HOW do you feel when you receive a warm letter from a good friend? The Christian disciple Timothy got such a letter from the apostle Paul, a letter that we now know as the Bible book of 2 Timothy. No doubt Timothy was eager to find a quiet place so that he could read what his dear friend had to say. Perhaps Timothy was thinking: ‘How is Paul doing? Does he have any advice for me on how to view my assignments? Can this letter help me succeed in my Christian ministry and help others?’ As we will see, Timothy found answers to these questions and much more in this valuable letter. But for now, let us focus on a few key points of helpful counsel that can be found in this letter.
“I GO ON ENDURING ALL THINGS”
When Timothy started to read the opening words of the letter, he could immediately sense the close relationship he had with Paul. Warmly, Paul calls him “a beloved child.” (2 Tim. 1:2) Though Timothy was probably in his 30’s when he received this letter, about 65 C.E., he was already an experienced Christian elder. He had been associated with Paul for over a decade and had learned a lot.
Timothy must have been greatly encouraged to learn that Paul was enduring tribulations faithfully. Paul was in prison chains in Rome, facing death. (2 Tim. 1:15, 16; 4:6-8) Timothy could see the apostle’s courageous outlook: “I go on enduring all things.” (2 Tim. 2:8-13) Like Timothy, we can draw strength from Paul’s marvelous example of endurance.
“STIR UP LIKE A FIRE THE GIFT”
Paul urged Timothy to view his assignment in God’s service as very valuable. Paul wanted Timothy “to stir up like a fire the gift of God” that was in him. (2 Tim. 1:6) Paul used the word khaʹri·sma for “gift.” That Greek word basically refers to a free and undeserved gift, something that is unearned and even unmerited. Timothy had received this gift when he had been set apart for a special service in connection with the congregation.—1 Tim. 4:14.
What was Timothy to do with this gift? As he read the expression “stir up like a fire,” he may have reflected on the fact that home fires might at times become mere glowing coals. Those coals had to be stirred up to produce flames and more heat. One lexicon says that the Greek verb (a·na·zo·py·reʹo) that Paul used means to “rekindle, revive, fan into flame,” thus figuratively to “excite into fresh activity.” In effect, Paul was advising Timothy: ‘Put your heart into your assignment!’ You can likely appreciate that we today need to do the same—exert ourselves zealously in our service.
“GUARD THIS FINE TRUST”
Continuing to read the letter from his dear friend, Timothy came to another expression that would help him to be successful in his ministry. Paul wrote: “Guard this fine trust by means of the holy spirit, which is dwelling in us.” (2 Tim. 1:14) What was that trust? What had Timothy been entrusted with? In the preceding verse, Paul referred to the “wholesome words,” the truth imparted through the Scriptures. (2 Tim. 1:13) As a Christian minister, Timothy was to preach the truth both inside and outside the congregation. (2 Tim. 4:1-5) Also, Timothy had been appointed as an elder to shepherd God’s flock. (1 Pet. 5:2) Timothy could guard his trust—the truth he was to teach—by relying on Jehovah’s holy spirit and His Word.—2 Tim. 3:14-17.
Today, we too have been entrusted with the truth that we share in the Christian ministry. (Matt. 28:19, 20) We can maintain our appreciation for this wonderful trust by persevering in prayer and cultivating the good habit of studying God’s Word. (Rom. 12:11, 12; 1 Tim. 4:13, 15, 16) We may also have the additional assignment of serving as an appointed elder or in the full-time ministry. A trust like that should humble us, helping us to sense our dependence on God. So we can guard, or protect, our trust by treasuring it and relying on Jehovah’s help to care for it.
“THESE THINGS ENTRUST TO FAITHFUL MEN”
The assignments Timothy had received did not concern him alone. Others were involved as well. That is why Paul urged Timothy: “The things you heard from me . . . entrust to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:2) Yes, Timothy was to learn from his Christian brothers and to share with them. It is important that every overseer in the Christian congregation today strive to do the same. A good overseer does not jealously keep his knowledge about a given task to himself. Instead, he teaches others so that they will be able to do the job. He is not afraid that they might outshine him by knowing more or by displaying greater ability. Hence, the overseer does not teach just the basic steps of a task. He wants to help those he is training to develop good judgment and insight—to grow spiritually. In that way, the “faithful men” whom he has taught will prove to be of greater benefit to the congregation.
No doubt Timothy cherished the warm letter he received from Paul. We can easily imagine him repeatedly reviewing the valuable counsel and pondering over how he could best apply it in his assignments.
We want to take this counsel to heart as well. How? We can endeavor to stir up our gift like a fire, to guard our trust, and to entrust our experience and knowledge to others. In that way, as Paul noted to Timothy, we can “fully accomplish [our] ministry.”—2 Tim. 4:5.