulness in pastoral ministry, especially church planting in Manhattan. Tim and Sarah, share in suffering. Don’t seek it, but don’t try too hard to insulate yourself or your daughters from it, don’t grumble under it, and since it’s so unbecoming of Christians, don’t feel sorry for yourself about it. Embrace the attitude that the great missionary to Africa David Livingstone had. He wrote, “Away with the word sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.” Pastor Tim – Suffering was the path of our Lord. It will be the same as you step into this new post of service to Him. Don’t be surprised. Don’t run away. Don’t give up. Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ. Citylight Church – you follow the same Suffering Servant. Share in suffering like good soldiers and share in Tim’s sorrows, like brothers and sisters in arms. Share in suffering.


  1. Remember Jesus Christ


2 Timothy 2:8-10Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, [9] for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! [10] Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Tim, more important than anything I’ve said until now, no matter the peaks and valleys on the church planting journey, remember Jesus Christ. Remember Him! He too walked the path of suffering that is ahead for you. His path led to, ultimately, to death on a cross for our sins, but then came resurrection. I think that there is a particular reason why Paul specifically told Timothy to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Since Jesus is risen, no matter what suffering binds you, you can press on because the word of God, the gospel, is not bound. Remember Jesus Christ, remember his victory over the grave, remember the unbound power of his gospel. Then you’ll endure everything for the sake of reaching God’s elect in Manhattan with the gospel, so that they too repent, believe, and obtain the salvation that is in Christ alone with eternal glory. Tim, if you forget everything else, remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Remember him, walk with him, commune with him, delight in him, be strengthened by him, and preach him. Citylight Church, remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead, his gospel powerfully unbound, and, you too, endure everything for the sake of reaching the elect right here in our region.

Tim – I leave you with the immortal words of the great Puritan Pastor Thomas Brooks, “For a close, remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all.” -Thomas Brooks (Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices)