It is almost inevitable that at certain points in our lives, we will at once look back, at what has been… and, hopefully, at the same time, forward to what we hope will still be.
Let me say right from the start that I believe that there’s no better measure against which we may gauge our lives, past, present and future, if God wills, than by the measure of the words and deeds of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
In the passage that we just read, Paul, no doubt, too is looking back, remembering what has been, and forward, towards that which he hopes will be.
But he finds himself in perilous conditions.
As he writes his second letter to Timothy, Paul is back in Rome,
but now he is on death row.
He is in chains (2 Tim. 1:16).
He is cold
And he lacks everything that may now, during his last moments hear on earth, bring him physical comfort (4:13).
Yes, Paul is about to be executed… and he knows it!
In a sense he is a blessed man for having this knowledge of his impeding death,
At least it gives one the chance to make amends, doesn’t it.
But, of course, we don’t always know!
But Paul knows, and he is, one could say, two times blessed – once because he knows; and once because he is at peace with the prospect of death.
Verse 6 confirms Paul’s knowledge of the fact that he is about to die:
“I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure”
“Already”…being poured out, which of course also suggests something of Paul’s state of mind in these oh so troubled times.
And, in fact, as far as we know today, the words Paul wrote in this letter, in 2 Timothy, are indeed the last words Paul would write – and as such, they become… his final will and testament.
So let’s join Paul in his miserable cell…
Talking about remembering days gone by, in the late 70’s I worked in the prison service, in spiritual care, or, to be more exact, as an assistant to a chaplain who has as one of his responsibilities to spiritually care for prisoners in general, and prisoners on death row specifically.
The days I spent going on visits with Major Scott left me with a deep sense of people at the end of the line _ and I say so respectfully – and the things that occupied some people’s minds in those final hours of their lives.
For days, they would talk about the last visit they were going to have.
For hours they would confide about regrets they had; about how sorry they were about the hurt they had caused their victims’ families…
They would talk about how they were afraid to walk to the gallows
They would ask to take a message to a loved one
But more than anything, those who had come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, would ask that you would pray for them or with them…to be close to them as they prepared for their journey into the unknown.
These men, for sure, had discovered something of the urgency that Paul must felt, as his days on earth was running out
Paul, of course, on one level, was not unlike these men.
He is afraid. He longs for the familiar things in life, the things that bring him comfort, like his cloak and his scrolls
And he is worried for loved ones, for friends and family, for fellow believers in our Lord Jesus, for that, too, is why he writes his letters.
And on another level, he is very unlike the men and women on death row –
He has committed no crime …
and, his main concern is not for himself, but for the future of those who will be called to carry the Gospel into the world. I suspect that may means you and me, my friends.
Paul is worried for the church, which is under increasing persecution … just like it is today;
and for those who have recently come to faith in Christ and who’s task it is to tell the world of the one chance they have to share in the glory of God, in life everlasting.
This past week, we got news that an acquaintance of ours had passed away.
My family and I were saddened by the news, but I must admit, what saddened me more, was a remark a friend made when she told us of the passing away of our mutual acquaintance…
Death is so final, she said!
The truth is that death is not final at all – just read Revelation 22…but that is stuff for another talk.
Death is not final in the bigger scheme of things, and Paul knows this all too well.
But, there he is, in his cell…
Let’s not be naïve…A close reading of this letter of Paul, shows his emotional state.
And he, too, even Paul, is lonely, and surely, afraid; we know he is cold…!
And in this state of mind, he almost babbles on, it seems, about a list of people.
Could it be that Paul is giving his readers a message? Why does he choose to write about the people he does?
Lets look at a few –
and as we go along, what I would like us to consider, in our hearts… in our heart of hearts, is this:
are we like one or more of the characters mentioned in Paul’s letter?
And I beg this question because I suspect this is exactly the question Paul, in a roundabout way and among other things, is asking us to consider:
Cornelius, or Tom, or Jennifer (just random names…), do you recognize yourself in some or all of these characters that Paul is writing about?
As an introduction to this section, we might say, Paul, is saying this of the people he is writing to Timothy about:
Some, (of them) have deserted me.
Some, I have sent away.
Some, you have to be careful of
Some have deserted me, he writes - like Demas …
4:10. Paul is in dire straits, and he needs the support and encouragement and companionship of one close to him, just like the next man does.
In fact, he calls for the support of Timothy now, because, exactly when he needed Demas’ support most, Demas who was once with him - Demas has deserted him.
We know a thing or two about Demas. We know from other readings that Demas loved the world more than he did the Lord (v. 8).
And we know that while previously mentioned among Paul’s fellow workers (though, perhaps significantly, not commended) as in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24, Demas has now deserted the apostle to embrace the safety, or freedom, or comfort of Thessalonica.
For Thessalonica was probably somewhat out of the way of the Christian persecutions that was going on in most of the roman empire, but especially close to Rome.
So when the going got tough, Demas got going.
Are we like Demas?
When we are pushed beyond our comfort zones, our value system, our beliefs, our very faith, do we abandon ship, or our friends, or our Lord?
Are we like Demas?
Some I have sent away - like Tychicus.
4:12. Tychicus was once another of Paul’s faithful traveling companions (Acts 20:4) and messengers (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9).
But now Tychicus has been sent . . . to Ephesus.
Ephesus… is where Timothy is stationed.
The reference about Tychicus is cryptic but to Timothy, at least, evidently self-explanatory.
Perhaps Tychicus delivered the letter to him;
Perhaps he was even, by prior arrangement, to relieve Timothy temporarily (cf. Titus 3:12).
