2 TIMOTHY 1:15-2:13
1:15You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.16May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain; 17when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me 18— may the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well how much service he rendered in Ephesus.
2:1You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; 2and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. 3Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier's aim is to please the enlisting officer. 5And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. 6It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.
8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David — that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful —
for he cannot deny himself.
Hard to imagine people turning their backs on the Apostle Paul, but people did! "All who were in Asia ... including Phygelus and Hermogenes." Paul's last days were not full of people rallying around him; rather, it was the opposite. Many abandoned him. Many were ashamed of him. Many did not want to associate with him because he was in chains. Many did not want to be friends with someone who was obviously in trouble with Rome, with very powerful people. Yet, there were a few who remained loyal to Paul to the end. We know about Timothy. But another person is mentioned by Paul: Onesiphorus. A true helper and friend of the Apostle, Onesiphorus went through the trouble to find Paul in the Roman cell, to encourage him and refresh him with food and water.
We have to remember that Paul was human too! He appreciated friendships, he was hurt by abandonment, he was encouraged by love, he was flesh-and-blood like the rest of us. Just because he was a powerful Apostle of God -- through whom signs and wonders were performed, the dead raised, the gospel preached for the salvation of thousands, churches planted, and disciples raised -- did not mean he was immune to relational feelings and loneliness. He was a praying, feeling, longing, loving Apostle.
But rarely does Paul stay stuck in that place of self-pity or loneliness. He is quick to encourage and inspire and teach. He tells Timothy to be a good soldier (paraphrase, "buck up"), take your suffering like a man, focus, don't sweat the small stuff, be an athlete, compete for heaven's sake, be a farmer, think about what I'm saying (God will help you). Full of fatherly advice; more like coach-mentor advice.
Again, what's clearly important for Apostle Paul is how you live. And the message from Apostle Paul is loud and clear. Life is to be lived with focus and understanding, with purpose and courage, with devotion and effort, and with sacrifice and toughness. To do less is to waste life.
I think of two quotes in regards to what's been said. One is from Steve Prefontaine, a great American runner from the late 60's and early 70's: "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." The other quote comes from Chris, the guy who ran the Kumon in Bethesda that Johnna and Serena attended when they were little. A mother was complaining about how her daughter's scores on the Kumon homework and tests were inconsistent. Without hesitating and without any soft, prefatory words, Chris said in an almost robotic tone, "She lacks focus." The woman had nothing to say.
What the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy is much more eloquent than Chris the Kumon guy and equally inspirational as Steve Prefontaine. Life is way too important to waste. And life requires proper focus and commitment to the Lord. We got to get with it and stay focused and we need to go for it!
Let's be good soldiers, great athletes, hard-working farmers, and really diligent Kumon kids!
Let's pray: O Lord, we ask you to put a fire in our bellies and a laser in our eyes and a rod of steel in our backs so that we can all move forward with commitment and understanding. So much time and energy are wasted on unnecessary things and so much of our brain cells are used up thinking about worldly things. May you straighten us out! And we believe you will! Help us to co-labor with you, help us to take your lead on these matters, help us to discipline our time and our life. In Your Name, Amen.