We are Timothy being called
Brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus,
Here at the beginning of a new year, it is almost inevitable that we will at once look back, at what has been… and forward, to what we hope will be.
We look back, of course, mainly, to take from the past that from which we may learn something, so as to ensure a better tomorrow.
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.
Paul, no doubt, as we find him here in our reading, knew this, and now, as his life draws to an end, he 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.
Just to expand a bit on the background to what is happening with Paul: by this time, during his second imprisonment, it is about the year 64AD.
About a year before, he had returned from his missionary journeys to Spain.
And by this time he had already had a taste of life in the slammer.
Once before, for much the same reasons, he was imprisoned, at about 61AD.
But that time, his God-given task had not been fulfilled, so, by the grace of God, he is spared to play the fiddle of the nerve-endings of the godless Romans – and of unbelievers in general - a while longer.
But now it is 63 AD and for a while, before being thrown back in jail, Paul is again doing what he was born to do
– looking after the young congregations of the Lord Jesus.
He is doing home visits, or more accurately, he is visiting the many churches that have been founded since the apostles continued to spread the word.
Meanwhile, Nero, or Nero Claudius Caesar, is Emperor of Rome.
And Nero is a real knife in the back kind of a guy, a vicious and unbalanced man.
By the year 62, however, the then still young emperor starts to understand the almost limitless power he holds and he simply puts to death those who would dare oppose him, including his mother.
This dangerous situation worsens by the hour almost and when in July of 64 a fire breaks out in a slum and destroys half of Rome
– rumor had it that it was Nero himself who put the slum to the torch to have more space for his grand building schemes -
the increasingly unpopular emperor looks out for a scapegoat on whom he could turn the wrath of the people.
And who better than the Christians…
The Christians were by then hated more and more each day by the Roman mob. Not only would they not worship the idols of the Romans, they often openly declared that those who did, were damned.
Well, openly, at any rate, until the persecutions intensified…
then some would become timid, as we shall see from Paul’s letter to Timothy.
It is against this backdrop that Paul was rearrested, thrown into a maximum security prison in Rome, and, within months after writing his second letter to Timothy, was in fact executed.
So let’s join Paul in his miserable cell…
Deserted and alone during his last days - Verse 16 :, (read)
deserted and alone, it is evident that the aged apostle’s final thoughts were for the harassed church, and the young leaders who must now accept the burden of guiding its course without Paul’s hands on guidance.
Paul is worried for the church under increasing persecution and for those who have recently come to faith in Christ.
And, of course, for those who have to ensure that that number grows, the leaders of the church …and that brothers and sisters, includes, you, and I!
And when Paul cannot physically be at all places at all times, he writes letters of instruction to the leaders of these new Churches – and the letters to Timothy and Titus fall in this genre of literature – these three letters are the so called Pastoral letters of the new Testament.
So we know that Paul’s hopes and instructions for the church and church leaders is one of the main reasons Paul writes this letter.
But…… there is another reason Paul writes this letter to Timothy: That reason Brothers and Sisters, is that Paul …is lonely, and no doubt, a bit afraid.
In spite of his certainty of life everlasting, he, too, must wonder, in awe, what death, and dying, is like.
And he, surely, too needs someone with whom he may talk to,
about his emotions and longings,
his fears and his hopes,
someone he knows he can trust.
A close reading of this letter of Paul, brothers and sisters, confirms his emotional state.
On face value, it seems as if not much is really happening in this section of the Bible.
In 2 Timothy, it is, simply almost …
Paul writing a letter another letter to Timothy, about, it seems, a list of people.
And one may indeed be inclined to ask, “so what?
Obviously it is important that Paul is writing his final instructions to Timothy, the young, somewhat inexperienced, Timothy.
But why throw in all these remarks and observations about a whole list of other people?
As one reads this letter, you start to realize that while we can assume that Timothy would have known some of the characters Paul writes about, Paul has almost certainly, carefully put together - specifically - this list of people.
And he goes to some length to highlight a characteristic or two of each of the persons he mentions in his letter to Timothy.
So it is worth a closer look, at least at some of the people Paul mentions to Timothy…
We won’t do all of them, but 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 epistle?
And I beg this question because I suspect this is exactly the question Paul is asking Timothy to ask himself.
Do you recognize yourself in some or all of these characters?
As an introduction to this section, we might say, Paul is saying this of them…
Some, (of them) have deserted me.
Some, I have sent away.
Some, you have to be careful of
And one, is here with me
Some (of them) have deserted me - 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.
He calls for the support of Timothy now, because exactly when he needed support most, Demas has deserted him.
And when Demas deserts him at such a crucial time, his need for Timothy is obviously intensified.
We know of Demas this much: Demas loved the world more than he did the Lord (v. 8).
While previously mentioned among Paul’s fellow workers (though, perhaps significantly, not commended) in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24, Demas has now deserted the apostle to embrace the safety, or freedom, or comfort of Thessalonica.
Thessalonica was probably somewhat out of the way of the Christian persecutions. So when the going got tough, Demas got going…to safety.
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 indeed our Lord in that we become weak in our faith?
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 he has been sent . . . to Ephesus.
Now 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;
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 Paul is feeling the burden of loneliness under difficult circumstances.
Are we like Tychicus, one who Paul knew he could trust with an 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 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 either cast or shaped in the furnace…(now there’s a hidden message for you!)
With the rising of the Christian movement, no doubt his livelihood was threatened by the faithful few who showed those who were previously his customers, the error of their ways. And now they have stopped buying his images.
