“Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.”
I Timothy 1:2, 3
For someone who loved the adventure of gospel ministry, the opportunity to travel with the apostle Paul would have been a chance of a lifetime. Timothy enjoyed such a privilege on many occasions. He learned firsthand both the doctrine and the demeanor of the faithful missionary. However, at this particular time, Timothy would not be continuing on with his spiritual mentor. Paul instructed Timothy to “abide still at Ephesus.” There was important work to be done there. People needed to be taught. Error needed to be exposed and shunned. For Timothy, it probably would have been easier to leave, but Paul needed him to stay.
Sometimes, staying where you are is not the most attractive thing, but it may be the most helpful and productive thing. All of us should be willing to leave our place of service if God says, “Go,” but we should also be committed to staying until God specifically tells us to leave. Too often people leave because the work is slow or difficult, or because the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. They leave their church when things are not what they prefer. Depending on whose statistics you hear, the average stay of a pastor today is only a few years in each place. Often they relocate because of problems in the church or a lack of results rather than because God is actually leading them. The same can be true of missionaries. Too many times the discouragement and difficulty of the work result in missionaries quitting or changing directions. Many situations are different from the ones described, but these can be common.
We need men and women who, like Timothy in Ephesus, will stay until the assignment is complete. As challenging as it is sometimes to begin a work, it is very often more challenging to finish it. We have known more than a few men and women who were good at starting something but poor at finishing. They made sincere commitments to begin some new step of obedience, but soon it was abandoned. Don’t leave your post until God tells you to. You are needed where you are. Stay in Ephesus.