PAUL’S FINAL WORDS ABOUT HIMSELF

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

I had a close friend in Indonesia who was a spiritual father to me. Yan de Fretes was one of the godliest men I had ever met. The last time I was with him was in 1986, and he was taking me to the airport. Suddenly, he pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. He pointed to a dark, silver lined cloud. I had recently had surgery for cancer, and Yan said to me that I would be healed but that the Lord would shortly be taking him home. I was shocked!

A few weeks later Yan called me in the UK, from Indonesia. It was a Friday night, and one of the most special half-hours of my life. He was perfectly well, but rang to encourage me to keep ministering, to talk about heaven and to say goodbye. The next morning he conducted a funeral service of a close friend, and at the end of the service he had a heart attack and was gone. Within two hours of his death, friends in Indonesia called me to tell me that the Heavenly Father had taken Yan home. How did Yan know? He certainly lived close to Jesus.

As I look at these final words of the apostle Paul about himself there are certain things that stand out:

Firstly, there was a sense of completion. He had finished the work that Jesus had given him to do. He had fought the good fight and finished the race.

Secondly, he had remained faithful. Through every storm, struggle and attack he had remained faithful to Jesus. At times he was burdened beyond measure, so that he despaired even of life [2 Corinthians 1:8] but he remained faithful.

Thirdly, he had a sense that this was God’s time. “The time of my death is near” [2 Timothy 4:8 NLT]. He had been in this situation, as a prisoner in Rome before, but he had known that was not God’s time to take him home. Now he knows it is time!

Fourthly, he had a sense of expectancy. He knew that the Lord would bring him safely to His Heavenly Kingdom [verse 18]. He was excited at the prize he was about to receive – a crown of righteousness.

Finally, all these things point to one thing in particular – his total assurance of being at the Centre of God’s will!

“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine,

Oh what a foretaste of glory divine;

Heir salvation, purchase of God,

Born of His Spirit, Washed in His blood.

This is my story, This is my song,

Praising my Saviour all the day long”

[Fanny Crosby]

A Question:

Will you surrender everything to Jesus today, and then serve Him faithfully, so that like Yan de Fretes, and the apostle Paul, you will have this expectation, and assurance and be totally without embarrassment when you meet Jesus?

LAST WORDS TO TIMOTHY

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

We do not know whether Timothy got to see Paul in Rome before he was executed, and so as far as we know these are Paul’s last words to Timothy.They are a powerful challenge, not only to Timothy, but also to us.

Paul’s introduction to his final words to Timothy begins on a very serious note! The word “charge” is ‘diamarturomai’ [Grk] and is both a solemn oath and has a legal meaning. It is the picture of the aged apostle calling his young disciple Timothy to the front of God’s judicial bench, and charging him under oath with the awesome task of proclaiming God’s Word. Those who hear him will themselves have to stand one day before Jesus Christ as judge!

Rick Renner gives a remarkable translation of 2 Timothy 4:2, based on the Greek text. He translates it as,

Take a firm stand and resolve to stay at your post! Regardless of whether times are good or bad, that is your post – your place of responsibility – so dig in, take a firm stand, and resolve that you are going to be faithful.

Timothy may have felt like running away but this was a strong word. We know that Timothy’s struggles did pass. He became the respected leader of the churches in Asia Minor. Timothy remained at his post as senior pastor of the church in Ephesus. He went through good seasons and bad seasons, but he stayed at his post until the very end.

There is never victory in running away from a situation. The one time I did that it led me into very deep water. Yes, God is sovereign and overrules, when we humble ourselves and repent, but I could have saved myself a lot of pain. Many years ago I heard a friend say, “The way you leave a church, will determine how you enter the next one.” There will always be good and bad times – why let a few dark clouds stop you from being faithful?

Paul’s final word contained four instructions [4:5]

Be watchful in all things” – The Greek word translated to be watchful is ‘nepho’, meaning “to abstain from wine,” “to keep sober.” Literally keep cool and don’t react quickly!

Endure afflictions” – Stand firm, and persevere when difficult times come!

Do the work of an evangelist” – Never forget to keep winning lost souls. In the midst of church activities it is easy to lose this cutting edge.

Fulfil your ministry” – “Complete the ministry God has given you” [NLT]

Questions:

Why is it important to stay at your post, and to stay in the church where God has planted you?

If the person who led you to Christ and discipled you were to give you four instructions what do you think that they would say to you?

