My husband pastors two small churches that are each around 150 years old. Often, as I sit in the pews I can feel the weight of that age and all the history that the buildings contain. Paul’s statement in Hebrews 12:1 about being surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” really resonates with me as I think about all the saints who have gone before those of us who are here today.
Heartaches, tears, laughter, and joy have all echoed in those rooms. Hope has sprung anew each time the gospel was preached and when someone extended a hand to a friend in need. Generations of people have lived their lives, attended church, and had their funeral services conducted within those walls. Many families worship in the same pews where their ancestors sat. Long ago, teenagers sat in the back row and carved their initials into wood that was already old. Running my fingers over those marks is a tangible connection to the past.
Then there is the spiritual side of things. Pastors and their wives have shepherded these congregations for a century and a half. I find this thought very sobering. How do I live up to the standard of those who have gone before me? What legacy will I be able to leave in the rich tapestry of time in these two congregations? What impact will I have in the lives of the women and younger pastors’ wives that I interact with?
I’ve always enjoyed Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy chapter 1. Take a few minutes and read what Paul has to say to Timothy in these verses. I find his words very encouraging, but, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to enjoy them in a different way. Rather than just seeing them as applicable to my own life, I feel that they are also beneficial in showing me how to encourage other women.
In 2 Timothy chapter 1 Paul is encouraging Timothy to be strong in his faith. He does this in a variety of ways including praying for him (verse 3), longing to see him/spending time with him (verse 4), reminding Timothy to use his God-given talents (verse 6), encouraging him to be bold (verse 7), reminding him not to be ashamed of the gospel (verse 8), encouraging him to join Paul in suffering for the gospel (verse 12), keeping a pattern of sound teaching (verse 13), and finally, guarding what has been entrusted to us (verse 14). These are all meaningful ways to encourage other women as well.
As the years pass and I become an older pastor’s wife, I am struck with the desire to pass this legacy on to other women. The encouragements that Paul outlines in this chapter are difficult to live up to and they lead me to ask hard questions of myself and my spiritual practices. Am I really being an encouragement to other women? Paul has provided me with a roadmap and highlighted the correct route. Am I faithfully following the path he has labelled or am I too busy meandering down a back road somewhere?
In verse three Paul says, “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” Am I praying for pastors’ wives and other women consistently? Am I focusing on praying for their growth as daughters of the King or am I more focussed on praying for physical needs? It is easy to get tied up worrying about every day concerns and to forget to pray for our dear sisters in the Lord.
Verse four tells us that Paul was longing to see Timothy, to spend time with him. Do we make time in our days to be with other women? It is hard to be an encouragement when you don’t have the time to give to someone else. I know that I fall short on this point. There never seems to be enough time to complete all that needs to be done. I know that it is a matter of prioritizing God’s needs above my own, but I still have to ask how I add one more task to the list of things I need to do.
Paul exhorts Timothy to use his God-given talents in verse six. He writes, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Do I provide opportunities and encouragement for other women to use their gifts? This is another hard one for me. I tend to be a perfectionist and like to do things for myself. On top of that, I often feel like I am imposing if I ask someone else to take on a task. The reality is that, if they are doing a task that allows them to use their God-given gifts they will probably do a better job than I would and enjoy it a lot more than me as well.
The next three things that Paul encourages Timothy to do are to be bold, to not be ashamed of the gospel, and to be prepared to suffer for the gospel. Verses 7 and 8 read, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” I think the best way to encourage other women in these areas is to be a good example. Do I speak up and preach the love of God and His saving grace boldly so that others can see or do I shrink away from opportunities to speak out? Do I take the time to share my experiences and my stories with other women so that they can learn from the trials I have experienced? I want to be an outstanding role model, just as Paul was for Timothy.
We live in a world where people twist the gospel into something that is culturally and politically appropriate for our own times. They want to make the word of God more relevant for 21st Century society. If we believe that the Bible is inherently true and God-inspired, we need to stand up against this and encourage other people to do so as well. In verse 13 Paul writes, “What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) As role models to younger women we need to be vigilant when we teach to make sure that we are using sound doctrine. We also need to be ready to explain why we believe using sound doctrine is important.
Lastly Paul writes in verse 14, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” He is telling Timothy to guard the gospel, to guard the good news which he has been given and which he knows to be true. Timothy heard the gospel from his mother and grandmother and had Paul as his role model. Paul encourages him to guard this knowledge and share it with other people.
It is my prayer that I will “guard the good deposit” which has been entrusted to me and pass it on to future generations of women so that they too can do the same in their own time.
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