Summary: Learning to become strong for the off-road times of life from 1 Timothy.
Built Lord Tough Series: Becoming Strong for the Off-road times of Life
“Hitting the Road”
Paul the apostle is about ready to “Hit the Road.” When we read second Timothy, it should be with a heightened anticipation of what he has to say to Timothy and to us all. These are the last recorded writings of the Apostle Paul. It is no wonder that these last words might be read with great anticipation. If it were a last will and testament, we might all be asking, “What did he leave me?” Well friends he has left us much. If these were the words of a “death bed confession” we, with anticipation would ask, “What has he done?” Paul will tell us not only what he has done but what God has done for us as well. Just like the last words of encouragement that are uttered by a parent or grandparent on how to live, thrive and survive, these are Paul’s last words to his spiritual child Timothy. You see Timothy came to know Christ in his teen years during Paul’s ministry in the city of Lystra, in Asia Minor. And, you always hang on those last words of advice, for they are the words that mean the most to those who are “Hitting the Road.”
Paul has spent many months on the back-roads of life. You might say that his entire adult life was a back road experience. He has spent time in many jails, beaten repeatedly for his faith. He has suffered tongue lashings and back stabbings that had to have thrown him into the depths of despair many times. Today, as he writes, he is in the depths of the biggest off road experience of his life. Tradition tells us that shortly after writing this letter Paul was taken from the depths of the Mamertine Dungeon just across the street from the senate building in the Roman Forum, out onto the Ostian Way, led outside of the City of Rome and there on an April morning was beheaded.
But this morning, through the light of an open hole in the roof, piercing the darkness of a circular cell, beside the river in a dank, dark and cold cell, Paul writes this last letter to Timothy…Sam…Shaun…Minnie…Susan and David. If you are in your off road times of life, these words of encouragement are for you. If you have already traversed your of road times of life, you will receive additional strength for the downhill journey. If your off road times are ahead of you, perhaps the path will not be so steep nor the way so rocky. Whether you are young enough to “shift on the fly,” or old enough that you have to park it and “lock the hubs in,” we will in this series learn to grow strong and become “Built Lord Tough.” This sermon series originates from n experience I had nearly twenty years ago at a pastor’s conference where Ray Stedman brought a study of 2 Timothy to over 500 pastors. I will be using those notes in much of this series.
The atmosphere of this letter reflects the off-road circumstances of Paul’s life. Paul is lonely: He will say in the section we read this morning, “I long night and day to see you.” He is feeling abandoned: He writes later in the first chapter, “All those in Asia have turned against me.” (2 Timothy 1:15) “Only Luke is with me,” (2 Timothy 4:11) “Demas has forsaken me and gone to Thessalonica. (2 Timothy 4:10) He is cold of body: He asks Timothy to bring the cloak which he left in Trias (2 Timothy 4:13) He is bored in the long hours with little to do: he asks that the books and parchments which he left behind in Troas as well be brought to him. (2 Timothy 4:13) Paul is certain that the end of his life is at hand: He writes, “The time of my departure has come…I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy 4:6-7). There is the clear anticipation that he has reached the end of his life, he is about ready to “hit the road” and his destination is the throne room of eternity, he is about to hear “Well done good and faithful servant.” But before he does, he has a few word to say.
Yet despite these dark days, the letter opens with Paul’s customary calm and confident expression of faith and grace. Verse 1: Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
You all now that a week ago I had the opportunity to be on vacation and one of the events that occurred while I was on vacation was that I got layed over in Las Vegas Nevada after a cancelled flight. Since I am not a high roller, and since the temperature at 9 A.M. was 104 I got the chance to watch a littler daytime T.V. A local Las Vegas Talk show was on and the host was interviewing several young gang members. They were a tough aggressive lot. The oldest was fifteen years old and his nickname was Z-Dog. The interviewer asked, “Why do you seem to have such a hunger for blood and violence? Why are you so ready to die at any moment for your gang?” They responded matter-of-factly, “What else is there?” Their answer was a silent protest against the emptiness of life, against the sense that life had somehow cheated them. Their answer is wide spread, I see and hear people answering while not in the same words, they answer in the same attitude, “What else is there?” As I watched that program and as I travel through life I see the emptiness of people who ought to be hungry for life, looking forward to it but instead disillusioned and despairing; and it is young and old alike. What is being tasted about life leaves so many feeling hopeless, empty, cold and abandoned.