Sage advice for every age

By Robert Oliver - Contributing columnist

The second epistle to Timothy from Paul is, as far as we can ascertain, the last known writing of the great apostle. Paul had been forsaken by his friends. He wrote, “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (II Tim. 1:15). He later stated, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (II Tim. 4:10). Paul knew that his life on this physical orb was coming to a close. In such a setting as this, Paul wrote to a young man who had been taught by him, had traveled with him, worked with and for him and whom he referred to as “my own son in the faith”, Timotheus, or Timothy. There is much in this last letter that could certainly be called sage advice and advice that would be beneficial for every age, but we wish to focus on just three verses. As Paul approached the end of this relatively short epistle, he said, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to be only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8). Let us note a few very important pieces of advice that can be gleaned from this brief text.

First, take note of the fact that Paul said that he was ready to be offered. Paul knew his execution was imminent. But, he was ready. Ready to leave this temporal earthly life and enter into the eternal spiritual life. He had written the Philippians saying that he was “…in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:23-24). Peter said that we should be “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” (II Pet. 3:12). True faith and confidence in the promises of God would call for one to be looking forward to the end of this physical life and entrance into that eternal abode.

Paul said that the time of his departure was at hand. As noted, he no doubt knew his execution was near even if he did not know the exact date. Unlike Paul, most of us know not when our pilgrimage through this physical realm might come to an end. The word of God clearly teaches us of the brevity of life. James said, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). The sage advice from this point is that we need to live each and every day as if it is our last, live in a state of readiness at all times. As God told the rich man, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).

The second of the three verses under consideration contain three things that Paul said he had accomplished which put him in the position in which he presently resided. He had fought a good fight, he had finished his course and he had kept the faith. There is no doubt that Paul was a fighter. He was not a soldier in man’s army and fighting on the battlefields of his time. He was a soldier in the army of the Lord. His fight was not a carnal, physical one, but more on the spiritual level. He wrote, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:10-14). Jesus had earlier told Pilate that, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (II Cor. 10:4). Paul knew what his course was that he was to follow and he had followed it to it’s end. He had said once that, “neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). His course was to take God’s word to all the world, which he accomplished. Our course is much the same, to keep spreading God’s word. We need to ask ourselves are we even in the fight and are we even running the course that has been set before us (Heb. 12:2). But, then Paul stated that he had kept the faith. This is the equivalent to saying he has not pulled up to a stop nor has he varied of in any other direction. He had stayed the course. We all know that quitters never win and winners never quit.

Paul speaks of the great crown that would be his as a result of those things he had just mentioned. Because of his faithfulness in serving God, he had a crown that would not fade away (I Pet. 5:4) awaiting him. And, he says there is enough for you to have one to.

By Robert Oliver

Contributing columnist

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Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]