Sunday, March 11, 2012

Scripture Sunday: Second Timothy

In this second letter, Paul is writing to his young friend and protege, Timothy, and telling him a few last words of advice. Paul is imprisoned and he doesn't expect to live much longer, but his overall message to Timothy is one of encouragement.

Just after his greeting, Paul makes a point of recalling that Timothy's family actually has a legacy of faith; Timothy's mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois were both believers in Jesus. Timothy himself has a strong faith and he has some spiritual gift that Paul encourages him to use. Next in this chapter comes one of my favorite verses in the New Testament: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (1:7) This is a verse I often quote to myself if I'm feeling fearful or anxious--it reminds me that these feelings to do not come from God and are not part of his plans for his people.

"Strength" seems to be one of the repeated keywords in this letter. In chapter 2, Paul tells Timothy to be strong in Jesus, then he uses some helpful extended metaphors to describe being strong in Christ. "Thou therefore endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2:3-4) Living as a follower of Christ can be a lot like being a dedicated soldier who is totally focused on completing a mission. Paul also compares Christian life to being a competitive athlete who only wins a prize after striving their utmost, or a farmer who only gets a harvest after putting forth a lot of labor. We have to be strong until we reach our ultimate reward.

Chapter 3 discusses end times and talks about the evil people that will rise in that later days. Persecution and affliction have been a continuous part of Paul's life, and he knows that the sufferings of believers will only grow worse over time, but he still tries to build up Timothy and strengthen his faith: "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them" (3:14). Paul himself has stuck to his faith in Christ until the very end, as he says in his closing in chapter 4:7 "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith". I hope we're all able to say the same thing when our time comes.

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