The great Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy, the last letter he would pen before his martyr’s death, a few profound statements that at first glance might be overlooked. A few of those statements really ministered to me this morning as I read them before and listened to them during a short jog. At the time of writing this epistle, Paul is an imprisoned, old, seasoned, tired, and barefoot minister of the Gospel. He’s been through a lot of trying times and he knows the end of his life is near. He says, “I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time of my departure is near” (2 Timothy 4:6). What a way to describe the imminence of death! Yet in his seemingly darkest hour he encouraged young pastor Timothy and many a pastor to come with some of most important truths of life and ministry.
“Preach the word…” is what Paul lead with. I can see him preaching very boldly in prison – after all that’s what got him there. As a pastor, I must remember however hard and trying life and ministry may become to remain faithful and preach the Scriptures unwaveringly, unashamedly, and passionately because people will wander from the truth (vv. 3-4). I must “keep my head in all situations, endure hardship, and do the work of an evangelist thus discharging all the duties of my ministry” (v. 5). One of my favorite Scriptures comes out of Paul’s final words of ministry before death. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (v. 7). May that be true about all who claim and especially teach and preach in the name of Christ. If we faithfully hold fast to this high call we will be awarded the crown of righteousness by Jesus himself (v. 8).
What powerful words of encouragement in stressful and dark times! But what follows is that which encouraged me most. During the worst time of Paul’s life he is virtually alone – even abandoned by some. “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me” (v. 9). Other friends and co-laborers in the ministry like Crescens and Titus were ministering in other places. Only Luke is with him now and he asks Timothy to bring Mark when he comes for a visit because he is helpful to him in the ministry. It was about a five month journey between Paul and Timothy. One wonders if they ever got the opportunity to see Paul before his departure to Heaven.
Paul knew the importance and comfort of reaching out for the company of friends in tough times. Oh how important is a close friend! I have experienced those like Demas who once were close but then abandoned the ministry and friendship. I have had those like Crescens and Titus who I wish were close once again in proximity but were off ministering faithfully in other places. I have also reached out to those like Paul did with Timothy who I desperately needed in tough times. I’ve even had those who disqualified themselves early on for ministry and could not be counted on like John Mark did in Acts 15:37-38 yet because of the grace of God had grown and were now useful for ministry and friendship once again (2 Timothy 4:11). To me, Paul’s request for John Mark is probably the most encouraging statement of them all because it bring confidence and hope God can restore and use anyone again in ministry and restore a kindred spirit among friends.
A final statement worth mentioning here is Paul asked for some practical things like a cloak, scrolls, and parchments. While they are seemingly trivial in the face of death they would have comforted Paul. “Especially the parchments” (v. 13) brings the most comfort. Paul was literally saying, “If you forget the cloak and scrolls its ok. But whatever you do, don’t forget to bring me the Scriptures. For in them I find the most comfort.” How true it is that in troubled times what I need most is a close friend and God’s Word. May I never forget or lose the two.