August 11, 2010 David Balzer

2 Timothy 4: A Message to Die For

Famous last words.  A dying person’s last words often reflect his PRIORITIES in life. The things that are important in DEATH/ are normally the things that were important IN LIFE.

For example, P.T. Barnum, the famous circus entrepreneur died in 1891 with these words on his lips “How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?”

Dylan Thomas the poet, destroyed himself with alcohol, and died in 1953 with these last words “I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies, I think that’s the record.”

Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian, died in 1702 with these words, “I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct.”

And we see the same thing with Christians. Christ was everything in LIFE, and nothing changes in DEATH.

Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland died in 1329 with these words “Now, God be with you, my dear children.  I have breakfasted with you/ and shall sup with my Lord Jesus Christ.”

And then there are those Christians for whom the gospel is SO IMPORTANT/ that it’s A MESSAGE WORTH DYING FOR.

Saint Lawrence the Martyr was killed in 258 in Rome. He was a church deacon during the time Emperor Valerian was vigorously persecuting Christians. He was the keeper of the church’s treasures. He was arrested and told that to save himself he must give the church treasures to the government.

Lawrence agreed and told the official that it would take at least eight days to assemble them. On the eighth day, Lawrence returned to the prefect and presented him with hundreds of poor and disabled men, women, and children. “These,” he said, “are the riches of the church.”

The official was so enraged he ordered Lawrence to be stripped, tied face down on a gridiron suspended over a bed of coals, and slowly burned to death.

Lawrence maintained a cheerful appearance through out the ordeal and, when asked if he had any last request, responded with his last words. “Turn me.  I am roasted on one side.”

His behavior was said to have been so impressive that several Roman senators converted to Christianity on the spot, and hundreds of citizens did the same the following day.

“Turn me.  I am roasted on one side.” What wonderful final words! Full of humour, but also full of THE CERTAINTY OF ETERNITY. His trust was in A MESSAGE WORTH DYING FOR

And I believe these last words of Paul’s in today’s passage/ are just as wonderful. They’re certainly just as ENCOURAGING. Because they show Paul’s confidence in the message of the gospel. For Paul too, it was a message worth dying for.

It’s the last CHAPTER of Paul’s last-known LETTER. He’s perhaps within weeks of the end of his life – not far from martyrdom at the hands of Roman persecutors. Tradition tells us he was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Nero in 62 AD at a spot about 5 km out of Rome on the Ostian Way.

And as Paul writes the letter, he knows what’s coming. He’s chained hand and foot in a Roman jail. He’s cold, alone, and weary. He can almost feel the hard iron of the executioners blade on his neck.

But it’s the fate of THE GOSPEL MESSAGE which consume his thoughts. His dying words reflect the same clarity of vision, and intensity of purpose he had his whole life – from the moment he was converted.

HIS life means nothing, the life of the GOSPEL is EVERYTHING.

1. Preach the word (2)

And so he gives Timothy ONE FINAL PLEA. A solemn and weighty charge. Look at it there from v1.

(2 Tim 4:1-2 NIV)  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I GIVE YOU THIS CHARGE: {2} PREACH THE WORD

The picture is of an official handing-over of authority. Like the handing-over from the Olympic organising committee of Athens to Beijing. With the whole world watching on.

“Here’s the baton. WE’VE finished OUR responsibility. Now it’s up to YOU. Keep the flame burning. Make the NEXT Olympics bigger and better.”

But in Paul’s case/ The audience is more significant than a human audience – it’s GOD HIMSELF. And the flame is much more important than the task of organising 2 weeks of games. It’s the crucial task of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ. As he put it in Ch 1 v10.

(2 Tim 1:10-11 NIV)  It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has DESTROYED DEATH and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. {11} And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

The message Paul and Timothy have/ is the means of DESTROYING DEATH. That’s an awesome responsibility. No wonder Paul wants to make sure Tim’s got it!

PREACH THE WORD!

And in the next couple of verses, he tells Timothy HOW he’s to do that, as well as WHY he should. So let’s look at the “HOW”.

2. How?

a) with urgency

Verse 2, he says, “Preach the word, BE PREPARED in season and out of season.”

The task is so important that Tim is to preach WITH URGENCY. He’s to be prepared at any opportunity. Like the sprinter on his blocks. Just waiting for the chance to spring out.

Every base covered so that when the moment occurs, when someone asks the question, or provides the opening, you’re ready to take it. You may not get another chance.

That’s the sort of URGENCY you’re to have.

And be urgent in season and out of season. Not only when you FEEL like it, but when you DON’T. Not only when it’s CONVENIENT, but when it’s INCONVENIENT. Not only when it SUITS, but when it DOESN’T.

We had the Scripture seminar at Evans High during the week. And Alan McSeveny, and Steve Gould, and Jo Steele gave up a day to help out.

Now, I’m convinced that it wasn’t CONVENIENT for them to spare that time. All of them had other things they could have been doing. Even that they WANTED to do more. It was an OUT OF SEASON time.