 

SPECIAL FRIENDS

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-22

The fourth chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy were his last recorded words. His last words contained no regrets, and he even forgave those who had made life difficult for him [4:16]. Among these last words Paul referred to seventeen different people, many of them his co-workers in the gospel. Let’s just look at some of them, and what they meant to Paul

There was a man restored. His name was John Mark [4:11]. Some years earlier John Mark had failed during Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey [Acts 13:5,13]. Paul refused to take John Mark on the second missionary journey, and this caused his break up with Barnabas. Now, years later, Paul recognises how valuable Mark is, and wants him with him in Rome. Isn’t it wonderful that one failure in a person’s life and ministry need not make one’s whole life a failure! Failure is never final! How lovely to see Paul fully reconciled with John Mark.

There was a trusted servant who had faithfully ministered to Paul [4:12]. His name was Tychicus and he was from Asia. He was with Paul and supporting him during his first imprisonment in Rome. Paul had sent him to relieve Titus in Crete, and then to relieve Timothy in Ephesus.

There was a husband and wife who risked their lives. Their names were Aquila and Priscilla [4:19]. They were from Rome, and like Paul were tent-makers by trade. They were with Paul in Corinth and Ephesus, and Paul called them fellow-workers. We don’t know what had happened but Paul was especially grateful that they had risked their lives for his sake.

There was the faithful doctor who often travelled with Paul. We know him as Luke, who wrote a Gospel and the Book of Acts. He is still with Paul but now in Rome. Others have forsaken Paul [4:10,16] but not Luke. A man like this is invaluable in the ministry. Faithfulness is far more important than flashiness!

These and others who are mentioned are special to Paul, but what he most longs for is to see his beloved Timothy. Timothy is Paul’s son in the faith. Their relationship is like a father and son. He desperately wants Timothy to be with him at this critical time. He had sent Tychicus to relieve Timothy in Ephesus [4:12] and asked Timothy to be diligent to come to him quickly [4:9]. He told Timothy to bring Mark with him [4:11]. He asked Timothy to bring the cloak and parchments that he had left in Troas [4:13]. Paul even urged Timothy to do his utmost to come before winter [4:21]. You can tell from this request to Timothy how desperately Paul wanted to see him. All ships would be in port in winter, and if Timothy waited too long he would not be able to travel to Rome – it would be too late!

Questions

Can you write a list of the key people in your life who have helped you, encouraged you, and strengthened you in your Christian life as you have served Jesus? If possible why not write them a letter, and say thank you.

Look at the names of the people we looked at today. What adjectives describe these men and women?

CHALK AND CHEESE

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

A common English phrase is, “As different as chalk from cheese.” There is that sort of difference in the first and second halves of this chapter. The first nine verses are all about darkness and sin, but the second half of the chapter focuses on how we should live and God’s amazing deliverance.

Firstly, the Lord delivered Paul out of all his persecution and trials [verse 11]. He still remembers the persecution in Antioch, where he and Barnabas were expelled from the region [Acts 13:42-52]. In Iconium they had to flee after a violent attempt to abuse and stone them [Acts 14:1-7]. In Lystra Paul was stoned and left for dead [Acts 14:8-20]. Yet, after all this, they still returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, to strengthen the new believers. Nothing can take our life before God’s time if we are walking in obedience to Him.

Secondly, persecution is normal. “All who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution” [verse 15]. Notice the words “all” and “will.” Opposition is not avoidable. If you want to live a godly life, then you cannot please everyone! Simon Peter pointed to John and said “What about him?” Jesus responded, “… what is that to you? You follow Me” [John 21:22]. The week I became a Christian, fifty-two years ago, a Methodist Deaconess, gave me my first Bible text. It read, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. Many people just want to feel accepted but following Jesus may mean rejection! Any old fish can swim with the stream but it takes a fish with a backbone to swim against the tide!

Thirdly, It doesn’t matter how deceitful and evil men become, Timothy must continue in the Holy Scriptures that he had known from childhood [verse 14-15]. He had been taught the Scriptures at home, and had also had the amazing experience of learning from the apostle Paul. God’s Word is very powerful. Yusuf Roni was the owner of a large family mosque in Indonesia. A missionary gave him a Bible. He often went out into the fields to read his Bible, and on one of those times Jesus revealed Himself to Yusuf and his life was totally changed. Salvation had come! All Scripture is profitable and it is an essential part of our equipment, making us complete in our walk with Jesus!

Questions:

What does it mean to you that nothing can take your life until it is God’s time if you are living in obedience to Him? This leads to a second question, are you living a life of obedience to Him?

Why is the desire to be accepted by people a stumbling block to walking with God? What do you make of the statement, “What other people think of me is none of my business”?

