Are We Radical Enough?

2 Timothy is the final letter written by the apostle Paul in our New Testament, written around 65 or 66 AD. If other sources are true, Paul probably died within a year of writing this letter.

Yet, even if he did not die that soon, it is still our final glimpse into the life of this man, who, at the time of writing this letter, was imprisoned and alone.

Reading through its short four chapters, its teaching isn’t what strikes me the most. It is Paul, the man. There are a few theories about his final imprisonment. Some say that he was still under Roman house arrest, while others think he was serving a second imprisonment, because of the dating of the letter. Either way, the passion and fire of his previous letters, like Romans or Galatians seems to be gone. Instead, we find a man at peace with his situation, yet looking over a life of suffering for Jesus. I wouldn’t say Paul was sad, but I would say that Paul felt he was immobilized for the rest of his life.

Consider this verse, one of the last in the letter, and of the last we have from him:

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:13; NIV84)

Paul didn’t even have a coat. Only one companion, Luke, was with him. He wrote, later, in chapter 4, that “everyone deserted him” (4:16).

He was suffering for the gospel. Read these verses:

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God … (1:8)

 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed … (1:11, 12)

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (1:15)

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. (1:16)

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. (2:8)

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (3:10, 11)

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (3:12, 13)

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. (4:6)

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. (4:9, 10)

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. (4:14)

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. (4:16)

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. (4:18)

Depressing, isn’t it? This one man, entrusted to blow open the gates of freedom, was in a jail cell, humiliated and alone and cold.

Yet, by the grace of God, his life intersected with a young man from Lystra, who became his protegé. So mature was Timothy, that Paul sent him to Ephesus, to deal with an intense crisis. The crisis had not abated, because Paul told Timothy to “keep reminding them” of truth (4:14).

It was no matter to Paul, though — he wanted to see Timothy, maybe for the last time, and was content to ask Timothy to leave Ephesus, and visit him.

This letter always breaks my heart when I read it. There is some obvious teaching, yet it is not new. Paul shared these very same sentiments elsewhere. But his suffering is what is most obvious. His suffering was the result of his calling.

Yet he believed in God’s vindication, even to the very end. His suffering would not be in vain.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo,” when Abbe Faria, the priest, and Dantes, spent years unjustly imprisoned, and through a series of unlikely circumstances, meet each other. The surprising intersection of these two men was a great episode in the film. While they dig a tunnel to escape the prison, the priest spends hours teaching and instructing young Dantes, who had become his own unlikely protegé.

Yet the priest died before their chance to escape had come. Dantes is broken, as he watches the priest die on a cold floor in the French jail. Yet the priest had one final lesson for Dantes. Here is the scene:

This is how I imagine Paul. Fighting, struggling, suffering, as best he could, until the very end, blessed to have someone to listen to his final words. His legacy — one of teaching and suffering — is one that gives us pause today, and makes us wonder if our lives are radical enough for the kingdom.

__________

This is my seventieth post in 70 straight days, while reading through the New Testament. It’s been an amazing journey, and has been such a blessing to me. All of the previous posts are here. I have twenty more days of reading and writing, and while there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is almost bittersweet. God has done a supernatural work in me this summer, and has given me a blessing that is priceless. Thank you for joining me.

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