Later even the butchers who sold meat for pagan sacrifices lost income because the people who had found the truth of Christ, were forsaking the pagan temples.
Brothers and sisters it is important to note here that Paul has no desire for personal revenge against Alexander.
This may be confirmed by his reference to Psalm 62:12: “The Lord will repay him for what he has done.”
But Paul is concerned that Timothy is harmed in some way by Alexander’s attacks.
And therefore this warning against Alexander…
Are we Alexander?
Do we do the Gospel harm, by the choices we make in life, by our opposition to the kingdom of God,
and if not in what we do, then in what we do not do, by our lack of zeal, of passion for God’s cause?
Are we Alexander?
And one is here with me, Luke,
4:11. Of all Paul’s close associates, only the “beloved physician” Luke (cf. Col. 4:14) was with Paul.
He had accompanied Paul on many of his travels and had shared Paul’s first Roman imprisonment with him (cf. Col. 4:14; Phil. 24).
Luke, as we know, would preserve in Acts, for all eternity the story of the earliest days of the church of our Lord.
But Paul is more than historian.
Paul is also doctor, and comforter.
Brothers and sisters, are we Luke, like we should be?
Do we comfort those who are sad.
Do we offer a healing, comforting hand, or even just our patient presence, to those who are sick, or lonely.
Do we offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on to those who for obvious and even for not such obvious reasons, have need of our love and understanding?
In short, do we understand and are we true to the importance of serving our Lord and our neighbours, according to the talents he has given us?
Let’s zoom in here for a moment.
It is obvious, in this case, that Paul does have - at least – have the comfort of Luke, for he is indeed there with him.
Why then, does he ask specifically that Timothy would come to him.
It seems to me brothers and sisters that Paul feels that, in spite of the comfort that Luke offers him, personally, his calls for Timothy reflects his concern for the growing Church.
Could it then be that Paul felt that Timothy was best suited, perhaps due to his age, perhaps due to his profile, to advance the church?
Timothy, it seems, has Paul’s trust ….
and now we may tie all the loose ends together:
Paul feels he will at least immediately be looked after by Luke;
and the Church, will be taken to the next level by Timothy, if only he can see him one last time to encourage him to be all that he can be!
Which all leaves Timothy well and truly under the spotlight.
Admittedly, the letter to Timothy does not tell us enough about Timothy, so it may be useful to also see who Timothy was?
And to see what can we deduce from Paul choosing Timothy specifically, to receive this important letter?
To answer the last question first, if we can deduce nothing else, isn’t it encouraging to see the mission of the church being committed to ordinary people.
Perhaps even shy people.
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.
Ordinary people, like you and me.
For that, as far as we know, is what Timothy was like.
And if that is all true - as we know it is - if God chooses ordinary people, still today, can we see then how this letter of Paul to Timothy fits together and how important Paul’s last words to Timothy become.
The message here must be that ordinary people, must take up the good fight, must continue to proclaim the word of God – that is one of the main messages of this letter!
And Paul demonstrates how this should be done, by, on the one hand through specific instructions;
And on the other, by presenting to his readers the characters who by their actions show how to do it, and how not to do it.
And in this regard, what a blessing it is that we have this letter, and this Bible, and that we can still read it today.
So, brothers and sisters…… can it be…?
Are we perhaps a Timothy?
Yes we are.
We are called!
And 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.
Can you see, brothers and sisters how much he trusts Timothy.
He calls on Timothy to take over the baton in this relay race called Christianity, and he knows that the race will be hard,
but he is ready and eager to hand over the baton, knowing that Timothy will experience God’s grace and strength and peace – even in the face of death.
And he knows…
for he himself is experiencing that peace, even as the hour of his death draws nearer.
(Pause……….., and read)
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.”)
Paul is ready to depart to God’s nearer side. He has run a good race to the finish (verse 8) and he has kept the faith, even now…especially now …..that he is about to die.
For now he knows he will receive his prize. Soon he will be at home with the Lord!
And that much is assured for all who run the good race,
and of course, to all on whom God bestows His mercy.
Brothers and sisters and those, may include the very people we ourselves may so eagerly sometimes, so easily, condemn.
!!!The Lord’s love is unfathomable. Let’s not presume we know who will make it to heaven and who not.
So, are we Timothy, called to continue the race?
And when we line up for the race Paul refers to, can we be trusted with the spreading of the wonderful message of God’s grace and mercy and salvation – at whatever price?
If I am called upon to spread the Word – and we know that we are – can I be trusted to go out and do it.
And do we understand the urgency of this calling?
Well, we are all called, brothers and sisters.
We are called to come quickly.
We are called. Our presence here this morning confirms it.
And knowing that we are called to duty, how long then before we commence work. Immediately?
Or will we wait… till it is too late?
Will we wait so long that winter comes and we cannot begin our journey until the next summer, when the winds and the waters are again favorable.
You see, that is why Paul says to Timothy, “come before the winter comes,” because in winter it was impossible to take to the seas.
And if Timothy waited till the next summer, Paul would be dead!
Brothers and sisters, let us not be listed as deserters, or as those who loved the world more than our Lord,
like Demas did!
Let us not cling to false gods, earthly temptations that we know go against the very heart and spirit of our Lord.
Like Alexander did!
Let us instead listen for the call, understand that there is work to be done,
like Paul did.
And let us be trustworthy, like Timothy was to be!
Let us hear the call when it comes, as it surely will.
And when it does, let’s go quickly.
Brothers and sisters …. We have already been called. Let’s pack and prepare ourselves for the journey, quickly….
before the winter comes.
Let’s pray together….