************ Sermon on 2 Timothy 4:21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 8, 2015
2 Timothy 4:9-22
2 Timothy 4:21a
Many people make plans for the Winter. Some head south to Florida or Arizona in order to escape it. Others do the opposite: they grab skis or hockey sticks or sleds and enjoy it. Some plan a cruise. Others determine to improve their grades. And still others chop firewood or resolve to read the book on their night-stand.
According to our text this evening, the Apostle Paul also had Winter plans: "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). This is now the second time Paul says this in the space of thirteen verses. Look at our opening verse: "Do your best to come to me quickly" (2 Tim 4:9). Paul plans to spend the Winter with Timothy.
Why would this be in the Bible? We know, of course, it is in the Bible because it is part of the inspired Word of God. But why would the Spirit of God include these words as part of the inspired and infallible Word of God? We believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. But what is useful about our text?
I Get Here Before Winter
A "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). Paul has a practical reason for saying this. All the ships are in port during the Winter since it is too dangerous for sailing. If Timothy waited too long, he would miss his opportunity to visit with Paul and then it would be too late.
B "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). Paul is in prison when he writes this and he seems to know there is little chance of his getting out of prison. Paul also knows that he will soon die for the faith. Paul realizes that he will never see Timothy again if Timothy does not make it before Winter.
C "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments" (2 Tim 4:13). "Bring the cloak" -- because prison is cold in the Winter. "Bring ... the scrolls" -- probably the Old Testament Scriptures. "Bring ... the parchments" -- books that Paul was reading and maybe notes that he had been taking. We should not be surprised that a scholar such as Paul wanted material for study and writing while he waited hour after hour in prison. Even in the last days of his life Paul was not one to sit around or to bemoan his existence; he was not going to have a pity-party. He was going to make the best possible use of his time for the sake of the Lord and the Gospel.
D "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). Paul wants to see Timothy again. He wants to spend time with Timothy. He wants to encourage Timothy. He wants the encouragement of Timothy's presence. "Only Luke is with me," writes Paul (2 Tim 4:11) and he wants the presence of other brothers and sisters at his next hearing before the Emperor. "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me" (2 Tim 4:16). Paul wants brothers and sisters to stand alongside of him.
In this light, consider all the people named in the closing part of this last letter of Paul. In fact, if you go through Acts and the rest of Paul's letters and count them you will come up with a least one hundred different men and women. All of them were part of Paul's circle of friends; all of them were fellow laborers. You would think that if anyone could be a Lone Ranger on the mission field, it would be Paul. But Paul could not and did not do the job by himself:
Luke - is the dear friend and doctor who traveled with Paul (Col 4:4). He is the human author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.
Crescens - was sent by Paul to Galatia. He was another faithful laborer who assisted Paul in his great missionary work. We know nothing more about him.
Titus - was another friend and helper of Paul's. He had traveled with Paul on some of his missionary journeys, and was working as the leader of the church on Crete. Paul summoned him to Rome and sent him to Dalmatia (part of modern day Croatia).
Mark - was a cousin of Barnabas, Paul's first missionary partner. Unfortunately, Mark quit part way through the first mission trip (Acts 13:5,13). So Paul refused to take Mark on his second trip. If you remember, this led to a falling-out between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). But now, at the end of his life, Paul asked for Mark to be with him in Rome: "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Tim 4:11). How good it is to know that one failure in Christian service need not make one's whole life a failure.
Tychicus - was a believer from the province of Asia (Acts 20:4). He accompanied Paul on his missionary journey to Greece. He was with Paul during his first imprisonment (Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-8). Paul sent him to Crete to relieve Titus (Titus 3:12). Now he was sending him to Ephesus to relieve Timothy. What a blessing it is to have people who can replace others!
Carpus - lived at Troas and gave Paul hospitality.
Priscilla and Aquila - this husband-wife team assisted Paul in many ways, first of all in Corinth and then in Ephesus (Acts 18:1-3, 24-28; rom 16:3-4; 1 Cor 16:10).
