I had the privilege to preach at the ordination service of a good friend and fellow servant of Christ. While it was a great honor, it was also a very difficult task for me as the location chosen was one in which I had endured years of hardship before being rescued by God’s mighty hand. As I sat there waiting for my time to speak, my heart was racing within my chest. The pounding of my pulse was visible and I feared the sound of it would be picked up by the mic I was wearing, in a somewhat “Tell-Tale Heart” effect. My breathing was becoming difficult and it was only the power of God’s Holy Spirit that lives within me that was able to keep the room from spinning as I rested in His grace. This seemed to be a true test of the words I was about to speak — I could preach about always being ready, but could I live it?
The main text that God had placed in my mind for the evening was a common ordination service text. Not only common, but quite fitting as God had developed a similar Paul and Timothy relationship between Taylor and I. In the text, Paul writes to Timothy with these words:
“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 3:10 – 4:4 (NIV)
As you read the text, it is important to point out that the idea of being set apart for full-time Christian ministry is not just for a select few who take on vocational roles of ministry. Each Christian is ordained by God into full-time Christian ministry at the moment of their baptism into Christ for the remission of their sin and God puts within them His Holy Spirit! The blood of Jesus which covers our sin is the ordaining element that sets each of us apart for God’s exclusive use. With that said, the Bible also teaches that God gifts some individuals to be involved in the equipping of His people for works of service. To me, that is what an ordination service is about — setting apart those who have the responsibility to equip, train, and encourage others in the full-time service they do for God wherever He has them from day-to-day. As you go about living the Christ-like life God has called you to, Paul makes it clear that you will encounter difficulties — “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. Yet in the midst of the hardship and persecution, we are told to be ready to preach the word “in season and out of season”. So to you, as well as to Taylor, I say, “Be READY!”
- Be Real: The first part of being ready, is to be real! If you are to represent Christ well, there must be a consistency of character and conduct that the people around you recognize as genuine. When Paul writes about Timothy to the Philippians, he says that there is no one like him who has a genuine concern — not for his own interests, but for theirs. We live in a society where the right image has become so much more important than being real. The harder we try to put on a front, the further we fall from being ready when people realize we are not real. To be ready to represent Jesus, we must live, act, and speak the same throughout the entire week as we do when we are surrounded by Christian friends during a Sunday worship gathering. People need to see that you believe enough in what you are saying that you are actually living it! They also need to see that you, as did Jesus, can understand and identify with their weaknesses.
- Be an Example: The second part of being ready, is to be an example! Many people like to pull out Paul’s instruction to Timothy to let no one look down on him because of his youthfulness. Unfortunately, many fail to finish the verse to know how to actually do that! In First Timothy, Paul writes and tells Timothy that he must set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity so that no one has a reason, or an excuse, to look down on him. What we do, how we live, the example we set, can all make or break the message we tell about God’s great love for mankind. A big part of the importance of being real is so that Jesus is not just heard about, He is visibly seen in the way that you and I live! I believe that one of the reasons that the church seems to be making little positive difference in the American culture is because the Christians who make up the church have often failed to be an example. Statistically, there is very little difference in the speech, life, love, faith, and purity of Christians compared to non-Christians! Instead of being an example, our life often seems to shout out that there really is no difference. When you wear the name Christian, how you treat others says more to them about Christ than what we tend to act like it does.
- Be Available: The third part of being ready, is to be available! When you take life as a Christian seriously, your primary business becomes people — regardless of what you do as an occupation. While that sounds good and noble, it is not quite right! It is that statement that gets many who enter vocational ministry in trouble. As a Christian, your primary business is not people, it is your relationship with God! When we get that mixed up, then it is not long before people are setting our schedule, agenda, and life goals. We become exhausted trying to keep up with all the demands and needs of the people around us as we strive to be available to everyone. While we need to make the most of every opportunity in our availability to people, we must make our availability to God the number one priority in our life! When Paul writes to the Corinthians about the matter of some giving that they had purposed to do, he points out the attitude of the Macedonians who had first given themselves to God so that He enabled them to give beyond their means. If you are going to be ready for what God has for you to do, you must live a life that is fully available to God for His exclusive use! Doing this can change your entire attitude about service to people. When the things that you do are based out of your availability to God, then you are truly able to work at it with all your might as one serving the Lord.
- Be Decisive: The fourth part of being ready, is to be decisive! Throughout scripture, God calls people to make up their mind. We live in a time when it seems like nearly everything is decided by public opinion. Even within church and Christian ministry settings, it seems like we are often on that ship of doubt that James talks about — constantly being tossed from wave of survey results to wave of public opinion polls. Yes, there is value in knowing what, and how, people are thinking, but that should never replace the authority of God and His Word in making decisions. It is only when decisions are based out of time in prayer and careful examination of God’s Word that we are truly prepared to let our “yes be yes and our no be no”! It is a sad commentary on the followers of God that the statements of Joshua and Elijah, calling the people to make a choice about who they will serve, are seen as such bold statements! The church today needs courageous people who will stand up and boldly ask, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if (Baal) is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21) You can fill in the parentheses as to what goes there instead of Baal in your life and in the lives of people today. To always be ready, means that you hold fast to your decision that the Lord truly is God and His ways are the only ways to live.
- Be Yielded: The final part of being ready, is to be yielded! Hopefully you have seen this element throughout the other parts that I have already mentioned. When you live a life that is fully yielded to God, you give Him all the room necessary to work and receive the glory that is due Him. When Peter writes about always being ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you, he begins by instructing us to “set apart Christ as Lord”. When Christ is Lord, He is in charge and every detail of our life is done His way. Being yielded to God in everything means that He decides what being real looks like. He is the example that I not only follow, but also the example that I become. He has my full attention so that I am available for whatever tasks that He calls me to do. His decisions are supreme, so my task of deciding is easy — I simply say, “Yes, Lord.” Being yielded is what ties the entire idea of being ready, but it is often the most difficult part of it. It is where the concept of complete submission to God becomes reality. It is doing the parts of life that you enjoy and the parts of life that you don’t enjoy — simply because God sets them both before you as the work He created in advance for you to do. It is daily praying the prayer of Jesus from the garden, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” It is going when God says go and staying when God says stay. It is why Paul can both give instruction to endure hardship and also praise God for rescuing him from those very hardships. A life that is fully yielded to God is ready to preach the word both in season and out of season — and even ready to use words if necessary.
I pray that if you are in Christ as one of His children that you will Always Be READY! You have been set apart for God’s exclusive use so as you go about life today, live like it!