Summary: Begin with the end in mind...a look at Paul’s last words to Timothy just before His martyrdom.
Famous Last Words
Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People teaches that one of these habits is to
“Begin with the end in mind”
Covey encourages his listeners and readers to write their own epitaph now, and to use it as a driver for everything they pursue in life.
I would ask you to envision with my your final days on this earth.
The final days and hours of a man are often some of the most telling
One of the strong benefits of being a Christians-we die well!
Consider with me tonight some parting words from some great men of God:
John Wesley preached his last sermon of Feb 17, 1791 on the text “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” (Isa 55:6). The following day, a very sick man, he was put to bed in his home on City Road. During the days of his illness, he often repeated the words from one of his brother’s hymns: “I the chief of sinners am, But Jesus died for me!” His last words were, “The best of all is, God is with us!” He died March 2, 1791.
Thursday, December 21, 1899, after cutting short a Kansas City crusade and returning home in ill health, D. L. Moody told his family, “I’m not discouraged. I want to live as long as I am useful, but when my work is done I want to be up and off.” The next day Moody awakened after a restless night. In careful, measured words he said, “Earth recedes, Heaven opens before me!” His son, Will, concluded his father was dreaming. “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.”
As I spent the night in the hospital with my own father, I witnessed firsthand the sweet peace of a dying Christian.
Tonight, we look at the parting words of one of the greatest of God’s Generals, the Apostle Paul.
Paul has been arrested by order of the emperor Nero, and is in prison as he writes sometime around AD 66.
He knows in his spirit that he is “about to be poured out like a drink offering” (4:6)
Nero, one of the most godless, anti-Christ figures of all human history had launched a systematic persecution of Christians;
This persecution provides the backdrop for both I Peter, and II Timothy.
The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that Nero made Christians the scape-goats for the burning of Rome.
To give you an idea of the tactics of Nero, Fox’s Book of Martyrs tells us that Nero took cruelty to new heights which disgusted even the pagan bloodlust of the Roman people at times.
Fox tells us that some of his noted cruelties to Christians included:
· “he had some sewn up in the skins of wild beasts, and worried
by dogs till they expired”
· Others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them
Christian tradition says that the saints who were to be burned as Nero’s human torches would raise their hands and offer a wave offering as praise to God as they burned, as a testimony to his “sufficient grace” to those who were next in line as human fuel.
The Neronian persecution cost Paul his life on Nero’s chopping block about AD 66 or 67.
It also took the Apostle Peter to the upside-down crucifixion for his undying faith in His Master .
Paul is in prison this time for trumped-up criminal charges against the Roman Empire.
He speaks throughout the letter of friends who have deserted him. Many are ashamed of their association with a common criminal in chains.
Point: do we understand that persecution will cause many to abandon The faith?
Phyllegus and Hermenes (ch 1), and Demas (ch4) had deserted Paul.
They are the shallow rooted ones that sprang up from the seed in rocky soil that Jesus told of in Luke 13.
Matthew 24:10-12 tells us that in the end times, many Christians will not pay the price:
10And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
But the good news is that the Church is victorious!
Christianity is not now, nor shall it ever be, “in crisis”.
Verse 14 tells us that in the face of the greatest hour of trial…
14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.