“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”
~2 Timothy 4:6
As Paul closes his letter to young Timothy, he not only gives him a powerful exhortation but also reminds his son in the faith that his days are numbered. Paul knew his life was drawing to a close, but he did not fear the end. Rather, he rejoiced in the fact that he finished his life’s race well and was being poured out as a pleasing offering to God. Paul uses the term “being poured out as a drink offering.” What does that mean and is it something all Christians are called to be?
The core theme of 2 Timothy is centered on living life on mission and with a God-given purpose. 2 Timothy 1 talked about fanning into flame the gifts God gives and guarding them with all diligence, while chapter two encouraged us to live as soldiers of God who are on mission and to abstain from the entanglements of civilian life. Chapter three warned us of those who might distract and deceive us by their godly appearances but lack spiritual depth. Now here in chapter four, Paul delivers one final exhortation to young Timothy. This is his final spiritual charge to his son in the faith, and it is full of important instructions for anyone wanting to live a God-honoring life.
We all enjoy listening to positive messages or speakers who motivate us and make us feel better about life. We also enjoy surrounding ourselves with friends who share similar ideas and encourage us. This is natural and a positive thing; however, we must be careful that we do not exclusively listen to people and messages that make us feel good. God’s Word and truth should bring conviction to our hearts at times, and that conviction is not always easy to listen to. But it is necessary for our spiritual health and wellness.
Therefore, be careful who you listen to. For Paul warns us that a time is coming, in truth I would argue that it has already arrived, when people will only listen to those who speak words that tickle their ears and by doing so, leave the path of truth. Let’s see what Paul has to say about these people and how we can keep from joining their number.
As we round the corner and head down the homestretch in our 2 Timothy study, we find a series of short, power-packed exhortations. It’s almost like Paul started running out of parchment but still had a lot he wanted to say. So he condensed and delivered his instructions in rapid fire sequence. However, even though these exhortations may be very short in word count, they hold much weight in personal application and practice. Therefore, we are going to take our time going through these final charges God gives us through Paul’s letter to Timothy. And as we do, may we have open and receptive hearts to receive these instructions and put them into daily practice.
2 Timothy 4 opens with a statement by which Paul declares whose authority he is writing and giving out exhortations under: Jesus Christ. In the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells Timothy that the following exhortations are to be treated as a divine charge. While we know that the entire letter has been divinely inspired and ought to be treated as the Word of God, Paul wanted Timothy to pay special attention to these final instructions. Therefore, we also should listen up and see what the wise, mature Apostle felt was God’s marching orders for the next generation.
Imposters. Evildoers. People wearing the appearance of godliness, but denying the very power of God. These are all signs of the end days during which darkness and evil prevails. While Paul wrote about this over two thousand years ago, we are seeing the type of people he described in our world. However, in the face of such moral decline and wickedness among humanity, what should we as Christians be doing? How do we respond and live in the midst of these types of people?
The world is a dark place. Our moral culture is sliding and people are getting closer and closer to doing whatever is right in their own eyes. In America, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in cultural norms as families have broken apart, moral standards have loosened, and disunity has riddled our nation. However, none of this has taken God by surprise! In fact, He warns us through the Apostle Paul that difficult days are coming during which time sin would run rampant in people’s hearts. Here’s what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
Approved workmen. Clean vessels of honor. These are positions and descriptions that we ought to strive for. However, what practical steps can we take to attain them? In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives us some answers to this question. He writes:
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”
~2 Timothy 2:22-25a
How many different types of bowls and containers are in your house? You probably can’t count them all off the top of your head. I know I can’t! We have bowls and containers that serve a variety of purposes. Mixing bowls are used for baking while stove top pans hold simmering soup on chilly fall evenings. Meanwhile, some Tupperware containers hold leftovers while others are used to take out compost scraps. We have beautiful serving bowls that are used to elegantly present food, while at the same time we possess drab, boring containers that are used as garbage cans or laundry baskets. These different types of containers or vessels have different purposes depending on what they’re made of and how clean they are.
Paul used this picture of different types of household containers to reiterate the importance of walking in God’s approval. We’ve already studied his teaching on being approved workmen, but now let’s take a look at this somewhat different angle and see what God wants to teach us about being clean vessels ready for God’s service.
Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite verses in 2 Timothy. This verse has encouraged and challenged me over the years. It is one of those words from God that set the standard for Christian living and constantly calls us up to greater levels of godliness and Christ-likeness. It is a standard that we all constantly need to strive for. We cannot grow complacent in this endeavor, but must constantly keep this reminder before us. This exhortation is about being an approved worker of God who knows how to properly handle and use God’s Word.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
~2 Timothy 2:15
The title of this Bible study is “Run Your Race” and is taken from Paul’s many analogies of the Christian life being like a race to be run and finished well. However, in order for us to faithfully finish our race, we must not become distracted. We cannot get pulled off course by the flashing lights or promises of a better life that appear off of God’s straight and narrow track. We must stay focused on the race and the finish line, and, most importantly, we must keep running.
For this reason, Paul gives us a powerful exhortation to stay on mission and remain focused on our God-given assignment in the form of another analogy. He compares the Christian to a soldier who is on mission and cannot get mixed up or entrenched in civilian life. Just as a Navy Seal or special operations officer does not get distracted with local gossip, politics, or even personal appearance while on a specific mission, so also, we must be completely focused on the mission God has assigned us and not get sidetracked by peripheral and trivial things. Here’s what Paul wrote young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-7.