Onesiphorus - he and his household often refreshed Paul with their hospitality (2 Tim 1:16).
Erastus - one of Paul's helpers (Acts 19:22).
Trophimus - the presence of this Greek man in the Temple caused a riot in Jerusalem (Acts 21:28-29). He had been serving with Paul in Miletus, but now was seriously ill.
Eubulus, Linus, Claudia, and the brothers - they are all unknown to us but certainly not to the Lord.
"Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). I repeat: Paul is NOT a Lone Ranger. He needs the presence and the help of other believers. In the same way, no deacon and no elder and no pastor and no missionary today is a Lone Ranger either. In fact, we all -- like Paul -- need the presence, the help, and the encouragement of other believers.
E "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). If you paid careful attention you would have noticed that I left off some of the names that we find in the closing of 2 Timothy.
I did not mention Demas. Paul did not find Demas to be a help: "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me" (2 Tim 4:10). Some in Paul's circle were not faithful and he could not depend on them. Demas is mentioned three times in the New Testament; these three mentions reveal a sad story of failure. First, Demas is listed with Mark and Luke as one of Paul's "fellow workers" (Philemon 24). Then he is simply called "Demas" (Col 4:14). And now Paul identifies Demas as a deserter. Demas deserted Paul because he loved the world, the things of the world, and his life in the world.
I also did not mention "Alexander the metalworker [who] did me a great deal of harm" (2 Tim 4:14). Paul singles him out as someone who strongly opposed the message of the Gospel. It appears he was part of the church but taught a message that was contrary to the Gospel proclaimed by Paul.
"Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). Paul wanted dependable brothers and sisters to stand by him and with him. Paul wanted brothers and sisters with him who believed the same as he did. Paul wanted the support of those who were like-minded.
If you remember back to seven years ago, Consistory recommended that we join with the United Reformed Churches so that we would be in the company of like-minded brothers and sisters. What was important to Paul is also important to us.
II Do Your Best
A "Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). Notice what Paul does not say. Paul does NOT say, "Timothy, I prayed for you to come in winter and the Lord will grant my prayer." It is not a name it and claim it Gospel that Paul is proclaiming. Paul does not regard God as a wish-dispenser, as the Genie in the bottle, Who gives you what you ask for. And, yet, we can assume that the apostle who told us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17) did pray about the matter; we can even assume that Paul asked the Lord to allow a reunion between Paul and his much beloved disciple.
"Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). This is Paul's wish and Paul's prayer. But, by "do your best" Paul indicates it is not a sure thing. There is a possibility it won't happen. There is a possibility God will answer the prayer but in a different way than Paul wants God to answer the prayer. Paul lifts his petition to heaven and there he leaves it in the hands of God.
B "Do your best" (2 Tim 4:21). We need to recognize there is also a human dimension at play here. That is, Timothy has to make the necessary travel arrangements: raise the cash, find a boat, check the sailing schedules, make a reservation, pack his bags, get his shots, and do this as soon as possible so he can get there before Winter.
"Do your best" (2 Tim 4:21). Humanly speaking, it is not a sure thing that Paul is requesting. Maybe no ship has an opening for another passenger. Maybe no ship is traveling from Ephesus to Rome. Maybe, by the time he gets Paul's letter, it is already too late for Timothy to make travel arrangements before Winter. Maybe Timothy won't be able to raise the necessary cash. Maybe Timothy won't feel up to a sea voyage.
"Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). Upon getting Paul's letter, how do you think Timothy responded? Do you think Timothy said to himself:
Yes, I shall start for Rome. But first I must clear up some matters here at Ephesus. And then I need to go to Miletus to ordain elders. From there I am going to Colossae to celebrate Communion. And then I will make my way to Troas to pick up the cloak and scrolls and parchments. And then I will try to find a ship that will take me to Italy.Is that what Paul had in mind? Of course not. Before Winter or never. The matter is urgent. Don't delay. "Do your best" (2 Tim 4:21).