If you are parents what are you doing on a daily basis to train your children in understanding God’s Word? Why is this vitally important?

PERILOUS TIMES AND DARK DAYS

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 3:1-9

The “last days” began when Jesus rose from the dead and will continue until His second coming. During these last days there will be terrible times. The Greek word translated as perilous or terrible also has the meaning of hard to deal with or dangerous. It is also used of the two demoniacs of Gadara [Matthew 8:28] which would suggest that it is demonically inspired evil.

There are eighteen different characteristics in Paul’s list [3:1-5]. Note the word “love” – false love, love of self, love of money, love of pleasure! Pride is another word that stands out. It leads to disobedience, abuse, unforgiveness, slander of others and lack of self-control. Here too, is the sad breakdown of family life. The root of all these characteristics is pride and selfishness.

Warren Wiersbe puts it very succinctly, “We should worship God, love people and use things. But if we start worshipping ourselves, we will ignore God and start loving things and using people.” James said about selfishness, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil” [James 3:16 NLT]. Selfishness and evil go together!

Paul was clearly speaking about people in the church when he wrote this. He writes, “They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” [2 Timothy 3:5 NLT]. The Life Application Bible comments, “The ‘form’ or appearance of godliness includes going to church, knowing Christian doctrine, using Christian clichés, and following a community of Christian traditions. Such practices can make a person look good, but if the inner attitudes of belief, love and worship are lacking, the outer appearance is meaningless. Paul warns us not to be deceived by people who only appear to be Christians. It may be difficult to distinguish them from true Christians at first, but their daily behaviour will give them away. The characteristics described in 2 Tim 3:2-4 are unmistakeable.”

There are three further thoughts in this passage. Firstly, women in the Ephesian church had been given an unprecedented opportunity to learn and study the Christian faith. This made them a target for false teachers and men who had sinful thoughts and uncontrolled evil desires [3:6]. Secondly, don’t let learning be ineffective by not putting the truth you learn into practice [3:7]. “Do not be hearers only, but doers of God’s Word” [James1:22]. Thirdly, we know little about Jannes and Jambres apart from what is stated in this text [v8-9]. They obviously were sinful and opposed the truth. Their sin and folly were recognised. All sin will one day be found out and its folly recognised and become clear to everyone. You cannot sin and expect to get away with it!

Questions:

Why do you think that jealousy and selfishness are so destructive and open the door to every kind of evil?

How do you put truth that you have learned into practice?

Why would someone want to look like a Christian but secretly live differently?

WHAT THEY SANG IN THE EARLY CHURCH

Bible Reading: Luke 1:46-55 [The Song of Mary]; 2 Timothy 2:11-13

The remarkable revival under the Wesleys and Whitfield in the UK in the 18th century produced many thousands of songs. The Wesleys said that the key to people learning the truth of God’s Word was the content of the songs!

But what about the early church – what did they sing? Well we have a number of examples in the New Testament of what are believed to be songs sung in the early church. Many scholars discern hymns in the texts of the New Testament epistles. The historian, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor and many other scholars believe that Philippians 2:6-11 was a magnificent hymn, written by someone in one of the churches that Paul founded. The various congregations would have sung this wonderful song that exalted Jesus.

1 Timothy 3:16 and in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 were also part of early church songs.

After Jesus and His disciples had taken the last supper they sang a hymn [Matthew 26:30]. In the prison at Philippi, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God at midnight [Acts 16:25].

The early Christian hymn in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 shows us that the words emphasized vital and key spiritual truths which, as they sang them became part of their being.

[a] If we died with Christ, We shall also live with Him

Here is the promise of being crucified with Christ and living with Him.

When He died we also died. “It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives

in me” [Galatians 2:20].

[b] If we endure [persevere], We shall also reign with Him.

We may suffer hardship. The disciple is not above his Master. If we

endure we shall reign with Him. It is more than just a decision for Jesus –

we must endure!

[c] If we deny Him, He also will deny us

What a challenge to those who are about to give up and to deny the Lord.

The pressure has not become too great, because “God is faithful, who will

not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but with

the temptation will make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”

[1 Corinthians 10:13].

[d] Even if we are unfaithful Jesus is always faithful

Even when our faith fails, He will remain faithful. “Though we fall, we shall

not be utterly cast down because the Lord upholds us with His hand”

[Psalm 37:25]

[e] Jesus cannot deny Himself

There are certain things God cannot do. He cannot lie, and He cannot

deny Himself. He is unchangeable and totally trustworthy

 

Questions:

Do the words of the songs we sing in church help people to understand truth?

