Today is kind of sad for me, as we’re reading the last of Paul’s letters (2 Timothy). While all of scripture is inspired by God and ultimately written by Him (God-breathed through His servants and prophets), each author’s personality and writing style comes through. Paul is such a huge part of our beloved New Testament scriptures, having written 13 of the 27 books, and we will miss his encouraging, sometimes sarcastic and always direct way of communicating!
What advice would you give if you knew you were writing the last letter of your life? Who would you write? What would you want to communicate as your final “say”? Paul chooses to pen a letter to Timothy, his young protégé in the faith. We have no evidence that Paul had any biological children, but he considers Timothy his true son. He has again found himself in prison, and this time he knows he’s probably not getting out alive. He longs to see Timothy and asks him to visit before winter (and bring his warm cloak and the parchments of the scriptures!)
Paul encourages Timothy by reminding him of God’s call on his life and warns him that he will need to persevere and stay strong in the face of persecution if he is to finish his course well. Paul has set the example, and now he is handing off the baton to Timothy. The main theme of his letter is the urgency for Timothy to hold fast to the scriptures and the pure, unadulterated doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds him of the cost of holding fast to the Word: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (3:12)
What are we to do when “evil men and imposters proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived?” How do we respond when “difficult times come” in the “last days?” What is our answer to those who “hold to a form of godliness, but deny its power?” How do we deal with those who will “not endure sound doctrine, but accumulate teachers to tickle their ears” and who “turn their ears away from the truth,” replacing truth with myths?
We hold fast to the Word. We continue in what we’ve learned, even when the world mocks us, knowing that scripture has the wisdom that leads to salvation in Christ Jesus. We cling to the truth that “all scripture is inspired by God” and is able to teach, correct, reprove, and train us so that we are fully equipped for the good works God has prepared for us to walk in. And we “preach the word” with “great patience and instruction,” being ready in season and out of season (i.e. when it’s popular and when it’s not!).
How tightly will you cling to God’s word when the world not only makes fun of you but threatens your life? Is it worth holding on to, even when you’re called foolish, or old-fashioned, or a bigot? Will you compromise the truth in the name of tolerance? Or will you be like Paul, willing to spend his last days in a cold, dark prison, still proclaiming the gospel and holding fast to the Word that saved him and gave him the eternal life he was about to take hold of?
Our loyalty to and love of the Word in the good times reveals how we’ll respond in difficult times. May we all be like Paul and be able to say with joy and confidence in the face of our impending death that we “fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.”