Sermons

Summary: Though believers in the Lord are engaged in battles to the end of earthly days, they are assured of victory in Christ.

“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me, the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1]

At the conclusion of the film, “We Were Soldiers,” the West Point Cadet Choir sings a beautiful hymn. This particular hymn was sung at the funeral of President Ronald Reagan. The hymn, entitled “The Mansions of the Lord,” presents haunting lyrics that while admittedly militaristic, are entirely appropriate to commemorate the end of battles for a saint of God who has at last gone to her or to his eternal rest. This is the song, which I have come to love.

To fallen soldiers let us sing

Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing

Our broken brothers let us bring

To the mansions of the Lord

No more bleeding no more fight

No prayers pleading through the night

Just divine embrace, eternal light

In the mansions of the Lord

Where no mothers cry and no children weep

We will stand and guard though the angels sleep

All through the ages safely keep

the mansions of the Lord [2]

One day, each Christian listening to the message this day will have fought the final battle. As he wrote the words of our text, the end of the old man’s battles could be measured in days, or perhaps even in hours. Shortly, Paul would be forced to kneel on Roman flagstones and a swordsman would raise a large sword above the old man’s outstretched neck. One swift, downward motion and the flashing sword would ensure an inglorious end for the aged Apostle.

Undoubtedly, many would see this as an inglorious end. Many, even many professing Christians, would sarcastically assert that he got what he deserved since he was so unreasonable, always refusing to compromise, always insisting on fidelity to the unseen God he served. However, another chapter that is unseen will shortly unfold. Paul alludes to that additional chapter when he writes, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” [2 TIMOTHY 4:18].

Usually, our closing comments in personal missive are somewhat mundane. Though the Apostle’s comments turn to the personal, they are not unimportant. The old man speaks of people and places, includes some exhortations and reveals that he is fully engaged in ministry to the very end. The final paragraphs are poignant. The old man longs to see the young theologue one final time. He knows he will face the final battle alone, so he requests that Timothy hurry to Rome, bringing John Mark with him. Despite the dire situation, in the face of certain death the old man expresses confidence in the Master whom he has served through the many years.

Though we may not know the means by which we will die, we each know that we will die alone—no one else can do the dying for us. We will long for the fleeting comfort of those close friends on whom we have leaned in the past; and we will be keenly aware of those who fled, unable to stand with us. Above all, we must be forewarned that we will be engaged in combat throughout our lives if we are Christians—we will have battles to the very end.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A BATTLE — It is perhaps surprising to many to discover that the Apostle Paul frequently used allusions to combat to emphasise the Christian life. It is not that he advocated violence—he did not, rather he recognised that the child of God will be constantly engaged in a dynamic spiritual battle with unseen forces. Consider a few examples of the Apostle’s view of the Christian life.

In the Ephesian encyclical, Paul urges believers to prepare for combat. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” [EPHESIANS 6:10-20].

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