The world-shrinking power of the Internet allowed me to view this picture on my desktop. The memorial stone is located in the Princeton Cemetery in Princeton, New Jersey. Mr. Hahn requested this message for his marker shortly before his death. His choice of last words has turned his resting place into a tourist attraction of sorts.
And then there’s this stone from the graveyard at St Mary the Virgin, in Eardisland, Herefordshire. Would it have been a blessing to sit and talk with David John Barrar or to shadow him at his work for a couple of days? What lessons on character would we take away from such an encounter?
We’re continuing our investigation into Paul’s words to Timothy as recorded in his final letter (2 Timothy). I’ve grouped Paul’s advice into five broad categories and covered the first two in Part 1. Let’s look at the remaining groups today.
- Show some backbone.
- Treasure God’s Word.
- Perfect perseverance.
- Invest time thinking.
- Pursue personal holiness.
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
2 Timothy 3:14
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2 Timothy 4:2
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:5
Quitting is always easier than working through a challenge, but quitting is not an option for everyone as Toby Keith reminds us in his song, American Soldier:
… I can’t call in sick on Mondays when the weekend’s been too strong,
I just work straight through the holidays,
Sometimes all night long.
…And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price.
I’ve counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice…
Paul knew from experience the knocks and bruises waiting for Timothy in ministry, and he expected his mentee to soldier on no matter the opposition. Paul explained that quality work requires diligent study and preparation. Quality takes time and know-how and Timothy needed both to become a skillful teacher of God’s Word.
What was Timothy’s assignment? The New Living Translation renders 2 Timothy 4:2 as,
Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
Yes, Timothy must determine that he will endeavor to persevere before entering that arena. Quitting before his mission was completed was not an option.
Invest Time Thinking.
Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
2 Timothy 2:7
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,
2 Timothy 2:8
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 Timothy 3:1
Too many people are passive when it comes to mental activity. We grab the latest videos from YouTube, scroll through Facebook looking at the silly pet pictures, and gorge ourselves on endless chaff from the entertainment industry. Our minds fill up with trivia and overpower the hard work of thinking.
In his book, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, Harold S. Kushner (p. 47) states, “…you must never forget who and what you are really working for.” Nothing sidelines a believer faster than forgetting that he’s serving God. Timothy needed to rehearse, review, rehash, and remember all that Jesus did for him. That reminder would keep his mind focused in the right direction.
The word realize implies that Timothy would scrutinize his environment. He would observe, analyze the data and form conclusions. Paul knew the young man could connect the dots and recognize the perils if Timothy’s daily schedule included time for thinking.
Pursue Personal Holiness.
But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
2 Timothy 2:16
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
2 Timothy 2:23
holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
2 Timothy 3:5
Personal holiness comes at a price and will not be achieved by passivity and procrastination. The objective must be fixed firmly in our minds so that we may adjust our behavior as we evaluate the options. Choices must be made in seconds, and often the right path speedily takes us away from a situation or influence that might harm us.
Paul warned young Timothy that time is wasted in idle chatter or speculation. Humans derive pleasure from deep-diving into controversy and one-upping each other in verbal skirmishes. Will that practice enable the quest for holiness? Paul, with his education and extensive ministry experience, predicted the opposite result.
Paul pointed out the value of associating with others engaged in the pursuit of holiness. Strength is found in numbers. Timothy needed a community group with its inherent encouragement and accountability if he was to progress toward his goal of holiness. That seems contradictory but personal spiritual growth accelerates as we share our lives, resources, and talents with others.
Show some backbone. Treasure God’s Word. Perfect perseverance. Invest time thinking. Pursue personal holiness.
Wonder how many times Timothy read Paul’s letter? Advice like his never expires.