Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
The 4th chapter of 2 Timothy is Paul's final declaration of faith before he was executed by Nero. When he pinned these words he was in prison and fairly certain of his imminent death.
I suppose that my situation is somewhat similar to Paul's, although Paul's physical condition was much more severe than mine. But my doctors tell me I am going to die before too long.
I have communicated with several people in the last few months that had a much different perspective on life and death than I. One was a man in his 80s who was actually in amazing health for his age. I told him I was reacting against people saying if they were in critical condition they didn't want “extreme measures” to keep them alive. I said extreme measures were what I wanted. He spoke to me as if he had much more wisdom than I. “Well, when you can no longer have quality of life you would rather not linger.” But what he called quality of life was comfort and diversion. He jokingly said, “If I couldn't play golf.” Those are not my purpose in life.
In 2 Timothy 4 Paul gives us a marvelous example of integral hope in his life. Paul's life even at that difficult end was still buoyed by a higher purpose. 2 Timothy 4:1,2 reads,
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
Paul challenges Timothy, and us, to preach the word. And faithful endurance of his painful situation was crucial to that encouragement. He saw his approaching death as part of his challenge and a crucial part of his worship. He encourages us in versus 6-8 by comparing his life to a drink offering.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
A drink offering was a powerful expression of devotion in the desert middle east where water was life. The first drink offering mentioned in Scripture was made by Jacob as he met God at Bethel in Genesis 35. As he emptied his canteen onto the ground, he was trusting his life to the Lord who had appeared to him. Later when drink offerings were included in worship in the Tabernacle the vessels for it were to be of gold, befitting costly devotion.
Paul sees his final circumstance as the ultimate worship and witness for God. And he could endure it however long it wood last for two reasons. First, as he wrote earlier to the Philippian Church,(Philippians 1:22-24) God might allow him to continue his purpose on this Earth. Also, he knew the reward waiting for him in the presence of God was worth whatever he had to endure.
Relationships were also crucial to the hope Paul clung to. The English Standard Version of the New Testament labels the final two-thirds of this chapter as, Personal Instructions. Verses 9-13 capture this.
“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”
I do not believe Paul saw his purpose or even his worship as separate from the lives of other people. He was investing himself in them.
God has allowed me to live some years longer than the doctors thought I would. But I still have the cancer that they believe will take my life. Shortly after they began telling me my condition was terminal, I wrote an article for Mature Living Magazine entitled Filling The Unforgiving Minute. You can see that article on my website listed below. Of course I took my title from Rudyard Kipling's poem If. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.” In the article I said I wanted to devote the remaining days of my life to writing, prayer, and relationships. In these days I see writing is my purpose and calling from God. It is an extension of my original calling to preach. And of course prayer is essential to that. I pray for God to do what only he can do in the lives of people through my writing. Prayer is also crucial to relationships. I pray for those I love and for others i meet. And relationships are in the purpose of God. Even after my condition deteriorates so that I can no longer write, I hope to be loving and pray for people around me.