What do you say to someone as your life comes to its close?
As Paul wrote the second letter we have to Timothy, what memories he must have had of this younger man. He had taken Timothy with him on his travels and Timothy had learned from Paul to the extent that Paul could leave him to get on with the work that needed done for the Lord.
Yet there is always something more to say, some advice that you think the other person might need once you are gone. Listen as we read some of what Paul wrote as he knew his life was almost over.
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:10-13 ESV).
Yes, there were memories of travelling and teaching, both proclaiming the good news of Jesus as well as helping young Christians as they started out on their journey of following Jesus. But it wasn’t always rosy – in the midst of talking about all the good, he also mentions the persecutions and sufferings he had endured. These were not people calling him names or being obstinate – Paul suffered beatings, imprisonment, and was even stoned and left for dead. He had to have the scars on his body to remind everyone that following Jesus did have serious, physical consequences.
But notice what he told Timothy: if you want to live a godly life in Christ, this will happen to you. You will be persecuted. Not you might be, perhaps this will happen to you, or anything like that. But if you are doing what you should be doing, this will happen. The reason is that there are people who are evil and often they are imposters – pretending to follow Jesus, while in reality they are doing the work of the evil one. They deceive others and are deceived themselves.
What about us? Do we realize that following Jesus will bring opposition? It might even bring physical suffering. And from the same people that brought Paul suffering – from those who claim to be following God. How do we keep going when this happens? Notice what Paul told Timothy.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV).
The way to survive persecution and suffering is to rely on what you know to be true: God’s word. This is where we get real wisdom which will keep us safe spiritually. The reason is simple – what we have in the “sacred writings” has come from God himself! He “breathed out” these things so that we can be complete and be equipped for anything that might happen to us.
The question for us, then, is quite simple: have we learned, firmly believed, and are acquainted with God’s word in such a way that it can get us through the hard times we will face in life? If not, what are we going to do about it? The only solution is to spend time with God’s word every day so that we can be “complete, equipped for every good work.”
Readings for next week:
5 December – 2 John & 3 John
6 December – Revelation 1
7 December – Revelation 2
8 December – Revelation 3-4
9 December – Revelation 5-6