You know, "Bible Pick 'Ems" takes me on an interesting journey every week.
Sometimes I have to pick and tug, and ponder and mull over the verses that I find myself reading – like a miner digging away at hidden ore. I have to really search hard for the message God wants me to bring to you.
(Like the time I landed in Leviticus…)
Other times, I find myself smack dab in the middle of abundant riches – verses just full of golden nuggets from the Word.
Today would be one of the rich days.
I have landed in the beginning of 2 Timothy.
Let's start with a little background. The great apostle Paul finds himself in prison – yet again – arrested for preaching the Good News of Christ. Paul, one of the most knowledgeable, influential, and beloved men of history is facing death. He knows that he will soon be executed, and so he writes his final thoughts to his "son" Timothy.
Paul passes on the torch of leadership, reminding Timothy of what is truly important, and encouraging him in the faith. Because of the circumstances, this is the most intimate and moving of all Paul's letters.
So, as we read 2 Timothy, it makes a difference to know that we are reading the last words of this great man of God. And we are wise to pay attention to the words that the Holy Spirit gave him to say at the end of his life.
I love analogies – (I think that's a product of the little *English major* that beats in my heart.) And Paul is so very good at them!
In the first two chapters of 2 Timothy, he uses three images of the believer. Let's explore those a little bit.
First of all, he calls us to be good soldiers of Jesus. Have you ever noticed how the Bible is full of war imagery – battles, soldiers, weapons? I think it does us good to remember that we are not just living life – we are waging war. We fight against unseen enemies, and they are led by the greatest enemy of God – the devil. It is crucial that we fight like a good soldier.
What does that look like?
Paul tells us – "Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them." (2 Timothy 2:4)
Hmmm…sounds like an admonition to have our eyes on heavenly matters – to be focused clearly on eternity. To concentrate our efforts on pleasing our commanding officer – our Lord Jesus Christ, the Captain of our souls.
Second, Paul tells us to be approved workers. And he gives us an idea of what that means.
"Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
A good worker focuses not on the paycheck, but on the approval of the boss. To that end, a good worker works hard. He works with integrity and honesty. He pays attention to detail, and strives for excellence. He focuses on truth.
And finally, Paul revisits the imagery of being an athlete. He has previously called us to run the race before us with endurance – to press on to the finish line – to run the race to win.
How can we do this?
Paul says, "…athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules."
(2 Timothy 2:5)
The rules dictate the way the race is run. They make the runner effective. Sounds like we need the Guidebook – the Word of God. This is where we learn the rules – and learn how to follow them correctly.
These are great words at any time. But picture this – what if you were leaning in at the bars of a dank and dark prison cell? What if in the shadows you could just barely see a thin and haggard man? What if his voice was barely above a whisper, and you had to still yourself to hear what he was saying?
And you did this because you knew it was his last message.
Oh yes, Paul’s words resonate deeply, don't they?
And as you listen in, all of a sudden the voice grows stronger, and these words ring out loud and clear in today's "Bible Pick 'Ems":
"…the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen…
If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
…he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.
...God's truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription:
'The LORD knows those who are his…'" (2 Timothy 2:9-13, 19)
Famous last words.
Yes, Paul, I hear you loud and clear…
Read 2 Timothy for yourself – and heed the wise words of a man of deep faith, undying love, constant hope, tenacious conviction, and profound insight.
"When in doubt, search God out!"