Steve had assignments to write, Alan had work to do, and family to care for. Jo had things to organise, music to practice and lessons to prepare for.

But it was SUCH A PRIORITY to them that kids heard about the message that destroys death, that they were prepared to preach the word even OUT OF SEASON.

That’s the sort of urgency Paul wants Timothy to have.

b. with relevance

Second, Paul wants Timothy to preach with RELEVANCE. V2 again. “Preach the word – CORRECT, REBUKE AND ENCOURAGE.”

Each of the people Timothy will come across has a need. And Tim is to address that need. Some people have a MISUNDERSTANDING of some element of the faith. Or a mis-emphasis. And so they need CORRECTING. There’s an INTELLECTUAL aspect to preaching the word.

Others are involved in BEHAVIOUR which is against God’s Law. Actions or attitudes which shouldn’t be seen among God’s people. And so they need REBUKING. There’s a MORAL aspect to preaching the word.

Or still others might be discouraged. Downtrodden. Disappointed. Overcome by guilt or weakness or doubt or fear. Life is just a struggle. And so they need ENCOURAGING. Building-up. There’s an EMOTIONAL aspect to preaching the word.

Each person needs the word preached in a different way. And so Tim is to preach the word with RELEVANCE.

Kel Willis says that preaching should pass the “So what?” test. Just communicating information is pointless. Preaching must touch people where they are. It must declare what the appropriate RESPONSE should be to what God has said or done. It’s got to be RELEVANT.

And notice here the close connection between the purpose of PREACHING. And the purpose of GOD’S WORD ITSELF

Back in Ch 3 v16. What’s the purpose of Scripture?

(2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The same sorts of things Tim’s to do with his PREACHING.

Because the Bible is the TOOL for the preacher. When he USES God’s Word, he is thoroughly equipped to teach, rebuke, correct and encourage. Because they’re the purposes of God’s Word.

c) With patience

The third way Timothy is to preach/ is WITH PATIENCE. It’s there in v2. “Preach the word with GREAT PATIENCE”

On the one hand he’s to preach the word with URGENCY, always being prepared. But at the same time he’s to preach it with great PATIENCE.

He’s not to TRICK people, or FORCE a response. Or coerce a conversion.

Patience is required because it’s not up to US to change people. Only God can do that through his word. Hebrews 4:12 tells us

(Heb 4:12 NIV)  the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,

Our job is just to scatter the seed. Only God can make the seed germinate and grow. His word is powerful enough to do that.

And normally – that’s a pretty slow process. So patience is required.

d) With intelligence

Fourthly, Tim is to preach the word WITH INTELLIGENCE. It’s there in v2 – CAREFUL INSTRUCTION.

If the message is so important/ then it’s crucial that it’s communicated as clearly and systematically and completely as possible.

Alan McSeveny writes maths textbooks. And when he introduces a new concept I’m sure he spends a lot of time thinking very carefully about the clearest way of teaching it. The most logical way. The way which doesn’t leave anything out.

And it’s the same with preaching. Careful instruction should describe it. It’s one of the strengths of the preaching in our tradition. Systematically working through the whole Bible. The WHOLE COUNSEL of God. Attempting to explain it clearly.

If we believe that ALL scripture is useful for TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, then we’ll make sure it’s a high priority to carefully explain it. Because it’s too precious to misunderstand.

Well, that’s v2. Timothy is to preach the word with urgency, relevance, patience, and intelligence.

3. Why?

a. It’s God-breathed

But that’s not all. Paul also gives him the WHY? Why preach the word? Why is it a message worth dying for?

And the first reason is back in Ch 3. V16. Because it’s God-breathed. The Scriptures are God’s personal communication to us. Preaching those words is the most important thing we can ever do.

If it were just any other book. Any other collection of man’s words, then there wouldn’t be the importance. But God’s words are LIFE ITSELF. Jesus recognised it himself. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes form the mouth of God”.

Why preach the word? Because it’s God’s words, and God’s words give life.

And preaching doesn’t have to be MEMORABLE to BRING LIFE. A number of years ago a Christian magazine printed the following letter. Dear Sir: It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them.  I have been attending church quite regularly for 30 years and I have probably heard 3,000 of them.  To my consternation, I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon.  I wonder if a minister’s time might be more profitably spent on something else?

For weeks a storm of responses ensued… finally ended by this letter: Dear Sir: I have been married for 30 years.  During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals- mostly my wife’s cooking.  Suddenly I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal.  And yet… I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.

Why preach the word? Because it’s GOD’S word. And it gives us life. It feeds us to give us strength to keep trusting God for another week. To keep loving our enemies. To keep serving our family. Whether we REMEMBER what we ate or not!

b. because God is commissioning him

Secondly, Timothy is to preach the word because God HIMSELF is commissioning him. Look at Paul’s charge to him in v1.

(2 Tim 4:1 NIV)  IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD…, I give you this charge:

Yes, Paul is giving the charge, but it’s with the authority of GOD. God is sending him. Declaring him as useful and thoroughly equipped. And an instrument for administering God’s grace to people.

