My Aunt Billye passed away recently. She had numerous physical problems and was in a nursing home at the time. On her final night she asked one of the workers to stay in the room with her, saying that God had told her that she was about to die. After the funeral this woman wrote a letter describing their conversation, including my aunt’s final words to her children, grandchildren, and sisters. They were foremost on her mind.
Paul’s last written words were penned from prison in Rome to his son in the faith Timothy. Now this was not the two-year Roman imprisonment of Acts 28. It appears that Paul was released from that house arrest about 63 A.D. He then traveled sharing the gospel perhaps three years before being imprisoned and then beheaded under Emperor Nero, according to early church tradition. His last epistle makes it clear that Paul knew his death was approaching so he wrote to the one closest to him, to Timothy.
Who would you contact if you knew that you were facing death? Likely it would be someone whom you love. What message would you want to give? Certainly you would want to remind them of your feelings for them, but you might also want to send a message of importance, a message about your hopes and prayers for their futures.
That’s what Paul did when he wrote Timothy. This letter was the final piece of passing on the baton of faith to Timothy.
We are all familiar with relay races. Each runner has a leg of the race to run; then, she hands off a baton to the runner who follows her. As Paul wrote to encourage Timothy, he left a picture of how he had passed on the baton through the years. He did it first
I have recently seen how effective modeling can be as a teaching tool. This picture shows my two Westies, Libby on the right and Maggie on the left. We got Libby as a puppy, but Maggie came into our lives in January as a lost dog (not the one I mentioned some weeks ago). Libby has been modeling some behavior for Maggie, and it’s not good behavior! One of Libby’s favorite pastimes is watching television, especially commercials which she apparently memorizes. She is particularly fond of commercials with dogs. As soon as she hears one of her favorites, she runs from any part of the house, jumps on the chair beside the TV, and barks and barks at the dogs! When Maggie first came, she had no interest in TV, but when Libby went crazy, she did too! Clearly, she originally didn’t even know why they were jumping and barking, but she soon figured it out. She learned from Libby’s model!
We all teach by example. Paul modeled finishing the race.
Look at 2 Tim. 4:6-8:
For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day – and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.
Paul described his race: he had competed well; he had finished the personal race to which God had called him; and he had kept the faith. From these verses we learn that Paul was able to complete the race because he was
Paul says that all who set their affection on the coming appearance of Jesus will receive the crown of righteousness. The crown was that laurel wreath from the games. Do they get the crown just because they want Jesus to come back and rule and reign? I don’t think so. I think that those who set their affection on the coming of Christ live differently, righteously, and that is why they are rewarded. Because they want what Jesus wants, they will hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
On the other hand, those whose affections are attached to this world rather than Jesus do not live to please him. It’s evident in the way they spend their money on themselves and their families rather than on his kingdom purposes. It shows up in how they invest their time and energy.
In contrast, because Paul focused on the kingdom, he modeled endurance by trusting God for a reward and by trusting him to be faithful in any hardship.
Look at 2 Tim. 1:11-12:
For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.
Paul said, “I know the one in whom my faith is set.” Knowing God is the key to trusting him in the hard situations; the more time we spend in his word and in fellowship with him, the more we will believe in his goodness, his love, and his power. That’s why Paul could say that he was convinced that God was able to protect what Paul had entrusted to him until that day. What had Paul entrusted to Jesus? His life now and his eternal future. That’s why he could be faithful to the end and model that for his spiritual sons.
I don’t know if you have been as blown away by Paul and his life as I have. And his story isn’t new to me. I have read it and heard it dozens of times. But somehow focusing on the story over and over, week after week after week, has truly impacted me. Paul never quit when I would have been greatly tempted to! If I had faced what Paul did, I could have easily fallen for the lie that I must not be in the center of God’s will and quit the race!
Paul never believed such lies; he never quit! He knew God’s character and that God is faithful in any hardship, no matter how bad it seems. God promises his grace and the power to make it through the race. That means that if I face a situation where I need it, God will give it to me. Although I look at Paul’s trials and wonder if I could keep going, I do know that if I ask God for the grace and strength to do so, he will provide it, no matter how difficult the situation is, just as he did Paul. I can make it!
Paul modeled a life that finishes the race, trusting God for the reward, trusting him to be faithful in any hardship, and
Look at 2 Tim. 2:8-11:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.
Paul’s circumstances seemed to limit the gospel, but the gospel wasn’t based on Paul’s situation but on the power of God. At times our circumstances may appear to restrict God’s purposes, but Paul says that they don’t. His purposes extend into our forms of imprisonment, our darkest hours, and our greatest struggles. If we will remain faithful to him, he will bring forth fruit in our lives and from our testimony to others through the way we handle it.
