2 Timothy 4: Paul's Pep Talk

Posted by Laura Novey on August 30, 2023

Paul is giving Timothy (and you and me) a final pep talk—sound and enduring instructions—much like Moses did when Israel paused by the Jordan before crossing over into the promised land.  As Paul and Moses were each facing their imminent deaths, it was time to reflect, to encourage, to exhort, and to pass on the torch to those who would continue marching on.  The Spirit of God had raised up these leaders in their own days to fulfill their God-ordained purposes, and He was now bringing their lives to culmination as He inspired them to speak some final, critical words. 

It’s like Paul could have penned this just yesterday. He is describing the very days in which you and I live. He is prophesying about our postmodern society in which “truth” can be anything we want it to be.  We can fabricate for ourselves any kind of fantasy we want and call it our reality. People choose what they like and reject what they don’t, even if it means rejecting the truth and embracing a lie from the pit of hell.  Paul describes it as people wanting their “ears tickled.” They “turn away their ears from the truth and…turn aside to myths.” The concept of absolute truth is totally foreign in this postmodern paradigm.  Far more than just a picking of preferences, the ultimate result of postmodernism is sheer lunacy!  It’s like trying to nail jello to a wall. There is nothing solid about it…and if there is no firm foundation, great is the impending fall of those who build their lives on it (Matthew 7:24-27).

I was talking with a friend last week about postmodernism, and we wondered if there would ever come a time when there would be a secular knee-jerk reaction against this madness when people will say, “What the heck are we doing?”  Fairytale living in non-reality cannot work out well.  Maybe it will be an upcoming generation who will take a pragmatic look at the postmodern status quo and call it out for what it is.  Maybe they’ll finally point out the obvious: that the Emperor is actually naked! (from The Emperor’s New Clothes which were made from “invisible cloth.”) 

…or perhaps, as God commands through Paul, that’s actually our responsibility as bearers of His light and truth to the world. …hmmm…

Paul tells us that even as the culture is throwing itself into these modern-day “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1), we are to do something different.  “But you…”  That is, in spite of the conditions of the world and the fact that people are striving to “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” you yourself “keep sober in all things.”  Keep your own head on straight!  Don’t start imbibing in the nonsense yourself.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2; cf. Ephesians 4:14-32).

There’s more.  “Endure hardship,” which is certain to come when we stand on the truth (2 Timothy 3:12-17; John 15:18-21).  “Do the work of an evangelist.”  Keep sharing the truth, regardless of who listens and who rejects it (Luke 10:16). “Preach the Word.”  Stick to it. It is the source of truth and life.  “Be ready in season and out of season.” Don’t rest on your laurels and get rusty. Don’t become complacent. Don’t get frustrated and quit. Don’t take an easier way. Be ready for those opportunities God brings your way! “Reprove [expose, convict, convince]; rebuke [warn]; exhort [entreat, urge, encourage].”  But do those things with “great patience” and “with…instruction”—sticking with the established, reliable, time-tested foundation of the Scriptures.  Don’t get caught up in opinions, preferences, politics, arguments. Stay in the Scriptures, and speak the truth in love.

We’re also directed to “fulfill your ministry.”  Do you and I really grasp the fact that God has plans for us as individuals, which He prepared in advance (Ephesians 2:8-10; Psalm 139:13-16; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11,27-31)? …that we’re not just nameless nobodies who blend into the woodwork?  You and I have been called by name—hand-selected by God to “serve the purpose of God in [our] own generation” (Acts 13:36).  We might pine about how hard it is to live and function as ambassadors of Jesus in this world.  Why couldn’t we have lived in an easier time than this?  But do we fully realize that God appointed you and me to carry on His mission here and now? He has handed off the torch to us. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth…made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation…” (Acts 17:24-26). We are not here by accident. We are here by God’s choosing.  When we get discouraged by the swill of politics and the wickedness rooted in the hearts of man and the culture-at-large who “calls evil good, and good evil; who substitutes darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitutes bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter…who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20), let’s remember our Shepherd’s tender encouragement:  “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:4-5).

Like Paul, let’s stay the course. Finish the race. Fight the good fight. Keep the faith.  We’re not doing this on our own.  Jesus has not left us as orphans. The Spirit of God is living within us.  If He calls us to it, He also equips us to do it (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).  When we’re tempted to give in, give up, run, roll over and play dead, let’s remember Peter’s words when Jesus asked him if he was going to walk away, too:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Where else, indeed?  What can this world offer than even remotely compares to the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

Paul—who had himself endured so much intense pain and suffering (2 Corinthians 11:23-29) in his efforts to lovingly and tenaciously reach the world with God’s truth—encourages us with the final strokes of his pen to have peace in the eye of the storm.  “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me…and will bring me [and you] safely into His heavenly kingdom…There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”  As Paul’s life was being “poured out…and the time of [his] departure [had] come,” he finished well.  Like a father who has a great love for his children after him, he left us God-breathed encouragement for our own dark and difficult day.

“To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen…The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”


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