We have come to the end of another great study. 2 Timothy has been a treasure trove of truth, encouragement, and great exhortation. Through Paul’s heart for Timothy, we have seen more of God’s heart for us. His desire is for us to be all that He created us to be, to flourish and thrive, and to finish our races well. So before we leave this study for good, let’s look back on all that we’ve learned over the past ten weeks and pull out some lasting truths we can carry with us.
At the end of 2 Timothy, Paul gives his usual list of people who work alongside him and send greetings. However, the flavor of these closing remarks is slightly different as evidenced by the very last part where Paul shares that all of the brothers actually deserted him when he was brought before the emperor and that even now only Luke was with him. This would have been a difficult season of Paul’s life, but in the midst of it he has joy and peace. Even though he knows that death is fast approaching, he has a very unique perspective on God’s faithfulness and goodness to him during this trial and gives God glory for rescuing him from danger. So as we face the end of what has been a difficult year for many, let’s learn from Paul and see what he has to teach us.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this study, Paul was at the end of his life. He had poured out his life as a drink offering to the Lord, holding nothing back but giving all that he had. Now, as he neared his final days and looked back over his life, he summarized it in a powerful way. He didn’t list his accomplishments, note how many churches he planted, remark on how many miracles he performed, or boast about the number of followers he had. Rather, at the end of his life, Paul’s claim to fame was simply that he had finished his race and kept the faith.
“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