Wednesday, December 10. 2 Timothy 3 – Titus 1

“Preach the Word!”

Those three words inform us that there is something concrete, not open to conjecture or emendation, comprising the Christian message. It’s not the only text. In other texts Paul refers to that body of teaching as “the truth” (Romans 1:18,25; 2:8) and elsewhere refers to a teaching that can be perverted and defended. It is also called “the gospel,” a message comprising much more than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus but covering also how Christians ought to conduct their lives (Philippians 1:27).

It is that message, with the hope it offers mankind, that has occupied the bulk of Paul’s life and for which now, at the end of this letter, he is suffering so much. He senses the end is at hand – and he will be right. It has been a difficult road, but I think the disappointments he has faced will be nothing compared to the one awaiting him if Timothy, for whom he cares like no one else on earth, abandons the faith.

It is a real possibility.

And yet, no matter the disappointments – as bad as they are and will be – it has all been worth it. A crown of righteousness and the heavenly kingdom await.

This last letter of Paul’s is a reminder that no matter what happens here, the story is not over. God will have the last word, and our hope extends to that day when he will say: “well done.”

2 Timothy 4

“Preach the Word!”

Those three words inform us that there is something concrete, not open to conjecture or emendation, comprising the Christian message. It’s not the only text. In other texts Paul refers to that body of teaching as “the truth” (Romans 1:18,25; 2:8) and elsewhere refers to a teaching that can be perverted and defended. It is also called “the gospel,” a message comprising much more than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus but covering also how Christians ought to conduct their lives (Philippians 1:27).

It is that message, with the hope it offers mankind, that has occupied the bulk of Paul’s life and for which now, at the end of this letter, he is suffering so much. He senses the end is at hand – and he will be right. It has been a difficult road, but I think the disappointments he has faced will be nothing compared to the one awaiting him if Timothy, for whom he cares like no one else on earth, abandons the faith.

It is a real possibility.

And yet, no matter the disappointments – as bad as they are and will be – it has all been worth it. A crown of righteousness and the heavenly kingdom await.

This last letter of Paul’s is a reminder that no matter what happens here, the story is not over. God will have the last word, and our hope extends to that day when he will say: “well done.”

2 Timothy 2

I read 2 Timothy with a degree of sadness and hope. Timothy has been Paul’s “right arm” for two decades. In 1 Timothy, we find him in spiritual trouble. By the second letter, he is even more so.
To think that someone like Timothy, who has been such a faith builder to others, could, himself, have a crisis of faith is astounding – so much so that commentators routinely ignore this obvious context. But it’s there.

What could have led him so far astray?

“Crisis” for a start. Here is Paul, his mentor, who, though an incredibly successful missionary, bears the scars of decades of deprivation, opposition, and persecution. Even now, he sits in an underground hole in Rome awaiting execution. How can God allow this and if God allows it for Paul, what might he allow for Timothy?

“Distraction” is another cause. Often Christians get so balled up in minor matters of polity that, on realizing their error, they find the whole process of serving God just too elementary. Surely there is more to Christianity than this!

There is also “fear.” Timothy and Paul have given their lives to the spread of the gospel and nurturing faith in others. All it’s gotten Paul is execution. When their contemporaries have embraced Christianity, gotten on with their lives, and probably worry little about getting old or how they will live when they can no longer work, Timothy likely has little material security to show for a lifetime of effort. What’s to happen to him?

Then one final thing: “age.” Did you wonder in the reading about 2:22? “Flee the evil desires of youth”?

I’ve written earlier that Timothy was no kid. He’s a more than middle aged man, going through everything that middle aged men go through. We want to be younger, recapture that vibrancy and excitement of our youth. It’s why we get those hair plugs, try those “skinny jeans,” flirt with younger women, and buy Corvettes (ok, we buy Corvettes because we can finally afford them, but come on, they’re really a young man’s car).

But there’s hope. Paul believed it for Timothy. He prayed it for him.

I want to believe Timothy pulled through, that Paul was right, and I find fulfillment in a text we will read later, probably written by Luke in Hebrews (yes, I kinda think Luke wrote Hebrews) in 13:23. “I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.” By the grace of God, Timothy pulled out of his funk. There’s hope for us all.

Saturday, November 16. 2 Timothy

Timothy was in trouble.

If you want to see the kind of people he was working with, just read chapter three of 2 Timothy. Paul isn’t talking about people in the world. He is talking about people in the church, the kind of people who were causing Timothy to have problems. He didn’t just have to deal with them. He was becoming like them.

Paul also wasn’t talking about some far off time when these people would arise. There were already there. It’s hard to give your life for ungrateful, unholy, slanderous, conceited, pleasure-seeking, unforgiving people, but that’s what Timothy was being called to do. It is what Paul had done. Most of all, it was what Jesus had done.

Note this: Service in the church is hard because we often expect those we serve to be better and act better than they do. When they don’t, we get disappointed and frustrated and, well, we become like them. We get in the same trouble Timothy was in.

To all who serve in the Lord’s kingdom, regardless of what others do or the opposition we face, we must continue in the life we have learned, adhering to the standards of the saved life revealed in scripture.

Thursday, November 22. 2 Timothy 1 – 3

    I read 2 Timothy with a degree of sadness and hope. Timothy has been Paul’s “right arm” for two decades.  In 1 Timothy, we find him in spiritual trouble.  By the second letter, he is even more so.

    To think that someone like Timothy, who has been such a faith builder to others, could, himself, have a crisis of faith seems astounding – so much so that commentators routinely ignore this obvious context.  But it’s there.

    What could have led him so far astray?

    “Crisis” for a start.  Here is Paul, his mentor, who, though an incredibly successful missionary, bears the scars of decades of deprivation, opposition, and persecution.  Even now, he sits in an underground hole in Rome awaiting execution.  How can God allow this and if God allows it for Paul, what might he allow for Timothy?

    “Distraction” is another cause.  Often Christians get so balled up in minor matters of polity that, on realizing their error, they find the whole process of serving God just too elementary.  Surely there is more to Christianity than this!

    There  is also “fear.”  Timothy and Paul have given their lives to the spread of the gospel and nurturing faith in others.  All it’s gotten Paul is execution.  When their contemporaries have embraced Christianity, gotten on with their lives, and probably worry little about getting old or how they will live when they can no longer work, Timothy likely has little material security to show for a lifetime of effort.  What’s to happen to him?

    Then one final thing: “age.”  Did you wonder in the reading about 2:22?  “Flee the evil desires of youth”?

    I’ve written earlier that Timothy was no kid.  He’s a more than middle aged man, going through everything that middle aged men go through.  We want to be younger, recapture that vibrancy and excitement of our youth.  It’s why we get those hair plugs, try those “skinny jeans,” flirt with younger women, and buy Corvettes (ok, we buy Corvettes because we can finally afford them, but come on, they’re really a young man’s car).  Those youthful desires often lead us to evil.

    But there’s hope.  Paul believed it for Timothy.  He prayed it for him.

    I want to believe Timothy pulled through, that Paul was right, and I find fulfillment in a text we will read later, probably written by Luke in Hebrews (yes, I kinda think Luke wrote Hebrews) in 13:23.  “I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released.  If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.”  By the grace of God, Timothy pulled out of his funk.  There’s hope for us all.