In any case, Tychicus was another of Paul’s absent companions, albeit by necessity, and in his hour of need, Paul could rely on Tychicus to at least do important ground work that he could not do while he was in prison.
Are we like Tychicus,
one who Paul knew he could trust with a small, but important task, doing whatever it is that needs to be done for the growth of the Kingdom., even if it means leaving the side of loved ones to go and tend to those more in need of the truth of the Lord.
Some you have to be careful of, like Alexander the metal worker.
4:14-15. Alexander the metalworker may be the same man named in Acts 19:33-34, or more likely, the person in 1 Timothy 1:20. But, frankly, since the name Alexander was common, one cannot be certain.
However, in 2 Timothy Paul mentions Alexander the metalworker, and says of him that he did him “a great deal of harm”
Considering his stated profession, a metal worker, he was probably one of those whose living came from selling images of the gods. Images that he (the commentaries say) that he either cast or shaped in the furnace…(now there’s a hidden message for you! I thought)
Are we Alexander?
Do we do the Gospel harm, by the choices we make in life, by our opposition to the kingdom of God?
Are we Alexander?
And then, of course, there is Timothy…
Why does Paul ask that Timothy specifically should come to him.
It seems to me that Paul’s asking Timothy to come to him, in spite of the comfort that Luke offers him, Luke who is there with him, reflects his concern …for the growing circle of believers.
Timothy, in this regard it seems, has Paul’s trust ….
and now we may tie all the loose ends together:
Paul may feel that Luke will take care of him personally while he is in prison, but that to Timothy, for a reason best known to Paul, he should give the task to continue look after those who had recently come to faith in the Lord….. if only he can see him one last time to encourage him!
Which all leaves Timothy well and truly under the spotlight, I suppose, and us, perhaps, with a question or two:
Who and what was Timothy? What made him special?
The answer is “nothing”!
Timothy was a rather ordinary person.
But that is encouraging. Friends, if we can deduce nothing else, isn’t it encouraging to see the mission of the church here being committed to another ordinary person.
A rather retiring person.
Perhaps even a shy person.
a person, like you or me.
The good, startling, news is that the future of the church, the body of believers, was, and still is entrusted to ordinary people like you and me,
People who do not like conflict or opposition any better than anyone else does,
people who sometimes find themselves unable to cope with the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
For that, as far as we know, is what Timothy was like.
And if that is all true, if God chooses ordinary people, as He still does today, can we see then how this letter of Paul to Timothy becomes? Because then, like the rest of the Bible, it becomes a message for you and me, too!
The message is clear, that ordinary people, people like you and me, must take up the good fight, must proclaim the word of God.
Are we perhaps Timothy?
We may know this tonight, we are all called!
We are called to share the truth of the history of the life and death of Jesus, our Saviour, and of the truth that he did overcome death, that he does sit at the right hand of God even now, where he is preparing our places with Him in the glory of God!!!
But know this… with our calling comes great responsibility!
“Come quickly, Timothy,” Paul says. Please come quickly. Come before it is too late.
Paul is desperately lonely at this time and he wants to see, maybe to hug, one last time, a person he loves, a person he knows who honestly loves him.
And yet, for all of his love for Timothy, he is in fact also laying on him an awesome burden.
Paul knows all to well what it means to be a servant of God against this world.
In fact, it is exactly that which has landed him on death row.
And it seems sure that Paul was indeed executed soon after he wrote this letter!
But, he calls on Timothy to take over the baton in this relay race called evangelism.
He knows that the race will be hard,
but he is ready and eager to hand over the baton, knowing full well that Timothy will experience God’s grace and strength and peace – even in the face of death.
for he himself is experiencing that peace, even as the hour of his death draws nearer. Verse 17, (“I know, says Paul, because through it all, through all of my struggles, even now as I face death …The Lord is with me. He gives me strength.”)
I saw that same peace in prisoners who had come to experience the wonderful truth of God’s love for those who confess their sins to Him, who get to believe in Him, even on death row.
Just like Paul…
Paul is at peace, for now he knows he will soon receive his prize.
Soon he will depart this world to be at home with the Lord!
For that much is assured for all who run the good race,
all on whom God bestows His mercy,
If we start to see that we are called, too, do we understand the urgency of this calling?
You see, and I say this with confidence…We are called!
And we are all called… to come quickly!
How long then before we commence the work. Immediately? That will be good!
Or will we wait… till it is too late?
Will we wait so long…that winter comes!
and then, of course, we cannot begin our journey until …the next summer, when the winds and the waters are again favorable?
That is the one thing that Paul is obviously worried about, that Timothy will wait too long.
That is why Paul writes to Timothy, come quickly, “come before the winter comes,” because in winter, for Timothy, it would be impossible to take to the seas.
What is more, if Timothy waited till the next summer,
Paul would be dead!
My friends, as we read God’s word in the days to come…as we pray at each occasion, lets also continue to pray that we will not be listed as deserters; or as those who loved the world more than our Lord,
like Demas did!
Let’s pray that we will not cling to false gods, earthly temptations, like Alexander did!
Let’s pray that we will continue to listen for the call, understand that there is work to be done,
like Paul did, and like Timothy would do.
And if by God’s grace, we hear the call when it comes - as it surely will sooner or later - let’s go quickly!
Let’s be frank: We know we have already been called.
What should we do now?
Let’s prepare ourselves for the journey, quickly….let’s do everything we can to learn about Jesus, to live our lives in His example, and tell those who do not know Him yet, about Him.
In Jesus’ name, let’s up, and go…
Let’s do it without hesitation,
Let’s do it….before the winter comes.
I thank you.