“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
September 26, 2021, 1:40 PM. The Dresden airport and the beautiful houses surrounding it draw near as we prepare for landing. Nearly four years after I moved to Germany, I believe this is the first time that my heart –not merely my body– lands in this country. Until now I felt that Colombia was my home and Belgium my home away from home. Germany was rather my workplace. Today the difference is that I see more clearly how I can let God use me here, and I choose to fight for a special purpose that burns in my heart, regardless of the hardships that may come. The words ‘fulfil your ministry’, as Paul commanded Timothy, resonate in my heart.
The four instructions in 2 Timothy 4:5 condense the thinking that led Paul to persevere in his mission despite multiple threats, and he is giving this pearl to Timothy so that he may also ‘finish the race’. I receive them as well for myself. The instruction begins with being sober-minded. I understand here the mind that is affirmed in the truth and can rest in the faithfulness of God. How opposite this is to the times that I’ve been obsessed with anxious thoughts about the future, or to the false comfort of a self-centred ‘theology’ that promises a god that always does my will. By ‘remembering Christ Jesus’ (2:8) I will remain sober.
Then the command is to endure suffering. Suffering can be endured when seen in the light of a higher joy. Mothers endure the pains of childbirth in light of the joy of seeing their child. Paul had its sight on the ‘crown of righteousness’ that he was about to receive. Timothy was going to face further persecution, but Jesus Christ would reward his faithfulness on the Day that he would judge the living and the dead (4:1). If I keep striving for the conditions under which I will suffer the least, not only will I become anxious about the things I can’t control, but I will totally forget to serve Christ. I need to choose how am I going to please Christ the best in light of that Day, and so accept the hardships that those choices entail. If I suffer out of love for him, I will have courage to persist with his help.
The charge ends with doing the work of an evangelist and fulfilling his ministry. Both seem complementary to me. The work of an evangelist is an essential part of his ministry. The first instruction projects him onto an external image (‘an evangelist’), whilst the second instruction makes it a personal matter (‘your ministry’). Being an evangelist is a work that needs to be done. Someone has to speak, and that’s me–and you. It is hard work, and it takes time. A ministry, on the other hand, is fulfilled. Timothy –and Paul, and Jesus, and I, and you– had a specific task to accomplish during his time on Earth. There was a community in Ephesus to be taken care of. There were Greeks and Romans that needed to be delivered from their gods. There were destitute Galileans with a need for hope and purpose. There was a cross to be borne. Our time here below is short; the need around us is vast. Our gifts, savings, and energy are bounded; the grace and power of God are boundless. ‘Is there not still someone [of the house of Saul] that I may show the kindness of God to him?’ (2 Sam 9:3) asked King David once. I encourage you to pray this sentence so that you find your ministry–just don’t forget to remove the part in square brackets.
I see a need around me here in Germany, as well as an opportunity to act. The need is definitely not related to poverty nor armed conflict–as in my beloved country. With an approximate 13% of people who believe in a god, Eastern Germany is likely to rank first as the world’s most atheistic region. Wasn’t this the birthplace of the Reformation? Was it the lure of state worship in Prussian, Fascist and then Socialist rule that led to this?. Whatever the cause, the reality is that this region has an unreached population. Here we can literally say ‘how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?’ (Rom 10:12). I want Eastern Germany to see the kindness of God. I don’t want to win debates to raise the statistics in the upcoming religious polls. I want Christ to heal hearts in this region as they see him crucified. Then they will turn away from the hopelessness of dry Naturalism towards Christ, the Fountain of Life, and this will make them overflow in mercy to others in need.
So, what’s next? Shall we do televangelism and mass events? Shall we go to the streets and preach in the parks? Maybe. God can use any of these means if done with an honest, selfless motivation and if the transmitted message is faithful to the words of Christ. I prefer to emphasise deep, honest dialogue. Every God-given opportunity for dialogue must be used. Let us seek and create opportunities for dialogue with our neighbours–regardless of how ‘far-left’ or ‘far-right’ they are, the grace of God reaches there. My dream for Eastern Germany is not that the decaying church buildings be filled again; instead, I believe we can build up communities that gather in any building–be it a student room, a prison, or a café. We don’t need to wait for an organisation to recruit and pay for a full-time missionary, we can be the missionaries, ‘building tents’ (microchips in my case) by day and preaching by night. Imagine a former Nazi, a former Communist, a former Islamist, and a former self-worshipper (me) coming together to seek God, caring for each other, gathering offerings for the poor, and letting the whole city know that Jesus is Lord. If I see that, I can die in peace; I would have fulfilled my ministry. What about you?
This blog is written by Jorge Monsalve, a trainee from the ICP programme of 2021/22. He lives in Dresden, Germany.