Read Psalm 40:1-3. What do you think is the meaning of singing “a new song to the Lord”?

A SERVANT OF THE LORD

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:22-26

The servant of the Lord must not participate in quarrels, but must be kind to everyone [even-tempered, preserving peace, and he must be], skilled in teaching, patient and tolerant when wronged” [2 Timothy 2:24 Amp. Bible]

Over the past few days we have seen that a Christian is likened to a steward, a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a workman, and a vessel. A vessel of honour, purged of sin, and therefore sanctified, usable by the Master and ready for whatever works the Master wants him or her to do. All of these pictures point to the final picture of a servant.

In today’s thinking a servant is the lowest of the low, but Jesus said that anyone who wants to be great must become a servant [Mark 10:44]. The One above all who might have been served said that He did not come to be served but to serve. Paul, Timothy’s spiritual father and mentor, delighted to call himself a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Does this mean that he should be at everyone’s beck and call? Absolutely not, but ready to do whatever Jesus wants him to do.

The servant of the Lord had no will of his own, but was totally under the control of his Master. Before we became the Lord’s we were slaves of sin, but now we are the slaves of God [Romans 6:16ff]. Like the servants in the Old Testament days, we say, “I love my master… I will not go out free” [Ex. 21:15]

The characteristics of a servant as described by Paul to Timothy, are gentleness, patience, and humility. The Amplified Bible uses the words “even-tempered,” and, “preserving peace.” He should be patient, not quarrelsome, and avoid arguments. He should be able to teach, and show humility when correcting others. Sometimes it is difficult to impart spiritual truth because people enjoy “foolish and stupid arguments” [2:23 NIV]. He must instruct those who oppose him in order to rescue them from the lies of Satan. His purpose is not to win arguments but win souls! Is there any greater joy for God’s servant than to see someone escape from the clutches of Satan, come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil [2:25-26]?

Serving God is not easy. These pictures in 2 Timothy 2 show the need of total commitment, focus, hard work, purity of life, gentleness, patience and humility. In any way that he can do so, Satan will sow lies to oppose God’s servant, distract God’s servant and discourage him.

Questions:

Do you think that some of the difficulties of serving Jesus are reason that people might choose to live a comfortable Christian life? What about yourself, how are you serving the Lord?

What do you find the greatest challenge as a Christian in serving Jesus?

How do you handle people who disagree with you and laugh at what you say? How do you maintain gentleness, patience and humility? How do you answer them?

A VESSEL OF HONOUR

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:19-23; Matthew 13:24-30

Not everybody who attends church belongs to Jesus or is a part of God’s Kingdom. This might be a shock to some people. John Newton who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” once commented that there will be three surprises in heaven – “Some people I didn’t expect to see there will be there; some people I expected to see there will not be there; and I’ll be there!”

Paul refers to this as he speaks about vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour [verse 20] in a large house. The house is generally understood to mean the church. Those vessels that are in the house but are of dishonour refer to those who are not sanctified, not useful to the Master, and not prepared for every good work. This would suggest that they do not belong to Jesus, but in the final analysis, God, not us is the judge.

Perhaps a key verse in this whole passage is verse 19, “The Lord knows those who are His, and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The word “knows” means to be intimately acquainted with. These people are vessels of honour, intimately related to the Lord, and He uses them for His noble purposes. They are vessels of gold and silver.

The Lord wants holy people doing His work – those who are cleansed of wrong conduct as well as wrong teaching. It is clear that within the church there were dishonourable vessels, which could become vessels of honour, if only they would purge themselves of wrong influences and worldly priorities. Literally, anyone who claims to be the Lord’s must demonstrate this as they depart from iniquity.

Jesus deals with this same issue of both righteous and unrighteous in the parable of the wheat and tares [Matthew 13:24-30]. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sows good seed. The result is wheat. At the same time the enemy sows tares among the good seed. They grow up together and are in the same field. The farmer wanted to pull up the tares but Jesus said, “No, you will hurt the wheat if you do” [verse 29 NLT]. They were to wait until the final harvest when the tares would be gathered and burned but the wheat would be gathered into the Kingdom.

Many years ago I preached about God’s sovereignty, holiness and power in a church in the North of England. We had left the building but were called back,

and found the pastor lying on the floor behind the piano and crying out for mercy. We discovered that as the pastor he had been living a lie, and that night God dealt with the sin in his life. It was a new man who rose from a religious life that covered his sinful living. That night he became a vessel of honour and no longer a vessel of dishonour!

