11
Oct
06

Paul’s Last Charge

Recently, I was blessed to speak at a youth camp for a local church. The setting was at Malibu Creek State Park, a beautiful place. I’ve ministered with this camp over the last five-six years. The kids are great; the sponsors are devoted men and women, seeking to see these young people trust Christ.

For the camp, I did a series of messages on the mentoring relationship between Paul and Timothy, as revealed in the book of II Timothy. As I went through the study, I was blessed to think about the various men and women God has placed in my life as mentors (I couldn’t resist the digressions, but can female mentors be called “women-tors”?). Men like Curt Correll made Christ and His teaching real to me, challenged me to live up to God’s standards, and allowed me to discover one of the gifts God gave me to use for His glory: teaching!

Knowledge of God’s Word is necessary if one is going to present It to the world. However, often Christians allow only a passing acquaintance with the Word to suffice for knowledge. Consider it: Who would you want operating on you? Someone who read a medical book 25 years ago, but had been working as a plumber for the past 20 years, or someone who studied medicine for over ten years and has been practicing the procedure about to be performed on you over a thousand times? The same thing is true when you consider the task of sharing Jesus Christ with someone. Who’s likely to do that effectively? Someone who rarely memorizes scriptures and only reads their Bible as if it’s some kind of drudgery or someone who studies and reads God’s word everyday with passion and enthusiasm and knows God personally and intimately?

Paul pulls no punches in the last chapter of II Timothy, as he gives his protégé some last words of encouragement and inspiration.

Read II Timothy 4:1-4
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

When Paul says “I charge you…” he’s giving Timothy a serious command, something he expects to be followed and carried out. The word is actually a military term. And look Who he gives the charge before: God and the Lord Jesus Christ! That adds to the weighty nature of the command. The charge is to “Preach the Word…” We think we know what it means to preach, but I wonder. What passes today for preaching is little more than rote formula for some. Paul is decidedly addressing a pastor, a shepherd, someone tasked with the responsibility of feeding the flock of God. However the charge has broader implications for the rest of us. I would not recommend everyone “preach.” In fact, I’d discourage many. But another meaning of the word is to proclaim God’s Word. To proclaim, to make known, to state publicly the Word of God, we must first know the Word of God; fully and intimately. This is not only preaching the Word, but leading and demonstrating obedience to it.

When I come before a group of young people or adults, for the purpose of exercising my God-give gift of teaching, I am placing myself open and exposed to my audience. It’s as if I am inviting them to look at my life as an example of what I am teaching. That’s why I’m as open as I can be about my shortcomings. I have not arrived! I am not a perfected saint. By God’s grace, I’ll be one when I stand before His throne, but until then, there are certainly some rough edges that need smoothing out. Nonetheless, my charge is to proclaim God’s truth in both word and deed.

Paul further challenges Timothy and me and you to be ready to proclaim the truth of God. These words, “be ready,” carry with them a force and urgency to be fully prepared; like a soldier about to go into battle, constantly alert for any surprise attack. We who have been given this command to proclaim God’s Word need to be vigilantly looking for the opportunity to share God’s truth at a moment’s notice, ”…in season and out…” The timing for proclaiming God’s Word is not governed by what is convenient. It is governed by God’s sovereign plan. We’re only the messenger, not the message.

You see, Paul foresaw a time when people would no longer tolerate the teaching of Truth. Instead, many who claim to believe will follow their own lusts and wants. This goes on today as people seek churches that offer God’s blessings without having to deal with sin, Christ free gift of salvation, or repentance.


To be watchful means to be sober, calm in spirit, self-controlled, unruffled, and prudent in all things. Mature believers are not emotional spectacles, but reflections of the Solid Rock we’ve trusted. We are to endure affliction. Know that if we accept the call to be a genuine believer, we will suffer trials. I wish I could tell you different, but I can’t. I can tell you that our job is to withstand those trials; to bear down and get through them, by the strength and provision of our Lord. Not everyone can do the work of an evangelist, because not everyone is gifted by God to be an evangelist. But we are all called to share our faith and lead others to trust Jesus Christ and that we can and should do.

 


As I grow older, I am reminded every time I speak (in church, at a camp, to my Monday night Journey 24/7 group) that I’m not guaranteed another audience with these folks. I could be gone from this earth tomorrow. It’s all in God’s timing. Paul sensed his own mortal existence as he wrote these verses to Timothy. Remember, he was sitting in a stinking pit of a cell in the bowels deep within the Mamertine Prison.

 

When he says he’s being “poured out as a drink offering,” Paul is using an illustration from the OT sacrificial system. There were burnt offerings and grain offerings that were totally consumed. The drink offering was the final sacrifice offered, poured out, not a drop withheld.

Paul’s use of sport metaphors always intrigues me. Thousands of years ago, the diversion of sport was as universal as it is today. Paul says he fought the good fight. Paul never fought for his own rights, reputation, or honor, but for God’s glory. Paul sensed his fight was nearing an end. He finished the race. We each have a specific course God’s laid out for us. For some, it won’t be too hard. For others, God has chosen a steep mountain to climb, but will provide all the strength needed, every step of the way. Paul kept the faith. He guarded it from error and attack. He paid close attention to it, in order to teach and demonstrate it to Timothy.

What is God preparing you to do for His glory? Whatever it is, you can be certain Satan is waiting for you to slip up, to give in to temptation, or to give up. But God has chosen you to minister in His name, in your homes, your neighborhoods, your schools, your jobs. Consider praying to God and asking Him to do a work in your heart that will cause you to desire to live a life that draws people to Him. Ask Him to give you a desire to see others trust Christ. Ask Him to make you a blessing to someone (anyone of us can be a perfect pain to someone with very little help from anyone, but to be a blessing, that may take some divine intervention). God is ready to use you as His tool in leading and teaching others about the Gospel if you’ll but yield to His command.

Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

Read II Timothy 4:5
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

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