When the king says JUMP, you don’t say NO, you say How high?

c. because Christ’s judgment and appearing and kingdom are coming

Thirdly, Tim is to preach because Christ’s judgment and appearing and kingdom are coming. It’s there in v1 too.

(2 Tim 4:1 NIV)  In the presence of God AND OF CHRIST JESUS, WHO WILL JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, AND IN VIEW OF HIS APPEARING AND HIS KINGDOM, I give you this charge:

The expectation of a future event energises you NOW. Lachlan’s playing in the first round of the Champion of Champions Cup right now/(this morning). His team won their local competition two weeks ago, and now he’s at Orange.

And it’s something he’s been aiming for the whole season. One of his goals at the start of the year. To win the competition, and to win the Champions Cup. It’s been the thought of those big games that keeps him training hard, and practicing.

And it’s the same with Tim preaching the word. It’s the thought of Christ’s’ return – his appearing and kingdom, as well as his judgment – that spurs Timothy on when he feels like giving up.

You can see how it worked for Paul. Look down to v7. He’s in prison on an unjust charge – the victim of a wicked ruler. But he longs for the verdict of the JUST ruler. It’s been that hope which has kept him going.

(2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV)  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. {8} Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Why preach the word? Because Christ is coming back!

d. because people won’t always listen

Fourthly, Tim is to preach the word because people won’t always listen. It seems like a bit of a funny reason, but it’s there in v3.

(2 Tim 4:2-4 NIV)  Preach the Word; …–with great patience and careful instruction. {3} For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

I think the point Paul is making is that Timothy isn’t involved in some gentle exchange of ideas. A tea party of swapping knitting patterns. This is WARFARE. A tough audience. So stick at it!

Things are tough already – we’ve seen that all the way through 2 Timothy. But Paul is saying, it’s only going to GET WORSE.

If you think it’s tough NOW, it ain’t getting any easier.

People have got itchy ears NOW. People gather around them fine-sounding public speakers NOW. People turn away from truth, and follow myths NOW. Well, it’ll only get worse.

So preach the word with great patience and instruction.

And you can see the tendency today. People don’t like to squirm. They don’t want to be challenged, or made to feel the need to change. So they encourage AMUSING speakers, and INTERESTING speakers, and SMOOTH speakers. Anything as long as it’s NOT SOUND DOCTRINE. As it’s not the God’s clear words of life.

What about us? How can we encourage SOUND DOCTRINE?

The best way you can encourage ME to preach like that is to tell me how God’s word is changing YOU. How you’ve been made to feel uncomfortable. And what you’re doing about it.

It’s something Gordon and Shelley both do. And they tell me about it – which is GREAT.

But when people AREN’T doing that – when they don’t want to listen to sound doctrine, look at how Tim is to behave. There in v5.

(2 Tim 4:4-5 NIV)  THEY will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. {5} But YOU, KEEP YOUR HEAD IN ALL SITUATIONS, ENDURE HARDSHIP, DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST, DISCHARGE ALL THE DUTIES OF YOUR MINISTRY.

When they preach about what they IMAGINE, Tim is to keep his head – to be sober, and clear-minded. To be strategic, and controlled, and purposeful.

When they make life difficult for him as he preaches the truth, Tim is ENDURE HARDSHIP.

When they don’t want to know the true gospel, Tim is to DO THE WORK OF THE EVANGELIST. Proclaim it loudly and clearly, to get through the ear-plugs. Grab their attention, and drag it back from the myths.

And when they make it obvious that they’re not INTERESTED in what Tim has to say, he’s not to take the easy way out. To take short-cuts, find more fertile ground.

He’s to FULFIL his ministry. See it through to completion. Do it thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned.

e) because Paul’s nearly gone

And the final reason Tim is to preach the word is because Paul’s nearly gone. It’s there in v6.

(2 Tim 4:5-7 NIV)  But YOU, … discharge all the duties of your ministry. {6} For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

But he’s kept the faith – he’s held onto the message as he received it. And now he’s passing it on. Like a footballer caught in a tackle. He put it like this in 1:14

(2 Tim 1:13-14 NIV)  What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. {14} Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Paul’s DEPARTING, the image is of a boat freed from its moorings. He’s about to start on a whole new adventure. He’s about to die for the message that’s worth dying for. And so Tim must continue to preach the word.

And although Paul was writing to Timothy, he writes to us also. Because the message is STILL worth dying for. We may not be full-time ministers like Tim. But the decisions we take show what WE think about the message of the gospel.

Decisions like;

The time you give up OUTSIDE your job for ministry.

Even the type of job you TAKE to make sure you can do ministry.

The amount of time you PRAY about ministry.

The money you give to support ministry.

The things you do WITHOUT to be ABLE to give to ministry.

The way you use your LEISURE TIME to train for ministry, or read about ministry, or listen to tapes which ENCOURAGE you in ministry.

Or how serious you are about encouraging those DOING ministry.

You may not be a Paul who will DIE for the gospel message. You may not be a Timothy, whose a full-time pastor and evangelist. But does your life proclaim that the gospel message is one worth dying for?

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