How else did Paul model for those who followed him? He trusted that God was with him and that God was all he needed.
Look at 2 Timothy 4:16-18:
At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the Gentiles to hear. And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth! The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever! Amen.
How difficult it must have been to be deserted by all of your friends when you needed them most. Paul had to go to trial in Rome with no outward support, but Jesus stood by him and strengthened him. And Jesus knew exactly what it was like to be alone and deserted because that is what happened to him at his arrest; his disciples all fled out of fear.
Ladies, I know that many of you are in difficult situations and you face them more or less alone. It may appear that God has deserted you when you experience injustice, sickness, loss, or difficult relationships. But he is there, right beside you, just as he was with Paul. And when you rely on him, he is all that you need; he will give you the strength to make it through the circumstances and finish the race. That is what Paul modeled for us.
He passed the baton to the next generation, and we are called to do the same through modeling a life that finishes the race. We also pass the baton, as Paul did,
Let’s look at a few verses in this letter which help us see this from Paul. Let’s begin at the beginning of the letter.
From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!
Paul saw Timothy as a son, just as he did his other companions. As you know from your study, Paul and Timothy had an ongoing relationship which lasted many years beginning with the second missionary journey. Because Paul saw him as a son, he both encouraged and challenged him. Instead of thinking of yourself as a mentor, think of yourself as a spiritual mother. You know that as a mother, you don’t have all the answers and you won’t do everything perfectly. But a mother has years of experience and wisdom, coupled with great love for her children; through their relationship, she encourages and challenges them as they need it, as Paul did with his sons.
Read 2 Tim. 1:5-8:
I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you. Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.
Paul challenges Timothy to do what Paul has modeled, be courageous in sharing the gospel even if it results in suffering.
Look over at 2 Tim. 3:10-14:
You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra. I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all. Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about.
Timothy personally saw Paul do what Paul describes in v. 10—teach, believe, love, endure, and suffer. He encouraged Timothy to continue in what Paul has taught him both by his words and by his life.
Now look at 2 Timothy 4:1-5:
I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths. You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work, fulfill your ministry.
Again, Paul challenged Timothy to do the very things that he had seen in Paul’s example: preach the truth, show godly character, and endure. He summed it up by saying “fulfill your ministry!” It was now up to Timothy; he had the baton!
We, too, must pass the baton to other women, as Paul called us to do.
Look at Titus 2:3-5:
Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.
Note the phrase older women. Many of you are younger, way younger than I am; however, you aren’t younger than everyone. But if you still need time to learn and grow, you need to pursue it because you’ll turn around tomorrow and find that you are old! It seems like yesterday that I was twenty! Start preparing by learning from godly women now!
Note what Paul tells the older women to do: “exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good.” It’s all about character first and then teaching what we model. Then, Paul says, “In this way they will train the younger women. . .” In this way, that is by living it out and then by teaching it, the younger women will learn. This is exactly how Paul did it, by modeling and teaching it. We are to do the same thing.
I don’t think this list of godly qualities is exhaustive. These were the areas that Paul felt needed attention at that time. We could add many more in our day. It’s up to the older women to consider the culture and model and teach what the younger women need to know about godliness today.
But how do we build deep relationships in our day and age? Paul spent loads of time with his men, just as Jesus did with his. How do we invest time in the lives of other women in our busy culture?
This doesn’t always mean one-on-one. Paul had a group of men with him, just as Jesus did. Think of Peter; every time Jesus had to admonish him about something, there was a bunch of other guys who heard it, and they all learned from Peter’s mistakes. When one in the group asked Jesus questions, they all benefited from his answers. I suggest that your small group here is a way to invest in the lives of younger women and a time to learn from older women.
If you feel that you need a one-on-one conversation, ask God to connect you with someone older and wiser. Ask her if she would meet with you sometime. Don’t make it sound like you want a mentor to teach you everything; that’s scary for us because we all know our issues. Just ask her to meet you for prayer and encouragement. Find different women to talk to about different areas of your life. Take advantage of the connections you make here.
I never had a woman who mentored me in the ways that we usually think of—a long-term one-on-one situation. But I can name a number of older women who connected with my life in different ways. I took every opportunity to learn from them as they shared their stories and their knowledge of God’s character. They were great encouragers to me as I tried to fulfill the ministry that God had given me. As they shared, I learned that I could trust God to go with me through any situation; I learned how godly women dealt with life. They modeled what they said and I caught it. I pray the same for you. Put yourself in situations where you learn from mature Christian women and then give yourself away to those younger than you by modeling, encouraging, and challenging them. Love them as you would a daughter. Build such strong relationships that your heart is with them at the end of your life. In this way you finish the race well, just as Paul did! Now is the time to pass the baton!