This was no small undertaking that Paul was asking for. I spent some time with a Bible Atlas this week mapping out Timothy's route from Ephesus to Rome. In my mind's eye I see Timothy immediately booking a ship to Troas. I see him picking up Paul's cloak and scrolls and parchments. I see him booking passage up the Aegean Sea to Neapolis and from there to Greece. I see him going overland through Macedonia and booking passage to Italy. I see him making his way down to Sicily and then up the coast across from Rome. I see him heading up the Ostian Way to Rome. Once there I see him hastening to the side of the Apostle Paul in prison.
I can see Timothy as he sits down with the Apostle and reads to him out of the books, but especially the Old Testament parchments: the Prophets, the Psalms, the law of Moses. And writes notes dictated by Paul.
C "Do your best" (2 Tim 4:21). This is Paul's request of Timothy. This is Paul's prayer for Timothy. This is what Paul asks of Timothy and of God. But the outcome isn't clear: maybe God won't make it happen; maybe Timothy won't be able to make all the arrangements. And Paul is okay with that.
Why? Because Paul knows the Lord stands at His side and gives him strength (2 Tim 4:17). Sometimes the Lord gives this strength through fellow believers; sometimes the Lord uses other means. So even if Timothy doesn't make it, Paul knows the Lord stands at His side and gives him strength (2 Tim 4:17). The Lord promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb 13:5). And Paul experienced this first-hand more than once. When Paul was under attack in Corinth, the Lord appeared to him and encouraged him (Acts 18:9-11). After he had been arrested in Jerusalem, Paul again was visited by the Lord and encouraged (Acts 23:11). During the terrible storm, when Paul was on board a sinking ship, the Lord gave him strength and courage (Acts 27:22ff). Now, in a horrible Roman prison, Paul again experienced the strengthening presence of the Lord. Paul says, "I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim 4:18). Paul doesn't need Timothy as much as he needs the Lord.
Paul also sees beyond himself, his own needs, his own comfort, his own wants. Paul recognizes bigger things are at play. Paul recognizes the plan of God and the mission of God:
(2 Tim 4:17) ... that through me the message [of the Gospel] might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. Paul knows Timothy will make it before Winter if that is what is needed for the Gospel to be proclaimed. Paul knows Timothy will make it before Winter if that is what is needed for God to be glorified (cf 2 Tim 4:18). Paul knows Timothy will make it before Winter if that is what advances the Kingdom of God. Paul know Timothy will make it before Winter if that is what builds up the church. Notice, it all depends on what best fits the plan and mission of God.
D Let's apply this to our own lives. We, like Paul, can make Winter Plans. Summer plans. Retirement plans. College plans. Business plans. Family plans. Building plans. We can have our hopes and our prayers and our dreams. But will the plans happen? Will they be realized?
Whatever happens, we have the assurance -- like Paul -- that God is with us every step of the way. Even if our plans and hopes and dreams and prayers are not realized we have the assurance that God will never leave us or forsake us.
And, whatever happens, we need to realize God has a bigger plan in mind: the proclamation of the Gospel, the glory of His name, the advancement of His Kingdom, the building up of Christ's church. What I am saying is that our plans need to fit into His plan.
"Do your best" (2 Tim 4:21). This is God's invitation, His appeal, His call, to you and me to participate in the work of the Lord. "Do your best" (2 Tim 4:21). Do it now for tomorrow may be too late. Is there a soul to be won? Win it now. Is there a life to be touched? Visit now. Is there a task God has called you to do? Do it now, before Winter, for tomorrow is too late.
"Do your best to get here before winter" (2 Tim 4:21). The Bible does not record the final days of Paul. We don't know if Timothy made it to Rome before Paul was sentenced to die and taken outside the city and beheaded. We don't know if Timothy watched as Paul received his crown of glory.
However, Timothy and the other believers carried on Paul's work -- which, remember, is God's work. And that, ultimately, is the only thing that counts.
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