Paul didn’t want these to be his last words to Timothy, but knew they might be. Today we could get an email like this from Paul and be on a flight the same day. Then, it would take potentially months on its own, especially coupled with Timothy’s travel time even if he did leave immediately. There wasn’t time to delay as Paul knew his time on earth in this life could be up very soon. Paul had Luke by his side, but he’d sent other on to build up churches and continue evangelism in Galatia (Crescens), modern day Yugoslavia (Titus), and Timothy in Ephesus. Demas abandoned him, perhaps reminiscent of the disciples abandoning Jesus at His trial and crucifixion. He wrote to Timothy and Titus. I’m sure he wrote to Cresencs and probably others as well, but we don’t have those letters in Scripture. He asked for Mark to come to him, too, because he was “useful in ministry.” I love that line! He and Barnabas split over Mark being less than committed much earlier in his ministry. Now he sees him as a useful and desirable companion. Apparently Barnabas really was able to turn his cousin around, no doubt a work of the Holy Spirit through each of them. People do change and grow. Luke was still with Paul, which is why we have the book of Acts. Luke shared in the prison time in Rome the first time. He wasn’t afraid of persecution. It’s not really said why Tychicus was sent to Ephesus. Very likely he delivered the letter, and I would guess he was there also to fill in for Timothy so he could visit Paul in prison. It’s hard for a minister to get away without suitable relief. It bugs me when people decide to visit other churches or just not show up when the main pastor isn’t preaching…but that’s not really the point here. These men were tight, and in his last days, Paul wanted time with those he’d mentored so closely. Wherever we end up, I want those close relationships as a protégé and as a mentor. I want those lifelong relationships where we at least still chat every so often and where when the end comes we want to be together. It’s like family. And I love family. And, oh, Paul says not to forget his coat and good reading material. I’m sure a Roman dungeon was cold and boring in winter. I’m sure they knew what parchments he wanted and why they were important. It brings more regular life to the letter, I think, to see those basic personal wishes included and that helps bring Scripture to life.
So what’s the antithesis of that worldly way of thinking? How do you combat that lifestyle? Be self-controlled. That’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Endure hardship, and there will be plenty in ministry. Self-control helps to endure. It goes along with patience and faithfulness which are also Holy Spirit fruit. Evangelize at every opportunity. I pray for those opportunities constantly. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing them. It seems about everyone I run into here is a Christian. That’s a good chunk of the great commission. Carry out the ministry to which I am called. It’s the same root as deacon, having to do with voluntary service. I’ll serve somewhere, somehow, whether paid or not. Sometimes I wonder about endurance. My faith endures. I am staying faithful to ministry in general and don’t see that changing even if it somehow becomes all volunteer. I question myself sometimes after leaving GBC. Should I have just endured the hardship? But things tend to pop up to affirm how I left and why. I’d go back if called, if we could do the tough work together to get things right. I’m not giving up. I’m pursuing new ministry opportunities and wiser about what to choose and what to let pass me by. I pray the Lord makes it clear and grants more opportunities to share the gospel and gives me boldness to do so. That prayer yielded a bit of an opportunity at Thanksgiving and I pray that will go further.
I was just thinking back to my teenage years last night and really can’t remember much about what we were taught from Scripture. I know we had Bible studies and Sunday School classes, but I don’t remember what was covered. I remember people. I remember Bible stories. Our Scripture reading in Galatians last night brought it up. I really remember the impact that book had on me in college. My faith became more about faith and trusting Jesus than about how I acted. And with that my actions transformed in a whole new way. It’s the gospel, and not just an evangelistic tract or message. It tells me how the gospel continues to work throughout my life. Maybe I’d heard it before and just never paid attention or didn’t let it sink in. The gospel is precious and sweet and transformative. It’s found in Scripture. Timothy was rooted in it from infancy and Paul urged him simply to continue. His mother and grandmother taught him truth from the Hebrew Scripture. My parents taught me from the whole of Scripture. I was saved during a family devotional time. I have the luxury of the New Testament. Timothy lived during it’s formation and had direct apostolic teaching from Paul. Scripture is crucial to the godly life, to become more like Jesus. It’s all inspired by God, driven by Him through men’s hands and yet with their own style as part of it. With God’s Divine inspiration, there is no error, so we can fully trust His Word. And so, it is useful for teaching and instructing people, rebuking and correcting sin and wrong belief, and leading to life transformation to living more righteously. To the extent we’re connected to and following Scripture, we are fully equipped for what God has in store for us, for every good work for which He created us. We do not lack. If I am to plant a church, I do not lack. If I am to get back into senior leadership at an established church, I do not lack. If I am to take another kind of ministry role, I have what I need. If I am to go into the regular business world somehow, I am fully equipped to do it all for the glory of God because I have God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to guide me. I am even more richly blessed ot have constant access to a myriad of wonderful churches and Christian brothers and sisters to help me along. Thank You, God! Help me to remain connected to Your truth!