2 Timothy 4:9-16
Something folks like to do at New Years: see who was first baby born, what were specifics, etc. This year one of first had twin sibling born last year! Just a few minutes apart, different day, month and year on birth certificate. To begin with, baby’s circle of friends pretty small, maybe only one or two – mom and dad – for a while. Life goes on, circle gets larger, have more real friends, some imaginary facebook friends. But list of friends, sphere of life and influence doesn’t grow forever. At some point, starts to shrink. Friends fall off list for one reason or another – move away or pass away. Our world starts to get smaller. Don’t travel as far or spend as long away from home. Near the end, world often gets really small.
Many of you know those whose life consists of same four walls and same few faces day after day with little if any variation. Life came down to that for apostle Paul during his last days, too. World-traveler, renowned author, personally acquainted with hundreds or thousands of people. Now, as he writes final words, confined to a dungeon, perhaps unable to see light of day. Luke is only friendly face, he is separated from some of his most important belongings, facing certain death. For many, that’s more than enough reason to be really grumpy.
Not the apostle Paul. He kept in focus who and what was important. At same time, he remained human – we can see and hear real emotion coming through in our text. As always, Paul didn’t sugar-coat the truth, and he stayed the course with grace. May God grant us understanding to finish well as Paul did, finish with grace.
A. don’t lose sight of the people
2 Tim. 1:4 “I long to see you”; “do your best to come soon” – poignant, moving, touching expressions of affection for his “son in the faith”
to see his face one last time would give Paul great joy – his longing for that nearly unbearable
notice doesn’t ask Timothy for ministry report: what’s attendance, how many professions, baptisms, memberships
asked Timothy to bring certain things, but primary emphasis on seeing him; Timothy far more key to work of the ministry than things we like to measure
bring Mark, he is useful
this the same John Mark who went on first missions trip w/Paul and Barnabas; who was not useful, abandoned the team partway through
things had changed, relationship with Mark had been restored; mentioned in both Colossians and Philemon as co-laboring with Paul
has matured to degree Paul considers him useful to carry on his ministry
Crescens (Turkey), Titus (Bosnia), Tychicus (Ephesus) – along with Timothy and Mark will carry on work
even though Paul knew his end was near, saw work of spreading the Gospel as continuing
Paul involved to some degree in training/mentoring these men, has turned them loose, expecting God will use them to further what he used Paul to begin
church not supposed to be like small business – countless family businesses fail during transfer from founder to successor
Paul had done his part to avoid that; watching now with mixed emotions – missing their company, thankful for work God had given them, how Gospel was advancing through their labors
Luke allowed to remain with him – perhaps because personal physician
had traveled many miles together; Luke closest thing to personal historian Paul had, an essential part of the whole ministry team
then there’s Demas
seems to be strong tone of sadness – Paul identifies the issue, but graciously
Demas not a stranger to hardship – close associate of Paul during first imprisonment, part of the inner circle – one in whom Paul had invested much
Paul one of those guys who couldn’t turn off teacher mode – always striving to bring along whoever was within earshot
Paul probably had high hopes for Demas, how he would continue laboring in Christian work, then he abandoned the cause – cost of continued discipleship too high
B. leaders get lonely, too
think about who Paul was: apostle to the Gentiles – the big guy, responsible for writing more than half books of NT, stood up to Peter about his inconsistent behavior
then there’s the list of all the harsh treatment Paul endured – must have been one tough guy to survive all that – resourceful, resilient, able to take all that was thrown at him
comes across as one who can relate to people but doesn’t need a lot of people around to be content – might even prefer “quiet” down time
does ask for cloak, books and parchments, but emphasis strongly on people, his present loneliness
just because someone is comfortable with leadership, even surrounded by people much of the time, can still experience loneliness
leaders have need for encouragement; in Paul’s case, support during some especially difficult times
what had happened? – no one whatever to take his side at his first hearing before Nero; left all alone to defend himself as best as he could
recognized God’s ability to supply his need but… still needed the comfort and encouragement personal contact would bring
C. speak the truth
Paul didn’t get soft in old age, pull his punches, gloss over difficult topics – still called it like it was
specifically identified nature of his parting with Demas and reason for it – Demas’ change of priorities and commitment
same for Alexander the coppersmith – had done much harm to the cause of the Gospel, perhaps to Paul personally
puts Timothy on guard – you be careful, too; he’s type of individual who can do a lot of damage, will if he can
stated the facts about those who could have testified in his defense – they didn’t
at same time, didn’t go to opposite extreme
frequent response to adversity, especially when it includes loneliness – exaggerate and become self-focused
Paul didn’t make bad things out to be way worse than they really were; Alexander really was dangerous opponent to the Gospel
Paul kept focus on Alexander’s opposition to the truth without getting personal; that helped Timothy know what he should guard against
D. do it with grace
too many people carry grudges – remembering past things against people; might not do anything against them personally, wouldn’t be upset if something did happen, though
Paul left dealing with past issues up to God – God can be trusted to do right thing in all situations
evildoers who remain unrepentant and resistant to the Gospel – God will repay them with justice for their evil
brothers and sisters who fail to make the mark – may God show them mercy for their weakness
gracious to the end, like Stephen and Lord Jesus, Paul was content to leave details up to God
Paul not content to stagnate, no matter how short his remaining time – the Apostle was committed to continuing his learning: “bring the books, especially the parchments”
“William Tyndale, who translated the first NT printed in English, was imprisoned in Vilvorde Castle near Brussels before his execution in 1536. In the year preceding his death he wrote to the governor, begging for warmer clothing, a woolen shirt, and above all his Hebrew Bible, grammar, and dictionary.”
if apostle Paul hadn’t “arrived”, neither will we; after 30 years of pastoral ministry, still wanted to know and learn more of God and his word
Paul one of those fellows who seems “larger than life”. Who he was. The things he experienced. Places he went. Extent of his writing and its influence. How he ended life, as martyr for his faith. Tends to surprise us when we find out someone like that is really human. And Paul was. That is plain from passage before us. Why is that important? We don’t stand much chance of finishing like many heroes did – Stephen, praying for his tormentors while being stoned; Richard Wurmbrand, tortured for his faith but without malice toward his torturers.
Some other mere mortal like us, that’s different; can maybe follow their example. That describes Paul at heart – one whose aged and mistreated bones felt the cold dreadfully. Heavy wool cloak would make huge difference in his ability to endure Roman winter. Discouragement at how some of his investments turned out, especially Demas. Feeling intensely alone and abandoned, forsaken by even local believers. Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t he! So how did he deal with all that and finish well?
Paul clearly understood who he was – a sinner saved by God’s grace. In fact, he owed all he had and was to grace. Only because of God’s undeserved favor could Paul have genuine claim to inheritance in heaven. Was God’s gracious equipping for service that enabled Paul to endure and accomplish what he did. Since he had received such great grace, how could he not be gracious to others?
So, there’s really no formula here beyond this: apart from Christ we are all without hope. Only hope is moment by moment dependence on Christ for strength and guidance and comfort – everything we need to please him. Then our response: loving and thankful obedience, displaying toward others what Christ has shown to us. Here, have tangible reminder of primary display of his grace – when he did for us what we could never do for ourselves, purchasing our redemption. When he put needs of others first. Finishing his life praying for others, dying for sake of others, forgiving others as he did so. May we be ever mindful of his grace, dependent on his grace, those who show his grace to others.