Wording With Purpose

A Legacy of Words – Part 1

In 1988 basketball great, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, walked off the court after playing a pickup game in a church gym with a group that included James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame. Dobson reported that Maravich commented, “I feel great.” Less than a minute later, Maravich died from a heart attack. A few years before his death, Maravich said, “I want to be remembered as a Christian, a person that serves Him [Jesus] to the utmost, not as a basketball player.”[1] Have we given any thought to what our last words might be or what message we’d like to leave behind?


The Apostle Paul, imprisoned and awaiting execution by the Roman government, had time to pen one last letter to Timothy, his son in the faith. What wisdom would make the cut and be important enough to include? Which secrets of ministry would he pass along? What advice was too useful to take to the grave?

With eighty-three verses and only four chapters 2 Timothy is an easy read. Grab your favorite translation of Scripture and find a pen and paper. Capture a list of the pointers Paul left for Timothy to help the younger man retain his focus in ministry once his mentor passed from the scene.

I was curious to know if Paul’s advice could be grouped into categories. Sorting a long list into smaller chunks makes study more enjoyable and comprehension easier. Picture a man carving his juicy steak into bite-sized chunks, or the lady on the commercial who takes many bites out of one Ghirardelli chocolate square. Both are savoring the experience in their own way.

Woman biting chocolate

Paul reinforced his warnings by restating the message repeatedly. I grouped his advice into five broad categories and assigned these catch phrases.

  • Show some backbone.
  • Treasure God’s Word.
  • Perfect perseverance.
  • Invest time thinking.
  • Pursue personal holiness.

We’ll consider two in this article and complete the study in a future installment.

Show some backbone.

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:6

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
2 Timothy 1:8

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1

Paul urged the young man to keep the inner fire alive, to stir things up, and to get excited. Timothy had a gift for preaching, teaching, and evangelizing. He had been prepared for his work through a heritage of faith that extended back to his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. Paul did not want his young charge to simply go through the motions.

Timothy lived in an era where publicly acknowledging one’s faith might result in intense persecution. Recall that Paul wrote this letter from inside prison walls. Hiding or at least keeping a low profile might have seemed prudent to Timothy, but Paul cautioned the young man to opt for the better choice and take a stand for the gospel.

The phrase be strong in 2:1 can also be written as be bold. Paul had warned earlier in 1:7 about the crippling effects of timidity or fearfulness. In his role Timothy represented Jesus Christ to the community. Tact, diplomacy, and consideration for others are great attributes to deploy as the ambassador of Jesus, but timidity should be left at home.

Treasure God’s Word

Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:13

Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:14

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2

Timothy did not have the advantage of toting a leather-bound copy of the Scriptures. Missing was his Internet access to a host of sites with multiple Bible translations and study resources. Timothy relied on the teaching instilled in him by Paul and others, teaching that had earned the Holy Spirit’s seal of approval as evidenced by the spread of Christianity. Paul admonished his apprentice to preserve the message through three intentional actions.

Retain – Hold fast to these words. Most of us have tossed something into a drawer only to find it months later with no idea of its value or what purpose it might serve. Timothy was cautioned never to treat God’s Word with such a frivolous attitude. He was to keep it close at hand and remind himself of the content.

Guard – Preserve the message unimpaired. Wrangling about words (2:14) was a favorite pastime. Arguing over meanings and adopting individual interpretations gave one a feeling of intellectual superiority. Paul labeled that practice as useless and warned that it led to ruin.

Entrust – Timothy was to share the message with faithful men who in turn would share with others. Timothy deposited the body of teaching into these lives with the expectation of a future return on the investment. And that’s still the plan for spreading our faith in Jesus Christ.

Source: http://marccortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Bible-hug.jpg

Source: http://marccortez.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Bible-hug.jpg

In our next study we will continue with Paul’s advice to Timothy as we consider:

  • Perfect perseverance.
  • Invest time thinking.
  • Pursue personal holiness.

I hope you’ll return for the conclusion.

[1] Federman, Wayne; Terrill, Marshall; Maravich, Jackie (2006). Maravich. p. 367

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