Summary: What advice would you give to someone if you knew that you were talking to them for the last time? That question was on the apostle Paul’s mind when he wrote his final letter to Timothy.
What advice would you give to someone if you knew that you were talking to them for the last time?
That question was on the apostle Paul’s mind when he wrote his final letter to Timothy. The passage we heard from 2 Timothy is part of Paul’s last letter, and was written from his prison cell in Rome. He doesn’t focus on his circumstances or his impending death. Instead, he focuses on the promise of life in Christ. Any Christian’s earthly circumstances pale in comparison to the glory of eternity.
Four times in this passage Paul uses a form of the verb, “to remember”-remember, being mindful, remembrance, remind. No Christian is an island. All God’s people stand on the shoulders of those who have preceded them. Paul encourages us to follow his example when it comes to living the Christian life. In particular, he urges us to use the gifts God has given us. These gifts fade in strength when they aren’t used.
For example, the greatest gift parents and grandparents can give their children is the heritage of genuine faith. An important question for any Christian to ask is: If you were standing on the threshold of eternity and looking back over your life, would you be able to see that your faith lives on in others, especially in your family members?
A few years ago someone wrote to Billy Graham. The writer wondered how his grandmother, who had recently died, got a very strong faith. In his reply, Billy Graham said the following words:
“The Bible (which is God’s Word) undoubtedly became important to her, as did prayer, and fellowship with other believers in her church. She also grew stronger spiritually by helping others and witnessing for Christ. The same can be true for us.”
Fear usually enters our lives when we focus on our situation and abilities instead of God’s sovereignty and attributes. Following fear to its logical conclusion will eliminate all opportunities for service. If we remember our spiritual heritage and friendships, as well as God’s calling on our lives and the spiritual gifts he has given us, we will be encouraged as we move forward in faith. It will ignite a fire within us. If the fire of our faith goes out, it can be rekindled. All we have to do is make some changes and do some rearranging. For example, we can join or start a Bible study.
All open doors offer two choices: to walk by faith or to be controlled by fear. Persecution, infighting, and false teaching all threatened the Ephesian church that Timothy shepherded. They will also threaten Christians in the last days before Christ returns. The fearful will drop out, but those who grab hold of the courage, compassion and self-control that God makes available will be able to stand fast until God completes His work in them.
Christians will suffer for Christ in some way in this life, but it is far better that one’s faith be marked by suffering than by shame at Christ or those who proclaim Him. Paul did not want Timothy to misunderstand his imprisonment. Paul understood who he served, and he was not ashamed. We can expect to face suffering and persecution just like Christ did. The glorious message of salvation is worthy of our suffering. God’s grace and purpose bring life. Obeying God is the central purpose of Christian lives. That obedience includes love, mercy, justice and caring for the poor. All of these involve giving and sacrifice.
The key to successfully accomplishing these tasks is our intention and not our performance. When our desire to love and serve Christ is strong, our performance will be positively influenced. When our performance does not meet our intentions, we will experience anew God’s grace and mercy.
If we have Christ in our lives, we have nothing to be afraid of when we share the Gospel. We don’t have to be trained speakers, gifted salesmen or educated teachers. All we need is a strong faith in Christ.
God will give us the strength we need to face our fears, sufferings and persecutions. For example, some of you might have heard of the two lightning strikes that occurred in the Liverpool area shortly before Christmas of last year. One of those strikes hit a house just up the street from the house where I live. When I heard the loud bank and saw the flash of light, I was scared to death! I thought a power transformer had blown. Fortunately, my faith in God enabled me to recover quickly from the shock.
God saves us for the purpose of furthering the gospel, and not as a reward for our works. Good works are a response to God’s work in the life of a believer. Paul uses the term “has saved’ to indicate that believers have been saved already, and the results of that salvation continue into the present.