Run hard, finish strong

It’s not that I’ve never read 2 Timothy before. I have, lots of times. It’s one of three Pastoral Letters (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) that Paul wrote to his two young protegés who were serving in Paul’s place while he worked elsewhere. Bible college pastoral students (like I was) are expected to love and learn these letters, because of their importance to the operation of a local church.

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For being so short, 2 Timothy also has a bunch of verses that are well-known and well-loved by many Christians. For example:

God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

 

Entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. (2 Timothy 2:2)

 

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 NASB)

 

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

 

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2 NASB)

 

I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NASB)

But one word that I am studying today, along with one verse in 1 Timothy, opened this letter to me in a fresh new light today, filling in some of the gaps between the verses I listed above.

In 1 Timothy 4:14 Paul told Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have.” From a look at the whole section (verses 11-16), it appears that God had gifted Timothy with the ability to teach and exhort people through the Scriptures.

Enter 2 Timothy 1:5-6: “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.”

Paul was convinced Timothy had the gift, but something had happened that caused Timothy to let it die out, like a campfire late at night. He had neglected his gift. Now, with that bit of information, look at the rest of the letter:

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. (2 Timothy 1:7-8)

 

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. Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:12-13)

 

So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1-3)

 

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. (2 Timothy 2:10)

 

Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. (2 Timothy 2:15)

 

And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

 

And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people– who have warped minds and are disqualified in the faith– also oppose the truth. (2 Timothy 3:8)

 

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. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:12-17)

 

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. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Something was happening in Ephesus (where Timothy ministered) that had caused him to become terrified for his life to the point that he had stopped preaching and teaching. When Paul got wind of this, he sent this letter reminding Timothy that following Christ means suffering, and that he needed Timothy to keep it up faithfully – regardless of the outcome – just like Paul was doing and was, in fact, himself about ready to die for.

He finished with a “solemn charge” for Timothy to not give up. He had neglected his gift – against Paul’s previous warning – and now it needed to be “rekindled” and the mission completed.

Shortly after writing this – maybe even within hours or days – Paul was beheaded for his work. He entered Christ’s presence with the charge to the next generation on his lips:

“Don’t give up, no matter how hard it gets.

Run hard, finish strong.

See you soon.”

How has God gifted you? Are you using it faithfully? Or have you neglected it, and it’s time to rekindle?

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