A Question:

Why do you think God allows godly and ungodly people to remain in His church? What will happen at the Day of Judgment?

A vessel of honour is sanctified, useful for the Master, and prepared for every good work. Are you a vessel of honour?

A WORKMAN EQUIPPED

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:14-19

In the midst of false teaching and false interpretations of God’s Word, Paul challenges Timothy to be a workman, who is approved unto God, not ashamed and rightly dividing the word of truth.

The English Standard Version translates 2 Timothy 2:15 as, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved [“one approved after being tested”], a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

It is Timothy’s responsibility to live in such a way that God approves of him. To receive this approval he must work hard to understand and interpret God’s word correctly. The words, “Do your best” [‘spoudazö’ – Greek] mean to be zealous, prompt. K.S. Wuest says, “The word speaks of intense effort and determination. The most beneficial study of God’s Word requires diligence and perseverance, but the results are worth the effort.

“God has hidden every precious thing in such a way that it is a reward to the diligent, a prize to the earnest, but a disappointment to the slothful soul. All nature is arrayed against the lounger and the idler. The nut is hidden in its thorny case; the pearl is buried beneath the ocean waves; the gold is imprisoned in the rocky bosom of the mountains; the gem is found only after you crush the rock which encloses it; the very soil gives its harvest as a reward to the labouring farmer. So truth and God must be earnestly sought.”[A. B. Simpson, Founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance]

The word, “rightly dividing” comes from a compound Greek word that means to cut straight. It is used of the farmer who ploughs a straight furrow or the seamstress who sows a straight seam. In order to lead God’s people in a straight path, and not be side tracked by other voices, we must have a right understanding of God’s Word. This is appropriate not just for leaders, but for Christians who need to rightly discern God’s truth in order to be able to recognise and stand against that which is false.

The word “approved,” is the same word that is used of metals that go through a process of testing and purifying before they are approved. Peter speaks of gold being tried by fire, and likens it to the trial of our faith [see 1 Peter 1:7]. It is the right understanding of God’s Word that keeps us on a straight path and from being side tracked. As our faith is purified through those trials and we stand firm on God’s word, we are approved by God.

Questions:

Why is diligent and zealous study so important if we are to walk in the truth of God’s Word?

What is the biggest hindrance to interpreting God’s Word correctly?

Have you personally ever dug deeply into God’s Word and discovered a gem of revelation that has really blessed and strengthened you? What was the gem that you discovered?

A STEWARD OF TRUTH

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-2

Although we have looked at three pictures of the Christian pilgrim [2 Timothy 2:3-7], there are several other pictures of what a Christian is like in this same chapter of Paul’s letter to Timothy. They include pictures of a steward, a workman, a vessel and a servant. We will look more closely at these over the next four days.

A Christian is a steward of what God has given to him or her. In this case, Timothy is responsible for the truth that he has received and witnessed, and is to commit it to faithful men who will also teach others. He is to raise up new leaders.

It is important to understand the background to this exhortation by Paul. Timothy was the senior pastor at Ephesus. He had trained others to be leaders, but they had walked out of the church and deserted Timothy. Rick Renner writes, “It is a historical fact that because of Nero’s persecutions against the Church, masses of believers left the Ephesian church and returned to their old pagan temples. The fires of persecution had revealed the genuine level of these people’s commitment to Jesus. When they realised they might die for their faith, they re-evaluated their commitment and deserted the Lord, the Church, and their pastor in order to save their lives.” Timothy had been “burned” and hurt by their disloyalty, and would have felt like giving up.

Against this background, and with a shortage of leaders, Paul was telling Timothy to commit what he had witnessed and learned from him to faithful men, and to train new leaders, who will teach others.

What will this mean to Timothy? The word “commit” in Greek is a compound word ‘paratithimi’ composed of the words ‘para’ [to come alongside, to be near or close by] and ‘tithimi’ [to place, to lay something down]. The two words together mean “to come close in order to make some type of deposit.” Timothy needs to quit focussing on how others have hurt him and have let him down, and get alongside and close to people who are proven to be faithful and competent, and deposit into them everything he is and everything he knows. Some years ago I heard someone say that every Christian should have a Paul who is a mentor, and a Timothy who they are mentoring.

Questions:

Have you been hurt by people in the church that you tried to help, and instead of feeling successful and fulfilled, you felt let down and disappointed by them? How did you deal with this sense of disappointment?

Why do you think Paul told Timothy to commit what he had learned and witnessed to faithful men who are competent to teach others?

It is not just pastors or leaders who should be getting close to other Christians and imparting strength and understanding to them. Who are you mentoring?