2 Timothy 4:6-8
A pattern for a triumphant completion, for the man of God
Paul has called Timothy to a stance of utmost thrust, to keep his head above waters to preach and include evangelistic roles for the sake of the unconverted, in his proclamation of God’s Word. Now in v.6-8 he brings Timothy to the conclusion of utmost investment, saying to the young church leader, “My end is near but it very timely as life well spent”. As the apostle Paul neared the end of his life, he was able to look back without regret or remorse. In fact, his mood is one of triumph, and his tone is hopeful.
In these verses, we get to read words of a dying man (their epitaph) and usually, the words of dying men tend to be stripped of all hypocrisy; they tend to reveal what really matters for them – what is in their heart.
Napoleon, on his deathbed, said, “I die before my time, and my body will be given back to earth to become the food of worms. Such is the fate which so soon awaits the great Napoleon.”
At the edge of his death, Mahatma Gandhi said, “My days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in a slough of despond. All about me is darkness. I am praying for light.” It should be interesting that he got “slough of despond” from Pilgrim’s Progress which he had read but not believed.
Talleyrand wrote on a paper left beside his bedside, found after his death, “What cares! What agitation! What anxieties! What ill will! What sad complications! And all without other results except great fatigue of mind and body and a profound sentiment of discouragement with regard to the future and disgust with regard to the past!” For such epitaphs, what away to die!
But there are better ways to die than that. In Christ’s Church - Philadelphia, there lies the gravestone of Benjamin Franklin. Whatever the purity of his religion was, his epitaph is better. It goes like this: “Here lies the body of Franklin, like an old book, stripped of its lettering and gilding, it lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost, for I will appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author.”
As you listen to Paul’s epitaph in 2 Tim 4:6-8, you hear words of a faithful preacher and a personal assessment of his life. He is on the brink of death and he knows that. His trial is passed and his sentence is death. His execution is imminent because he knows his present imprisonment will be the last location for his life, and he is inescapably on the way to martyrdom.
In this final chapter of Paul’s last of all his letters, he examines his life from three perspectives: the present reality of the end of his life, for which he was ready (v. 6); the past, when he had been faithful (v. 7); and the future, as he anticipated his heavenly reward (v. 8). Here we get to see deeply into the heart of this wonderful man of God. Wouldn’t it be great to look back over your life and have no regrets or sadness? But with a sense of fulfillment, a sense of completion. To look back and not have any view of the smallest thing left undone. He faces death with what I think is a holy satisfaction, triumphant in a life of service where work was completed. Amen.