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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Here is Your Race; Be strong to the End

                                                          2 Timothy 4:1-6

            Paul writes his final letter and chooses to write to his "son" in Christ, Timothy. He has been with Timothy since Timothy was a teen, most likely. Paul has seen the foundation Timothy's faith is built upon, the lessons his grandmother and mother taught him. He, himself, has laid his hands upon Timothy in commissioning him to the ministry. Paul takes Timothy alongside him as he travels from one town and city to another. He teaches Timothy while he preaches and teaches along his own life journey. As Timothy’s mentor, Paul encourages him to stay behind and train up new churches. He sends him letters of encouragement, love, and prayer for Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy in his calling to the evangelistic and teaching ministry. Timothy became the person who watered the seeds, which Paul sowed. Timothy became the mouth for Christ when Paul was not there. Paul trained him to become the minister in his stead.  

What did Paul tell Timothy in this final letter? Paul spoke of three main things. He said, Timothy, keep doing these. Keep preaching the word. Be always ready to speak for the Word. Reprove, rebuke, exhort, and teach with patience. What is Paul telling Timothy here? Paul is telling Timothy to never stop proclaiming God's message of grace; be ready all the time to teach and preach it.   

Paul also says to be ready to bring a word of conviction to people and to censure them and beseech them. Do not be lukewarm. Stand firm for the strong message of God. God does not want believers who say one day they are His children and then look the other way the next day. Be a strong minister of the Lord with a deep love for the people. Beg them, as a parent does, to turn back to the Light. This is beseeching. Notice Paul does not say to just chastise or correct them; He says to correct, rebuke, exhort, and patiently teach them. We are not to say, do not do this or that and then not encourage them or tell them how to walk; that is not love. Ours is not a faith without guidance that instills fear. Ours is a faith of mercy and love that wants and requires a relationship with the Father, as He wants a relationship with every person.   

After Paul talks with Timothy regarding other people and his ministry with them, he takes Timothy aside and tells him how he should be. Notice verse two uses action verbs. Verse five uses verbs of being. Paul tells Timothy to be sober-minded, endure suffering, and then to work, be an evangelist and fulfill your ministry. Paul tells Timothy how to be before he can do the work to which he has been called. Being sober-minded is not something we say or hear anymore. Being sober-minded means to be calm and collected in the midst of life. Paul is telling him to be calm and outlast hardships; these will not be the end of him, will not bring his death.  

Paul then tells Timothy, while you are being calm and persevering through hardships, evangelize and teach. Is this not what Paul did? How many letters did Paul write while he was imprisoned? Paul is telling Timothy, remember what you have seen and heard and apply it to your life. In this life, hardship will occur, but in the midst of hardships  is calm, which comes from God. Knowing this, keep at the work to which God has called you. 

Paul's final word to Timothy, in verse six, is he, himself, does not yet stop working for God; even now, he is an offering for God. The big surprise for Timothy in this letter is Paul's next statement, "and the time for my departure has come" (NASB). I am sure that is not what Timothy wanted to read. Notice, though, Paul did not start his letter to Timothy with this revelation, his imminent departure, but with his encouraging and teaching Timothy. To the end, Paul continued to teach Timothy and he wanted Timothy to see this most. Paul gave himself as a sacrifice for God's work throughout his life on earth; even when he was going through difficulties Paul worked. He had run the race put before him. Paul, even at point of death, was still running the race. He was still mentoring, teaching, and encouraging. Paul was still being an offering of sacrifice to God. He is saying to Timothy what is meant by running the race is being in a love relationship with God no matter what happens. Do not give up or lose heart with yourself, others, or situations. Be calm and strong in the Lord. Run the race set before you until your earthly body dies and you are in heaven.   

At the end of his own race, this was Paul’s final word to Timothy. He is speaking to his son in Christ, giving his last admonition and reminder. These could also be Paul’s final admonitions to us, as well. We should continue to run the race with perseverance, love, peace, and calm making sure to teach and evangelize as we live in this body knowing our reward is in heaven with God, where Paul precedes us. Paul was ever Timothy’s mentor, in life, in ministry, and in how to finish the race.  

The question comes back to us, how well are we running the race that is before us? Are you running this race as an offering poured out to God for His glory and to the benefit of other peoples’ lives? Think about it; are you an offering, a sweet aroma, to God today?