Summary: Encouragement to live the Christian life obediently to the end.
“A Successful Life”
BY: Rev. Kenneth E. Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News,
As I was growing up,
I was afforded the great grace of being surrounded by many dedicated Christians---people who
were ‘running the race’, people who’s lives were making a positive difference in this world.
I had an uncle...Uncle Jack who was a United Methodist Minister...my family and his
family were very close, and we would often visit each other’s houses for holidays such as
Thanksgiving and Christmas....and during the summer...we would all inevidably take a vacation
And I watched my Uncle Jack closely....I watched his every move....
The way he treated his wife....the way he loved his children....and the great concern he
had for all those around him....I can honestly say that I never heard a crass word out of him...it
was always concern for his fellow human beings. Through my Uncle Jack...I had the great
opportunity to watch the Gospel of Christ being lived out...truly, honestly, and lovingly.
Almost exactly two years ago, my parents called me with some very sad news....
Uncle Jack had pancreatic cancer, and was given only 6 months to live.
He died right before Thanksgiving, and Jeanne, Ben and I rushed up to Pennsylvania
where he had lived and served the Lord for nearly fifty years.
I was even given the great priviledge to serve as one of the ministers in his
funeral....along with two cousins of mine who are also United Methodist Ministers.
But during the short period of time that my uncle was sick...I talked with him on the
phone several times a week.
And although I was calling to cheer him up...he was usually the one who was cheering
He knew he was dying, his skin had already begun to turn yellow, and he could no longer
enjoy his favorite treat...molasses cookies....
Like Paul, his time of departure was at hand, and he knew it.....but he had no fear.....
There was no reason for him to be sorry for the life he had lived...there was no
remorse....he had fought the good fight....he had kept the faith....and the crown of righteousness
was laid up for him.
So when I would talk to this dying saint....our conversations would inevitably turn toward
the same direction they had always gone....He would talk to me about how good God
is....about how wonderful it is to serve the Lord....and ask me how my ministry was going.
Then he would give me advice.....and at times of questioning....I would call him like I
always had...just to get advice.....and he was always more than ready to give it...and he gave
it cheerfully, and humbly...even on his death bed...even as his body was racked with
pain....his greatest concern was the Gospel.....his greatest concern was how best to serve his
fellow human beings.
What a way to live! Now that is a successful life....
Uncle Jack never had much money.....he was never successful in the worldy sense of the
word....but you know what? He ran and finished the race!
And in our Scripture lesson for today, Paul is sitting in the drab dungeon of a Roman
He is facing the capital charge of insurrection against the Roman government...and he is
about to stand before Nero in his final trial and hear the fateful verdict: Execution!
Paul knew that the end of his life on this earth was immediately at hand...and here he was
passing the banner of the gospel over to Timothy.
He had just given Timothy the most awesome charge that can be given to a person:
the awesome charge to preach the Word of God and to minister to a world that is lost and
dying--a world that is reeling under the weight of so many desparate needs.
Paul tells Timothy to go forth and preach the gospel with all the might and commitment
of his being....he encourages Timothy even while discussing his own coming death.
He wants Timothy to look ahead to the end of his own life and to be able to bear the
What a challenge to Timothy....what a challenge to all of us!
What a triumphant testimony!
Especially in a day and a time when it is so easy to listen to the currents of the world....to
let our journey’s of faith slip away into mediocrity.
It is so easy to lose sight of what is truly important...to become self-absorbed....to forget
our fellow human beings....to forget God.
But in our Scripture lesson, Paul is saying that his life is being offered and sacrificed to
God in one last act--the act of death.
And what a view of death!
When so many of us fear and loath death...which is inevitable to us all...Paul is looking at
death as an offering and sacrifice being presented to God.