A grace-filled death only comes about after a grace-filled life. Like few others, Paul lived with grace and died with grace—grace to the very end.
Leadership isn’t for the faint of heart—not because it’s so demanding (though it is) but because it’s so isolating. This was true of Paul. All his life, he was engaged in the nitty-gritty of ministry. But sitting in a dark dungeon awaiting death, loneliness crept into his lap and refused to leave. So Paul took his pen and wrote his friend.
Paul didn’t think life ridiculous or irrational—even with his head on the axeman’s block. In one of the finest epitaphs found in literature, Paul celebrated life, without reservation, remorse, or regret.
Paul wrote to Timothy without panic and with purpose. The days were depraved and dangerous, and Timothy needed to read Paul’s never-to-be-forgotten final charge in order to complete his ministry. Pastors today who carry on the ministry, regardless of age, location, or culture, need to hear and heed that same timely and timeless charge.
No one enters a race hoping to come in second. Runners run to win. Paul ran to win (2 Timothy 4:7-8). And he wanted the same for Timothy—for him to finish well. But how? Second Timothy 3:14–17 provides the answer.
Don’t be distracted by difficulties or hampered by hardships; don’t despair because you don’t have the highest IQ, the richest portfolio, or the finest pedigree. Rather, master a few great, majestic, unchanging, simple, glorious truths—and be mastered by them.
We’re no longer shocked and outraged by human depravity. Perhaps that’s why the Bible sometimes backs up the truck and unloads a descriptive deluge of indecency on us. That’s exactly what we get in 2 Timothy 3:1-9.
Character is no longer king; our culture champions competency. Scripture, however, champions character. So, for those of us who wish to lead in a Christian manner, character must always trump competency. That’s the message of the last seven verses 2 Timothy 2.
Words are powerful things. With them, we can lead people to life-freeing truth or life-imprisoning falsehood. That’s why Paul was concerned about certain men in the church who had “gone astray from the truth” (2 Timothy 2:18).
When Paul laid out a path of suffering for his protégé, Timothy, the young pastor may have grimaced. But Paul promised more than pain. The path, should Timothy choose it, would take him to heights unknown—to glory after death and to greater maturity in life. The same awaits us, if we choose the rough and rugged road of Christ.