One of my professors made a very interesting comment, that if the book of 2 Timothy were to be written today, no Christian publisher would dare publish it. This is because it is a letter filled with painful ministry experiences by Paul, an apostle of Christ whose ministry on earth was now winding up, to Timothy, his spiritual son. Paul was very frank that “in the last days difficult times will come” (3:1). He reminded Timothy of the various persecutions he endured at various places he went to preach the Gospel, and still urged the young man to follow suit in his footsteps despite the perils that lay ahead (3:10, 11).
This was Paul’s last known letter, and at the time of writing, he was in his second and last Roman imprisonment (1:16; 2:9) having been arrested for preaching the Gospel and with no hope of release; he even made reference to his impending execution because of the Gospel he preached (4:1). Further, people close to him had deserted him in these last days. He stated that “all who are in Asia turned away from me” (1:15), “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me” (4:10), and that “at my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me” (4:16).
In these last days he was also very poor and suffered great need. He even urged Timothy to hurry to visit him before winter (4:21) because among other things he expected him to bring his coat that he had left in Troas (4:13) to cover himself during the winter cold. He was so poor he couldn’t afford even a second hand one. And it is because of such predicaments that even Timothy himself, his spiritual son whom he sought to hand over the mantle to, was tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel; hence Paul had to urge him that, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner” (1:8).
It is indeed ironic that during the last days of Paul’s ministry, a period which people evaluate success in ministry by the number of people and resources one has accumulated, Paul was deserted by all and was quite broke. So surely, who would dare publish such a book; a book that contrasted the norm by stating that in ministry, you will be abandoned by virtually all those close to you, you will be persecuted and imprisoned for your faith, you will be very poor and suffer need, and that your ministry will eventually wind up with your execution.
But this was more than a testimony of Paul, it was a testimony of God; of the transforming work that He had done in Paul's life, such that Paul even confessed that, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). When he measured up every form of worldly gain against Christ, he counted all as worthless for the sake of gaining Christ. He confirmed that:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
Paul’s testimony was simple, ministry for him was not about how he could personally gain from serving Christ, but rather how he was prepared to lose everything for the sake of serving Christ, and now even more that he was about to lose his life. True, no man would have dared publish this material by Paul, but interesting to ponder is the fact that God Himself got him published in His eternal canon.
So, with God being the eternal Editor of our lives, what story would you seek Him to publish concerning your life, one that is filled with pursuit of God for personal gain, or one that is filled with pursuit of God at the expense of personal gain?