2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3I am grateful to God — whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did — when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
8Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
This is the kind of letter we might have received from Paul's own hand had we lived during his time and we had a close relationship with him. The care and warmth and love all come through so well in this opening passage of 2 Timothy. As in many personal letters -- whether here or the kind read in the PBS Civil War series by Ken Burns -- the words reveal something intimate about the writer and the recipient. Paul's love for Timothy runs deep, praying for him night and day. Timothy's own love for Paul is just as real ("recalling your tears"). Yet, we should understand and appreciate that their mutual love, as in all Christian love, is mediated through Christ. What's important to both is their respective walk with the Lord. Paul's concern for Timothy is that the Spirit who's in Timothy is not one of timidity or cowardice, but of power and love and self-discipline. We can almost picture this young man -- perhaps a little thin, with eyes cast downward, a bit unsure of himself. We can picture Paul -- in that dark, damp Roman prison cell awaiting his trial and death in 67AD. Paul knows he is very near the end of his earthly existence. You can hear him summarize his life, "I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust..."
When you boil life down to its essence you end up with people you love, your special relationships with those you love, and their relationship with God. What more is there to add? Nothing else much matters. And in those relationships all that you truly wish for your loved ones is that they fulfill their destiny in God, find in God their joy and purpose, and that they live without regret and fear and what-ifs. You, in turn, hope that you can speak as Paul did. No shame, no second guessing, no regret, pure thankfulness to the Lord for given the opportunity to live for Him, and that you lived your life fully and well.
What else really matters in the end?
We have only one job in life: to live for God!
And the only tragedy is this: to have lived for something other than God.
Or said more eloquently, “Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been a saint.”
-- Charles Pierre Péguy
Let's pray: Father God, to read this letter from Paul to Timothy -- Paul's last epistle -- is a striking reminder that we are called to live for You and You alone, in the power of the Spirit through our intimate faith in Christ. Whether, like Paul, we end our last days in a prison cell, or a nice house, or a retirement home, we want to be able to say, "I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust." No regrets, no doubts, no what-ifs. To live life as one poured out like a drink offering, in Paul's own imagery of his life, is the best we can do. To pour out for You and Your Glory. That's the truly beautiful life. And we know such life does not begin when we are near our earthly end. That kind of life begins now! So, O Lord, help us to be poured out in love for You and others today and forevermore! In Jesus' name, Amen.