2 Timothy 4

Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 4.

Paul seemed certain in this chapter that his life was nearing its end. He said so in verse 6, “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” Despite the fact that he was soon going to die as a martyr for the faith, the return of Christ and his coming kingdom were still promises that were important to him. It was “his appearing and his kingdom” that he had in mind when he charged Timothy to “preach the Word” in verses 1b-2. The reward he was looking forward to was tied to the fact that he had “longed for his appearing” (v. 8c). Even though his death would prevent him from seeing Christ’s return from the vantage point of earth, there was no fear that he would miss out on Christ’s kingdom. As he said in verse 18, “The Lord will... bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” What he wanted most in life was for Christ to return and establish his promised kingdom on earth. If he died before that happened, he still had confidence that it would happen and that he would be there to enter the kingdom with Christ.

We have milestones in our lives that we look forward to. Depending on where you are in life, it might be graduating from high school or college, falling in love and getting married, having your first child, watching your children become adults, holding a grandchild, or retiring from work. These are all noble and worthwhile things to look forward to but does the coming of Christ and establishment of his kingdom enter your thoughts as well? Are you looking forward to that day when we will live and reign forever with Christ?

If not, why not? Is it love for this present world? Are you investing too much in this world and not enough into God’s kingdom? The coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom will be the greatest time in the history of humanity. The best family event or festival or concert or life milestone will never bring you as much joy as reigning with Christ in his kingdom. It will be the greatest time of your life and it will last forever. If you believe that, it will help you keep serving Christ no matter what the climate or culture or traditions around are. Enjoy and anticipate the good things in life God created for us to enjoy, but keep Christ’s return and his kingdom at the center of what you hope for. It will help you serve the Lord when truth is unwanted (vv. 1-4) and it will give you hope and comfort in the moment of death (vv. 6-8).

2 Timothy 3

Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 3.

There are good reasons to be glad to be alive today. Life expectancy is greater than it has been in hundreds of years. Technology has given us the ability to communicate constantly and never to be bored. Poverty has been falling around the world (source).

So, by those gauges, times are good! Here in 2 Timothy 3:1, however, Paul prophesied “terrible times in the last days.” The “last days” in the New Testament began on the Day of Pentecost, shortly after Christ left this earth. Paul said that these last days would be “terrible times” based not on poverty or low life-expectancy, or war. What he defined as “terrible” was the moral condition of people (vv. 2--5). As human society gets older, humans become less morally restrained. That may please those without morals who seek mainly pleasure in this life, but the effects of unrestrained immorality are devastating to humanity. You don’t have to look very far to see illustrations of everything listed in verses 2-3. Society may have become more affluent, better educated and more but, morally speaking, things are “terrible” (v. 3).

So what do we do about it? Do we rail against the sins of society? Do we seek positions of power in the government so as to force submission to God’s word on others?

No. The contrast to the “terrible times in the last days” is not to mobilize and become crusaders against the evils of humanity. There might be a place for that, but it isn’t the primary thing God wants from us. Instead, what God wants is for us to “...continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” (v. 14b). And “from whom” did Timothy learn? Paul for verse 10 says, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance....”

Yes, society is decaying morally and people are living more and more wickedly. The prescription for us, however, is to keep following Christ, keep trusting him, keep living patiently and lovingly, growing in grace and holding steadfastly to the truth. That’s a prescription for persecution (v. 12) but it comes with Christ’s promises to sustain us.

Think times are terrible? Then “continue in what you have learned and become convinced of” (v. 14).

2 Timothy 2

Today we’re reading 2 Timothy 2.

Paul’s life was coming to an end. Timothy, apparently a much younger man, would not live forever either. If the church in Ephesus was going to survive and thrive beyond the short term, the false teaching in it needed to be rooted out (vv. 16-17). While Timothy was doing that, however, he needed to be instilling good doctrine. Verse 2 commanded him to take “...the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Verse 14 commanded him to “keep reminding God’s people of these things.” Truth is the antidote for false doctrine but it is also the mother’s milk of spiritual growth.

Have you ever discipled another person, passing on what you’ve learned of our faith to someone else? It is one of the best ways to grow strong in the faith yourself. It is also important for the growth and development of the gospel. The process Paul described in verse 2 of taking “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses” and entrusting them “to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” must not break down. Look around and find someone who could use a good model of Christian growth or a faithful instructor of God’s word. Then, invite that person to grow with you by learning God’s word through personal discipleship.

2 Timothy 1

Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 1.

This letter to Timothy was the last of Paul’s letters. It was penned during his second incarceration in Rome. Unlike the first one (the Acts 28 house arrest one), Paul was not released but executed.

We do not know how much time passed between Acts 28 and the events of this letter, but the evidence from the New Testament is that there were a few years at least in between. Unlike Paul’s other prison letters, he was not optimistic about being released. In this letter to Timothy, he was asking Timothy to leave Ephesus and come to see him (v. 4a). He knew it was possible, however, that the letter may not get to Timothy in time or that Timothy may not get to him in time. This letter left his parting thoughts to Timothy.

What would you write to a close friend in this situation?

You would certainly want to express your care for that person as Paul did here in v. 2 when he called him, “my dear son” and in verse 4 when he expressed his desire to “be filled with joy” when he saw Timothy.

But beyond expressing his care for Timothy personally, Paul was still most passionate about Christ and his work. He prayed for God’s grace, mercy, and peace (v. 2b) and thanked God for Timothy’s sincere faith (vv. 3-5).But he also expressed confidence in Christ despite his suffering and expected death (v. 12). And, he expected and charged Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (v. 6) and “join me in suffering for the gospel.”

It was the faith they shared in Christ that gave Paul and Timothy a basis for their friendship. But it was their service for Christ together that made them such close friends. As much as he loved Timothy, Paul sent him away when necessary to do the Lord’s work but they also spent much time together traveling for the gospel and serving together in the gospel. Many Christians since then have also formed deep bonds with other believers while serving the Lord together. While serving the Lord has its own eternal rewards, making and strengthening good, godly friendships are an important side benefit in this life of serving the Lord with others.

With a friendship that revolved around Christ like theirs did, it is understandable that Paul would want Timothy to keep going for Christ and even be willing to suffer for Jesus. Paul did not want his persecution or even his death to cause Timothy to lose faith in Christ. That’s why he wrote, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.” As Timothy continued to walk with God and work for Christ, he not only carried forward the legacy of his brother in Christ, Paul, he also demonstrated that his faith was in Christ and not in Paul.