Sunday, 11 December 2016

Final Charge - 2 Timothy 4

Paul has addressed important subjects across these two letters, but we can also see that they are practical letters to Timothy written in specific circumstances. The letter finishes with various practical points: people are ill or in different locations, come before winter, bring cloak and scrolls! It is in this real and actual context that Paul and Timothy were attempting to speak out for Jesus.
In the personal notes we can see that ministry can be a lonely place. As well as the opposition, people can wander off, desert the cause (see v9 and 16) and directly do harm (see v14). Discouragement in ministry is a reality we have to face.

As a church we encourage ourselves to covenant together, which means trying to walk together through thick & thin - even if the other person has annoyed us, if possible! It also means honouring our commitments, seeing through what we say we will do, and should the time come to step down from a role being sure to contribute towards a smooth transition. This is counter-cultural, since the under-currents of 'me first' and 'if I feel like it' lead to ditch & switch behaviour, flitting from one thing to the next as mood fancies. The outcome can be real hurt for the rest of the body, hurt that Paul experienced first hand.

Paul has a sense of urgency for the mission task. Verse 1 brings 'that day' into view, when God will call time, 'not-yet land' arrives, but with it a reckoning for each and every person. Will Jesus find us prepared and giving an account of how our actions are the result of our faith? In Luke 12:35 Jesus had talked of 'servants dressed ready for service' ready for the master's sudden return - how will we stand?

The task is to 'preach the Word', with 'word' referring to Jesus as discussed last week. This is the 'release' phase of discipleship, charging the disciple to now go and do the same as you have done in their own ministry. Paul wants Timothy to do this 'in season and out of season', i.e. always be prepared to share his faith. Where is our call to speak up?

Key Qn: [OUT] Where are you called to speak for Jesus?
Challenge: Explain what you do is because of your faith in Jesus

The 'always prepared' thing doesn't have to mean that we be insensitive or barge in - Paul completes the sentence with 'great patience and careful instruction'. But it does mean being ready for every opportunity: 'season' can be translated 'convenient'. How much is our sharing only at our convenience, if we feel like it?

The reality of course is that not everybody will be interested (v3-4). We have all been in situations where we only listen to what we want to hear! Yet Paul urges to keep going, remain alert. Verse 5 'keep your head' means rise above challenges, and 'endure hardship' means be 'still standing' at the end of it all. This requires God-given strength to do. Finally Paul says 'do the work of an evangelist ...' - not all of us have direct gifts of evangelism, but we are all called to witness, to pitch in, to be prepared to share why we do what we do because of our faith.

Finally verses 6-8 sum up Paul's life. His focus is on 'not yet' land, the glory of Jesus and being caught up in it. His life is given over, with the real possibility of death - in verse 7 it seems he expects to be killed. This is a life spent, utterly given over to the cause of Jesus and His Kingdom. It involves God's grace to endure, being "saved from the lion's mouth" (v17) and God-given rescues (v18) along the way.

Can we rise to the challenge, and accept the same charge as Paul handed on to Timothy.  In which situations do we need to find a way of speaking up and explaining our faith ... even situations where we might otherwise not feel like it?

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