This post was originally published in March 2019. –ed.
The Lord Jesus Christ had no time for divided loyalties. He warned that “no one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Part-time devotion isn’t an option for the true servant of the Lord.
The apostle Paul was acutely aware of this reality in Christian ministry and commanded Timothy to “take pains with these things; be absorbed in them” (1 Timothy 4:15). A servant leader is singleminded, as opposed to the double–minded man, who is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). The work of ministry is to absorb Timothy’s mind. Paul’s words here convey the idea of thinking through beforehand, planning, strategizing, or premeditating. When a minister is not doing the work of the ministry, he’s at least to be planning it.
The English Standard Version translates Paul’s exhortation with similar emphasis: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them.” God’s servants are to be wrapped up in ministry matters. It doesn’t take much of a man to be a minister—it merely requires all of him. The true servant of Jesus Christ is wholly given over to his work.
A pastor can’t have a double agenda. He can’t, for example, divide his efforts between being in the ministry and becoming a golf pro or an entrepreneur. Men who fall into such traps never realize their full potential because they have too many things to distract them and drain their energy. A good servant of Christ must bury himself in his ministry, just like Epaphroditus, who nearly died fulfilling his calling (Philippians 2:25–27).
In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word; be ready.” Greek scholar Fritz Rienecker tells us that the word translated “ready” (ephistēmi) is a military word. It means to stay at your post, to stay on duty.  Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980), 647. A servant of God is never off duty but is always at his post. My dad used to tell me that a preacher ought to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice.
Paul told Timothy to stay on duty “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). A servant of Christ is on duty when it’s convenient and when it’s not. I went home one Sunday night and was really tired. All I wanted to do was get something cold to drink, sit in a chair, and rest. I had no sooner sat down when the phone rang. A family was having major problems. I spent forty minutes on the phone, during which time the food my daughter had prepared for me became inedible. As soon as I hung up the phone, it rang again—and it was a bigger disaster this time. I suppose that was the Lord’s way of letting me know that I’m always on duty. That’s how it is in ministry—you have to be totally absorbed in it and ready for anything.
The servant leader’s focus cannot be divided. He is to be absorbed and immersed in the work of shepherding his flock. It is all-consuming work, but there is no greater labor to which you could surrender your life.
(Adapted from The Master’s Plan for the Church)