What would you say to someone if you knew you were speaking to them for the last time? What advice would you give?
These same questions were likely on Paul’s mind when he wrote his second letter to Timothy. Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell in Rome, and he knew that he would soon be put to death by Emperor Nero. The letter to Timothy was a “passing of the torch.” In this letter Paul gave final instruction to his star pupil Timothy much like a schoolteacher gives final instructions to his or her students before they write a final exam.
It’s a good idea for us to reflect back on our spiritual lives once in awhile. It helps us live even better as we move forward. Our spiritual lives will face setbacks, hardships and difficulties. We can’t change something that happened in the past, but we can change how we do things from this moment forward.
The term, “At my first defense” speaks of Paul’s first imprisonment. This, his final imprisonment, was Paul’s Gethsemane. It was the end of his earthly journey and the beginning of his journey into eternal glory. He was delivered from danger.
Paul wanted to continue doing God’s work until the last possible moment, and he wanted to study God’s work until the last minute. In other words, he stayed focused on God until the last minute. He set a good example for us as Christians to follow. When we stay focused on Christ and study His word, we can withstand all of life’s challenges. Success eventually follows when we refuse to quit.
Paul has completed the work God assigned him to do. God has given the same assignment to both Timothy and us. It was up to Timothy to continue this work, and it’s up to us to continue it as well. Paul is now prepared to receive the crown of righteousness that God gives to all believers. This is possible because of God’s grace. All true believers who hope for Christ’s return and persevere in doing His work will receive this crown. When we devote our lives to doing God’s work, we might not receive earthly rewards. The results of our work will last for eternity as long as we keep getting up and going when we fall.
Paul’s life has been a sacrificial offering. The word “departure” suggests the untying of a boat from its moorings. Paul’s exit from this life will mean a new life ahead in eternity. Paul, like most people who know that their life is coming to an end, looked backward before passing into his eternal reward. Staring death in the face can bring out the best in people. The real prospect of death forces us to focus on what is significant in our lives.
Paul had every reason to be resentful. He had no money, clothes or food. He was in prison. His morale was dwindling. The only familiar person who was there to encourage him was the apostle Luke. All of his other friends deserted him because in Rome at that time supporting a Christian at his/her trial would have led to a death sentence. Paul’s last words had no hint of bitterness, resentment or regret. His unbreakable spirit emerged. He was more concerned about others than he was about himself. He extended forgiveness to those who abandoned him, thereby following the examples of Jesus when he was on the cross and Stephen when he was stoned to death.
God also stood by Paul, and God will also stand by us. When we are tired, he will give us strength. When failure is inevitable, he steps in and helps us find the strength to finish the work he gave us to do. We need his strength because we are in a spiritual war. We are fighting against evil in this world, flesh that is corrupt and a devil that is busy. Like soldiers on the front line of a battle we are in a battle that is demanding and risky, but the prize is worth fighting for. Jesus will not be ashamed of His soldiers. In fact, he will be in the trenches leading us and fighting alongside us. When we win the fight, we will get a foretaste of the reward we will receive in heaven.
Paul has no regrets about his past. All three images-fight the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith-have involved sacrifice, labour and danger. Now they represent the successful completion of Paul’s earthly ministry. Paul accepted the reality of his situation. God gave Paul the strength he needed to spread the Gospel, and God also gave Paul the strength to face his upcoming death. God rescued Paul from his fate not by preventing his death but by taking him to heaven. Christian life and ministry is a commitment to run all the way to the finish line.
Paul’s acceptance of his situation is a good example for us as Christians to follow. Things could be better, but they could also be worse. Our place in life can only be experienced by us. If we can change anything for the better, we must do so. If we are being blessed, we must share our blessings with gratitude with others. If we have any regrets, we need to address them now before they poison our spirit or ruin the rest of our lives. If we long for payback, we long for justice to show itself. When we fear payback, we become afraid that justice will show itself. We want our own efforts to matter. Complete justice rarely comes, and when it does come it rarely comes at the speed we want it to arrive at.
Those who are eager for Christ’s appearing are usually eager to fulfill His calling before He returns. They persevere because they know that their final salvation and righteousness are sure. Paul saw his upcoming death as a release from the toils of responsibility. He saw the hand of God moving to give him mercy and to spread the gospel among the people who were persecuting him. He saw his upcoming trial as another opportunity to spread the good news.
It’s important for us to look above what’s here on earth and to know where our treasures are. It’s also important for us to be true witnesses for God by showing others that we serve someone greater than us. When it comes to committing our resources in service to Jesus, we can only do what we can. If we want to do well, we need to live well. If we want to live well, we need to figure out what our God-given purpose in life is and give it our best shot with God’s help.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1723-1724)
- Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s Living Insights on 1&2 Timothy/Titus (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2016, pp. 232-239,247-249)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Demarest, G. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 32: 1,2 Thessalonians/1,2 Timothy/Titus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1984)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 1986)
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- Richard Inness, “Keeping the Faith.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
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- Dr. Harold Sala, “Quitting.” Retrieved from www.guidelines.org
- Ed Young, “Invest in Your Future.” Retrieved from www.edyoung.com
- Richard Inness, “What’s Your Purpose in Life?” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Good Fight.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
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Matt Skinner, “Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18.” Retrieved from