A Call to Sober-Mindedness

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

- 2 Timothy 4:5

Above all, Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1–5 can be summed up in one word — consistency. Having reached the end of a lifetime of ministry (v. 6), the apostle knows the hard work required of Christian leaders, and especially pastors, if they are not going to be distracted from all those things that can lead a believer to stray from consistent gospel proclamation. Some of these potential distractions are easy to identify, such as the temptation to water down the message to suit itching ears (vv. 3–4). Others, like the correction of error, only become distractions when, in hopes of converting them, impatience leads the minister to focus his attention on one group of people at the expense of another (vv. 1–2). Such issues can derail entire ministries if the teacher allows them to keep him from the consistent teaching of the entire counsel of God.

This emphasis on consistency is clear in today’s passage where Paul calls Timothy and, indeed, every Christian to sober-mindedness (v. 5). He who is intoxicated is inconsistent in his thoughts, words, and deeds; only the sober-minded can focus on the task at hand. The apostle’s metaphor is not a warning against alcohol but a call for leaders not to become fuzzy-headed in their thinking, just like a person might be when drunk. A sober person is alert to the dangers of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and he is not easily distracted by the issues that can get his ministry off track (1 Thess. 5:6; 1 Peter 5:8).

In addition to this call for sobriety, Paul once more encourages Timothy to “endure suffering” (2 Tim. 4:5; see also 2:3). We see yet again that the gospel does not make the cessation of pain to be the highest good and that fidelity to Christ will result in suffering in this life, no matter how much the prosperity televangelists want to convince us otherwise. It is the faithful endurance of such suffering through the steadfast proclamation of the gospel no matter the cost that enables servants of the Lord to look back on their lives with no regrets. Those who heed Paul’s charge to Timothy to “fulfill” their ministry despite the pain that it brings will, at the end of the day, confess truly that they have kept the faith (4:6–7).

Coram Deo

Paul’s charge for Timothy to “fulfill” his ministry is a charge to the young man to remain true to his calling and live out his vocation with steadfastness. It is language used to speak of keeping a promise or paying back a debt, so a life of consistent service to the Lord is how we fulfill our vows to serve Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. What are the distractions that keep you from fulfilling your vocation? How can you avoid them in your ministry?

Passages for Further Study

Joshua 7
Proverbs 14:14–18
Luke 10:38–42
1 Peter 4:7

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.