I will never forget the last moment of communication I had with my Grandma, Betty Czarnecki, as she lay on her deathbed. I had just finished singing, “It is Well with My Soul” at her bedside, and she looked up at me with those sparkling eyes, and although she was unable to speak she gently squeezed my hand two times, as if to say, “Thank you, I love you…and I know it is well with my soul.” And it was finally well with her soul, because just before her final stroke she had placed her trust in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior.
Perhaps you recall the final words or last wishes of your grandfather, grandma, mother, father, or uncle. And just like my moment with my Grandma, those last words or moments have been forever emblazoned on your mind and in your heart. They sometimes randomly come to mind just when you need them most – that word to “be strong” to “live for what really matters” or to “take time to love.”
I still remember…My great-grandpa Feldbusch praying over me with his big “farmer’s hands” on my head. I remember as this godly, Christ-loving man neared the end of his long life, my Aunt Sharon gave him a tape recorder so he could share his story and godly wisdom with the next generation…
In that moment when everyone knows the end is drawing near, the family gathers close to their loved one and patiently waits and listens for the last words of wisdom from the one who loves them. You know the end is coming, and you don’t want to miss one single moment, for fear you might miss those last words of wisdom and love.
FLASHBACK: In many ways, this is the setting of the apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Near the close of this letter he confides in Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!” (2 Tim 4:6-7) Paul realizes that he doesn’t have much time left – winter is coming and he’s already feeling the chill in his bones (which is what happens when you get old). This could be why he deeply urges Timothy two times to come see him, “Make every effort to come before winter” (4:9, 21) and he also asks Timothy to, “bring the coat which [he] left at Troas with Carpus…” (4:13). Winter is coming. Paul is seriously feeling the affects of aging and the many dangerous years he’s spent on God’s mission. And the Roman persecution under Nero is escalating. He is cold, imprisoned in a dungeon – not under house arrest as he was earlier, and most of all he is cut-off from those he loves. So he pens these words to the young man he adopted as his spiritual son… Timothy.
Seeing the End
When Timothy received this letter, I’m sure he had the sinking feeling of what was coming. Tears probably streamed down his face as he heard Paul’s voice echo from the pages of the letter and especially over the words, “…the time for me to depart is at hand.” These last words from the heart of Paul to Timothy undoubtedly became emblazoned on Timothy’s heart and mind for the rest of his life. You see, Timothy was an uncircumcised half-breed from Lystra; with a Jewish mother and a Greek father (Acts 16:1) he was a societal outcast, the object of ridicule by the Jews and the punch line of jokes by the Greeks and Romans. To the young boy Timothy, he was “a nobody” with no real future and no hope.
But then this guy named Paul stepped into the city of Lystra on his first missionary journey; and everything changed. Paul walks into Lystra and heals a man that’s been unable to walk all his life (lame; Acts 14:9-10), and in crazy fashion the townspeople start worshiping Paul and Barnabas as Hermes and Zeus!
As soon as Paul and Barnabas figure out what’s going on, they immediately start preaching the Gospel and condemning the pagan religions of the people – but the people kept right on with their fanatical worship. Then some Jews show up from the neighboring cities, convince the townspeople that Paul and Barnabas are imposters and have them hauled out of the city, and they proceed to throw rocks at Paul with such force that they assume he is dead; stoned to death. Wow. What a great start to reaching an unreached people group – so we would think.
Well, apparently Paul thought so, because he got up and went right back into the city and continued making disciples. A couple chapters later during Paul’s second missionary journey, Timothy enters the scene. Timothy had been taught the Old Testament scriptures from his faith-filled mother and grandmother, and he apparently connected with those Paul led to Christ on his first visit to Lystra. Upon Paul’s second visit to Lystra, he hears about how Timothy is gaining a reputation as a follower of Christ and so this great apostle Paul asks the young man to join him as a missionary (Acts 16:1-5). Paul trains and equips Timothy and becomes like a spiritual father to this young man, maybe the father he never really had… later Paul would leave Timothy in charge of the growing church in Ephesus to provide leadership to the congregation. And this is where we find Timothy, with tears of happiness but also tears of sadness, as he reads this second letter from the apostle Paul.
So let’s focus our attention on this letter penned by Paul and inspired by the Spirit – and imagine that you’re Timothy or part of the congregation in Ephesus, and your hearing perhaps the last words you think you will ever see penned by the man who has love and trained and guided you like a father… tradition holds that not long afterward, Paul was beheaded by the Roman empire.
Q: What were Paul’s LAST WORDS and how should we hinge our lives around them?
Central Concept: God’s servants on His mission are strengthened by the Gospel and guarded against sin and false teaching through fidelity to the Word of God – in living, leading, and preaching.
Listen to the full audio message entitled “Last Words: Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy” (Part of the Flyover Series) by simply clicking on the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. This message was originally delivered at Evangel Baptist Church on Sunday PM, January 20, 2013.