It is fair to say that the apostle Paul was a seasoned minister of excellence. He mentored Timothy the young pastor of the large citywide Ephesian church estimated by some to be in the tens of thousands. Timothy was young but called and chosen for the great responsibility that faced him. There is much to learn from the tips Paul gave to Timothy. 

Remain committed to your calling  

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia–remain in Ephesus… 1 Timothy 1:3 

Things started well for Timothy, but in time, he was tempted to move on, finding some reason to validate his desire to move on. Paul wrote and gave instruction that he was to remain in Ephesus and be committed to his call there. Often our spiritual victory is a matter of outlasting the enemy. We are instructed elsewhere to stand our ground, fully covered with God’s armor when satan seeks to move us off our base. That is why it is a good idea to write the vision, so that in time when uncertainty creeps up, you can clearly remember the direction the Lord gave you. 

Prioritize Prayer 

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, …1 Timothy 2:1-2 

Paul had come to understand that his ministry stood or fell on prayer. He had learnt to pray unceasingly in a lifestyle of devotion and intercession. His apostolic prayers are common to the letters he wrote, and he exhorts Timothy to also prioritize prayer before all else: “first of all.” Busyness, even hard work, is no substitute for believing prayer that invokes God’s insight, foresight, strength, provision, and protection in all ministry effort. 

Be forewarned about people around you will ‘depart’ 

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, … 1 Timothy 4:1 

Discouragement can set in when those around you ‘depart from the faith.’ If you are not careful their lack of faith can influence your faith, and you need to set a guard against the enemy who will lie about ‘something being wrong’ with what you have been ministering. After all, if what you have been ministering is all OK, how come so and so has now fallen behind?It is comforting to know that even under Jesus’ perfect teaching, some disciples turned back (John 6:66). So be aware of the enemy’s wiles. 

Be prepared to stir things up 

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you… 2 Timothy 1:6 

There is a natural tendency for the general spirit of intimidation, and the flesh to have a “settling” effect. God has placed in each one of His ministers, gifts that must be stirred up. Faith is an active pursuit of God’s will against opposition. It always involves a fight, and a fight requires spiritual effort. Through time, if you are not alert, you can “throttle back” and put up with the ordinary. God is never ordinary, and when we are walking closely with Him things can never be humdrum. Moreover it is your responsibility to stir up the gift within you through remembrance, prayer, confession and use. God will not do it for you. 

Be sure to associate with genuine believers 

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!2 Tim 3:1-5 

It is naïve to think that all people who show up in and around your ministry are genuine. It would be nice to think that everyone you minister to has a pure heart for the Lord. However, if you do not discern who and what they really are like, you can be taken in and suffer harm. Paul instructs Timothy to turn way from such people, knowing the danger that comes through tolerating such end time selfishness.Notice that these are not rank sinners ‘out there’ but people who have the ‘form’ or outward trappings of godliness, much like the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They were outwardly clean looking, but inwardly devoid of all real life. ‘Whitewashed tombs’ Jesus called them. Paul warns Timothy about such religious hypocrites that appear to be one thing outwardly, but inwardly really are another type of person. 

Be skillful in using the scripture 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

God has built into scripture all that any minister needs in fulfilling the good works God has planned out for him. There is no use in trying to find some gimmicky approach to ministry that is separate from a solid and sound preaching of the scripture. Skillful preaching takes into account the four key directions preaching and teaching can and should take. All word ministry includes some doctrine or teaching; some reproof or rebuke; some correction of error, and some instruction or training in the ‘how to’s’ of living in the righteousness Jesus has given to us.Ministers of excellence apply the needed emphasis of the word to fit the situation. Ministry should be specifically targeted, not just thrown out there hoping that something will stick. 

Keep your focus on sound wholesome teaching 

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.2 Timothy 4:2 

The flesh can become bored with wholesome food, seeking after a while, things that are ‘spicy’ and new. Paul warns Timothy that if he is not watchful he can be tempted to lose his focus and cater to the ‘itching ears’ of his hearers rather than what he knows to be sound doctrine.As a minister of excellence realize there are ‘seasons’ when people you minister will ‘turn away from the truth’ and go after more fanciful teaching. It is in these seasons that you must remain faithful to what God has given to you, and fulfill your ministry. Avoid trying to compete with those that appeal to the listener’s carnal desires. Be ready in season and out of season. Keep your ministry simple and steady.

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