This week, Jerry and I have entered into some hard things and hurts with some of those we love. We have sat with friends, talked with them on the phone, texted encouraging messages, shared podcasts, and drank coffee together. It seems that we keep turning around and finding that someone else we love and care for is hurting. And we want to fix it. We want to make it go away. We want to heal the pain, take away the disease, or enact justice and maybe a little revenge (more me than Jerry). But we can’t. We can’t protect them. We can’t stop the pain, the hurt, the suffering, or the fear no matter how much we may want to.
And this is what weighs on my mind and heart as I step into the study of 2 Timothy.
Several questions come to mind as I read this letter. How can 2 Timothy give me hope during these hard times? How can Paul’s letter of encouragement teach me to encourage others? How does the witness of Paul’s sufferings help me relate to those I love who are suffering? The thing I have to remember is that the Bible isn’t about me, but rather, it is about living for Christ. It is about teaching us, guiding us, and giving us wisdom and insight on how to navigate this broken world as children of the one true God. Because this life isn’t easy.
When we come to the book of 2 Timothy, it is to our advantage to remember this is a personal letter from one mentor/friend to another. Paul’s love and care for Timothy is on full display. Paul was in prison, in chains, abandoned, and even betrayed, but when he says goodbye to Timothy, he is encouraging and teaching him.
This week I am not Paul; I am Timothy. Timothy who is in tears. Timothy who is being encouraged to remain strong. Timothy who is asked to endure with his brother in Christ as Paul experiences suffering. We aren’t always the Paul who is suffering; sometimes we are the Timothy who is on the receiving end of encouragement from a suffering child of God.
Moving from Ecclesiasts to 2 Timothy might seem like a big jump, but I don’t think it is. Ecclesiastes put into perspective what was important and what was trivial in this life. Paul senses this is the last time he will write to Timothy, and he wants to make sure that Timothy knows where to invest his life. He urges Timothy to pour his life into sound teaching, the grace of Christ, building relationships in Christ with those that can be trusted and leaned upon, being kind to everyone, working for the glory of the Lord, remaining faithful to the Scriptures, and telling others about the Good News.
Paul also reminds Timothy of the trivial things, the things to set aside and, at times, the things to flee. He pleads with Timothy: don’t be ashamed of the gospel; don’t be ashamed of those suffering for the gospel; don’t quarrel and have useless arguments; avoid foolish talk; don’t be a lover of self or unforgiving.
Paul has spent years teaching, loving the church, encouraging others, rebuking the church, and suffering for Christ, so in his last days he can’t help but continue this pattern. His love and concern for Timothy can’t rest-not yet. Paul pours out this love on his parchment, and we get the blessed joy of reading those words.
I would encourage you, as we enter into this time of study, to take time to read all of 2 Timothy in one sitting. Read it in a few different versions. Listen to Paul’s heart as he pours out both encouragement and instruction. Ask yourself these questions: What can I learn from this type of encouragement? How can I lift up others the way Paul is doing? How can I support others who are suffering?
This letter is very personal to Paul. It is his last charge to those who will carry on his work. He didn’t know that his words would influence so many in the work of Christ. He just set out to encourage one beloved “son.” Please know that your words, your actions, even your life might reach further than you know. How will you use it? Will you be like Paul or Timothy? Will you fight the good fight? Will you finish the race well? Will you encourage others while you go? Will you hold fast to what is truly important in life? Will you set aside or cut away those things that need to be gone?
As we study 2 Timothy, I pray we all learn from these words and grow in our walk with Christ and each other.
“May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.” ~2 Timothy 1:2