Summary: When times are especially tough, Jesus is always there and always will be there.
Oct. 24, 2010 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 C & Z “Nail the Door Shut”
I have always been one who enjoys sports. I like to watch baseball, football and basketball along with many other sports. I had the privilege of playing some of these when I was younger. I remember vividly the first year that I played varsity basketball. I remember it so well because we lost every game. And we didn’t just lose every game, we got walloped. We were beat by 90-20 and 80-30. I remember one game right before Christmas where we were beat by a score of 75-25. Our coach was extremely upset. The first game after Christmas he told us that he didn’t want us coming in with a measly 25 points again that night. So we didn’t. We got beat 50-7. For all you younger folks this morning, those were the good old days. Anyway, I learned a lot in that year and the one that followed, as we lost most of our games again. I think that it was a character building time and I have been a character ever since. So I don’t really endorse the concept where we don’t keep score of games when kids are just beginning. After all, they all know what the score is anyway. I guess the point of all this rambling, is that we need to learn that we will do a lot more losing in our lives than winning. That is just the way it is. But we don’t have to feel bad about this because we always will have Jesus with us. This morning we are looking at a famous passage from Paul when he is at the end of his life. Let’s see if we can learn something here as Paul appears to be losing but is in fact winning.
We all have down times in our lives and we will all have to face death someday. Roger Thomas tells a story of Paul Azinger who is a golfer and who was the PGA player of the year in 1987. Six years later he won the PGA championship. At age 33 he was at the top of his game. Then a year later he found he had cancer. At first he feared this disease as we all would. Then he realized that he was going to die someday anyway, whether it was from cancer or something else. Golf suddenly became meaningless. All he wanted to do was live. He finally won the battle with cancer but he was a changed man. He remembers what Larry Moody, the chaplain of the pro golfers, told him. “Zinger,” he said, “we’re not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We’re in the land of the dying trying to get to the land of the living.”
What a profound statement! This morning we have the Apostle Paul who probably realizes this more than most people of his time. Our passage this morning could very easily be two sermons so I’m going to just touch on this first part as it really is a reading that is used for funerals a lot. That is not what I want this morning but there is some tremendously good information there.
As I have stated earlier, Paul is in prison in Rome. He is not under house arrest this time. He is in chains which means that he was probably in a dungeon. He also knows that he will be put to death shortly. He has done something that has irked the authorities enough to do this. Paul had been relentless in his spreading of the Good News to the Gentiles. Many things had happened to him. He had been stoned, beaten and ship wrecked to name just a few. But everywhere he went, he preached and preached. There was no stopping him. And when he wasn’t doing all of these things, he had been writing letters to many of the churches. He wrote over half of the New Testament. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got in front of the court in Rome and preached to them. That is the kind of guy that Paul was.
I want to skip ahead to verses 16-18 now and I will allude back to these first verses. I want us to notice that Paul is all alone here. He says that no one came to his support and everyone deserted him. And Paul doesn’t blame these people at all. Most of his friends who we read about like Timothy are far away. We have to remember that it isn’t like they can jump in their cars and drive a day or two to get there for help. They are weeks away as they have to walk.
But what about those people in Rome who have been converted to the Christian faith? By this time, there would have been quite a few Christians in the area. Where are the local Christians? These are the people who don’t show up. This is not a lot different than when Jesus was taken to be crucified by the Jews and Romans. All the disciples deserted him and he was left alone.