27 May – 2 June 2018.
With sadness we come to the end of Paul’s second letter to Timothy as well as the final phase of Paul’s own life. Paul is now imprisoned, his friends and coworkers have abandoned him, and he is facing his coming execution.
But despite all the suffering, Paul can look back over his life and ministry and be happy – because he has held tightly to Jesus Christ, and to Christ’s gospel. There have been so many challenges and persecutions along the way, but Paul has never taken his eyes off Jesus or turned his back on his faith in Christ.
Sadly, during Paul’s missionary life many of the most painful and bitter conflicts he experienced weren’t with non-believers but with other people of faith, especially other church people. Now at the end of his life, these conflicts are still going on. The reason, Paul tells us, is because so many of those church people have turned away from Christ and his gospel, and instead chosen other ways to know and follow God. Paul knows that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but he has watched as others in the church have left Christ to follow old Jewish ways, or to seek God in ways disconnected from Jesus. Frustratingly, those people who abandoned Jesus and turned away from his gospel and teachings still claimed to be believers. And they attacked people like Paul who were holding tight to true faith in Jesus.
Now facing death, Paul doesn’t lie to young Timothy and tell him that a life following Jesus will be easy. Instead Paul makes it clear that following Jesus is going to involve suffering – especially at the hands of other church people who don’t understand the importance of Christ and his gospel. Nevertheless in v. 5 Paul encourages Timothy not to be afraid, but to keep his focus on Jesus, and never give up on telling others about Jesus’s good news. Despite all the pain and suffering Paul has been through, in vv. 7–8 Paul can look back on his life with satisfaction and say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize waits for me.”
Paul’s words are an encouragement for Timothy, but they’re also a motivation for us too. Today in our churches we too face the same temptations to turn our eyes away from Jesus, to turn away from his gospel, and to think we can follow God without following Jesus. But at the end of his life Paul reminds us how foolish that is, and he encourages us all to stay true to Jesus. The only way we can fight the good fight, run the good race, and stay true to our Christian name, is to keep our eyes and hearts always focused on our one true Lord: Jesus Christ.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis