1. Receiving & Fulfilling a Ministry
In Colossians 4:17, a message had to be sent to Archippus, to “Take heed” so as to “fulfill” the ministry he had already “received.” The matter was so weighty that it needed a great “heed.”
Receiving a ministry is one thing, but fulfilling that ministry is something else, which requires ‘taking heed’
Several persons celebrate the ministries they have received; but how many are fulfilling it? Several show evidence of a great call of God on their lives, but how many will actually fulfill it?
Paul, it appears, was stressing the same point when he announced in Acts 20:24:
But none of these things [trials and temptations] move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, [why?] so that I might FINISH my course [and do so] with joy, and [finish also] the ministry, which I RECEIVED of the Lord Jesus…
Finishing well takes determination; it involves risks and sacrifices. Paul knew that he had already “received” a “ministry.” That was not the issue. His concern was to finish, and to finish well, even at the cost of his own personal comfort, and if need be, even his life.
After receiving the call from the Master, Paul could have contented himself with being born again and settling down into a big office in his church. Then he would not have been fulfilling his ministry which he had already received, even though he may have been helping another to fulfill that one’s ministry.
On the other hand, Paul could have chosen to be a carpenter, a Christian carpenter, an anointed carpenter. After all, that was how Jesus Himself started. But becoming a carpenter, no matter how ‘anointed,’ rather than a preacher, would have meant that Paul was not fulfilling his ministry. Anointed carpentry may have been another’s call, not his.
When the disciples of Jesus started to return to their fishing nets to resume being fishers of fish rather than fishers of men, Jesus realized that they had set out on a dangerous course. He had to go at once to set them back on course (John 21). As disciples, they had actually started out well, fulfilling their ministry; but they were, at that point, in sudden danger of not finishing.
2. Starters & Finishers
To become a preacher when one has been called to be a farmer is to not fulfill one’s ministry. Yet to start the farming ‘ministry’ but give up only after a while, is to have begun fulfilling but not finish the ministry received.
Starting the ministry is one thing; finishing it is something else. Very few Bible characters breasted the tape, and were able to say, “It is finished.” The several others were merely good starters in the marathon that is our spiritual call.
Jesus was very aware of this matter of not merely starting but staying on to finish, when He announced that His interest was not merely to do but to finish the works which the Father had assigned to Him (John 4:34). At last He was able to declare to God, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4), and also to announce to men and devils, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Paul was another of the few in the Scripture who were able to finish their duty on earth, know that they had finished, and declare so. In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul declares: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course…”
It takes a fight to be able to finish, and to finish well.
From The Preacher's diary.