The challenges of ministry are more demanding than ever before, and they are more diverse and fluid than ever before. Even if we earn a Master of Divinity degree or a PhD, we are out of touch with the new realities within ten years. Our equipping for ministry should become more like that of the Apostle Paul.
We find Paul in a Roman prison awaiting death sentence (2 Tim. 4). He writes these words to Timothy, his young friend and fellow minister, his son in the faith: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul is an old man, and apparently he’s worn out, and he knows that his time is short.
But Paul adds a final request that is a bit puzzling. He asks Timothy to bring his coat and his books (v. 13), and bring them “quickly”.
Now, I understand why Paul says, “bring my coat”, because a man can get cold in a Roman prison, but I want us to focus on the phrase “and the books, especially the parchments.” You Greek students can tell me that the word books “βιβλία” means papyrus scrolls and the word “μεμβράνας” means parchment leather scrolls. These were the two forms of books in that day. It would be someone today saying, “bring my paperbacks and my hardbacks”, but that is not my point here.
I want to ask this question: Paul is finished, why does he need books? Paul has done his work, why does say, “Bring me the books”? Paul is only months away from death, so why does he need books?
I submit that as long as there was a breath remaining in Paul’s body, he was intent on following his own command to preach the word and to be instant in season and out of season.
May I suggest that Paul’s ministry from prison gave him cause to brush up on his education, study a bit more, and learn how to minister in the cosmopolitan city of Rome. He wanted the books, so he could develop his skills, deepen his knowledge of Scripture, and minister more effectively in the final hours of his life.
Paul had trained at the Harvard of his day, at the feet of Gamaliel, yet still he says, “Bring me the books.”
He had studied 3 years after his conversion, preparing for his apostolic ministry of church planting, yet still he says, “Bring me the books.”
He had experienced divine revelations in which he was caught up into the third heaven and saw things that he was not allowed to speak of, yet he says, “Bring me the books.”
My prayer is that every Church of God minister will prepare for the new challenges of 2016 by prayer, fasting, and study of “the books”.