Last words are important.
It’s a common and good practice to have a Last Will and Testament where you express how, after your death, you want your assets to be distributed and any other instructions that are important to you.
It was surprising when a Manhattan woman who died in 2015 left R1.4 million to her 32 cockatiels, her cat and her dog, along with specific instructions on how her beloved birds should be fed – which included popcorn.
However, that’s small-fry compared to a German-Shepherd named Gunther (a dog!), who was bequeathed R1.2 billion from his owner, a countess, when she died in 1991.
Your last words can tell a lot about you, your priorities and your concerns.
What would you put in your Last Will and Testament?
Or if you had to write one last letter to your friends, what would you say in it?
In 2 Timothy, in the Bible, we have the Apostle Paul’s “Last Will and Testament”, written from a dungeon-prison in Rome.
This is Paul’s instruction to Timothy, a younger gospel-worker:
“I’m going to die soon. I want you to continue the work of telling people about Jesus and growing people in Jesus. I want you to fan into flame the gift God has given you by showing unashamed courage in speaking about Jesus and by being willing to suffer for the sake of Jesus.”
What was the gift God had given Timothy?
It was the gift to speak for Jesus with unashamed courage and to suffer for Jesus.
Although God had given the gift, Timothy still had to fan it in into flame. He had to keep on stoking the flame by doing what he was gifted for.
He was to pour fuel on the fire of God’s gift by keeping on speaking about Jesus with unashamed courage and by keeping on being willing to suffer for Jesus’ sake.
KP Yohannan, the founder of the Missions organization, Gospel for Asia, writes in one of his books:
The silence of the great hall was broken only by soft, choking sobs. The Spirit of God was moving over the room in awesome power – convicting of sin and calling men and women into His service.
Before the meeting ended, 120 of the 1200 pastors and Christian leaders made their way to the front of the church, responding to the “Call of the North”.
They were not saying, “I am willing to go”, but rather, “I am going”.
They made the choice to leave home, village and family, business or career and go where they would be hated and feared.
Meanwhile, another 600 pastors pledged to return to their congregations and raise up more missionaries who would leave South India and go to the North.
As I prayed, my heart ached for these men. How many would be beaten and go hungry or be cold and lonely in the years ahead? How many would sit in jails for their faith? I prayed for the blessing and protection of God.
They were leaving material comforts, family ties and personal ambition. Ahead lay a new life among strangers.
But I also knew that they would experience spiritual victory as many thousands turned to Christ and helped form new congregations in the unreached villages of North India.
The call to gospel ministry is a call to speak about Jesus and a call to suffer.
My mind is constantly blown-away when reading these words because in my experience most Christians don’t want to give up their weekend away for the sake of gospel ministry.
For many, serving at church once a week teaching the Bible or enabling others to teach the Bible is viewed as a mountain of hardship too high to climb.
Many gifted and godly young men and women choose not to go into full-time Christian missions or ministry for the sake of a great salary and comfortable living.
God is not against weekends away, or us enjoying his good gifts, or great salaries. Weekends away can refresh for ministry. Great salaries can support missions.
Nevertheless, on his death row, the Apostle Paul does not write to Timothy, “Have a great life!”, “Be as comfortable as you can!” or “Make sure you live life to the fullest!”
He wrote, “Show unashamed courage in speaking about Jesus. Don’t be afraid of suffering or hardship, it’s what you signed up for.”
If you want an easy, luxurious, care-free life, gospel ministry is definitely not for you.
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 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… (2 Timothy 1:6-8)