(The apostle Paul says) : “For 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 race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth 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.
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:6-18 (ESV)
In this passage the apostle Paul is coming to the end of his life on this earth. By this time, Paul has worked with several other preachers and teachers throughout his ministry. Some of them, like Luke, (the writer of the Gospel of Luke) walked alongside Paul faithfully and partnered with him in his ministry. Others, like Titus, Paul mentored and trained so that they could go out as missionaries and pastors in other places to build new congregations. Still others, like Alexander the coppersmith, were outright hostile to the Gospel and to Paul’s preaching, and opposed him.
Even though some people were helpful to Paul and faithful to doing God’s work alongside him, not all of them were. Other people don’t always meet our expectations. Sometimes they try, but it’s too much for them, or they are only with you for a little while because their path is a different one from yours, or sometimes they are outright hostile to you and what you are trying to accomplish.
For Paul the constant was Jesus. If people come along side us who work with us and build us up, what a blessing from God. If people who are a blessing can only be with us for a little while, that’s OK. Jesus is faithful and stays with us whether people do or not.
It’s easy to worry about what other people think of us or wonder if we will have help to “run the race,” as Paul puts it. We may not know what is ahead of us or what we will be called to do, but we can trust that the God of all creation is our provision and He knows our needs.
Whatever is ahead of us is in God’s hands. As we pray Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me (KJV)- we know we can trust in God who never leaves our sides.
Paul was very aware of God’s provision in every circumstance. Paul clung to Jesus. We also cling to Jesus, who has walked through the valley of the shadow of death, who has experienced death and the grave, and who has conquered the grave.
This life is not easy. The great theologian Axl Rose once said, “You’re not going to get out of life alive.” While our present physical bodies will experience death, it is also true that in Christ there is life in the kingdom to come.
Jesus tells us where we should place our trust, and how to view adversaries in the world:
(Jesus said) : “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:26-33 (ESV)
Jesus, you are before anything was, and you will be when nothing else is.
(Jesus said): “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13 (ESV)
He who is first and last will be with us forever!