Your Most Valuable Possession
Your Most Valuable Possession
As the novelist, historian and poet, Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), lay dying, he turned to his great friend and son-in-law, J.G. Lockhart – the man who was later to write his life story – and said, ‘Will you read to me from the Book?’ Lockhart wondered which of his many books he meant – for he knew he was a great writer. So he asked, ‘Which book?’
‘Which book?’ replied Scott, ‘There is but one book; bring the Bible.’ In his last moments on earth, he was comforted and encouraged by what God had to say to him. His last words were about his most valuable possession.
In the case of the apostle Paul, we don’t exactly know what his last words were. However, we do have his last recorded words; they are in our passage for today. As he comes to the end of this letter he writes, ‘The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’ (2 Timothy 4:7). We see his passion for Jesus Christ and his word. His whole life has been about telling others the good news of Jesus. His last words urge Timothy to do the same.
Love God’s wordsPsalm 119:97-104
Without God, our lives make no sense. As we read his word we understand the meaning and purpose of our lives: ‘With your instruction I understand life’ (v.104, MSG). Nothing could be more important or more valuable than this.
At her coronation, the Queen was handed a copy of the Bible with these words, ‘We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.’
The psalmist writes, ‘Oh, how I love your law!’ (v.97a). He says, ‘I reverently ponder it all the day long’ (v.97b, MSG). He writes, ‘Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking’ (v.103, MSG).
The effect of loving God’s word, and meditating on it, is to give you wisdom (v.98), insight (v.99) and understanding (vv.100,104): ‘I’ve even become smarter than my teachers’ (v.99, MSG). It makes you determined to keep your feet from every evil and wrong path (vv.101,104).
Lord, thank you that your words give me wisdom, insight and understanding. Help me to love them, to meditate on them and to obey them.
Proclaim God’s words2 Timothy 4:1-22
The apostle Paul urges, ‘proclaim the Message’ (v.2a, MSG). This passage is then full of practical advice on how to go about doing this.
Paul writes to Timothy, ‘I give you this charge’ (v.1). His charge to Timothy is to be an evangelist and a preacher. According to the New Testament this is also the task of every Christian.
Speak about Jesus
Paul says preach ‘the Word’ (v.2a). The Greek word here is ‘logos’, which was used to describe Jesus in John 1:1. The good news is all about Jesus.
When we hear the word ‘preach’ we often think of a person in robes addressing a group of convinced believers within the precinct of the church. The word Paul uses here means a herald who delivers a message that has been given to them by the king. It is an ‘up-to-the-minute’ relevant message. You may not be a ‘preacher’ in the narrowest sense, but you can be a herald of the good news about Jesus.
It is important to be prepared and ready to take advantage of every opportunity God gives you to speak about your faith. Paul writes, ‘be prepared in season and out of season’ (2 Timothy 4:2) – that is, when it is convenient and when it is not. The word he uses for ‘prepared’ has military connotations. He is saying, stay at your post. Be on duty. On guard. Be ready. Be at hand.
Speak to the whole person
Paul’s message is holistic:
It appeals to the mind (v.5). He says ‘correct’ (v.2), which could be translated as ‘prove’. We are to teach the gospel with ‘careful instruction’ (v.2). Our presentation of the gospel should never be devoid of content. Paul’s message is based on evidence and reason. Indeed, Paul says to Timothy, ‘keep your head’ (v.5).
It is also an appeal to the heart and conscience. He says, ‘rebuke’ (v.2). Reason is not enough – a change of heart is required.
Finally, it is an appeal to the will: ‘encourage’. We need to get alongside people and help them with ‘great patience’ (v.2). This is a spirit that never gets irritated, never despairs and never regards a person as beyond salvation.
Keep speaking the truth
You may be tempted to change the content to what your hearers want to hear, or to what you think they are more likely to respond to, but keep passing on the same message that has been handed down to you. In spite of the fact that some people may prefer ‘spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy’ to ‘solid teaching’ (v.3, MSG) – keep proclaiming the truth of the gospel.
Paul writes to Timothy, ‘do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry’ (v.5c). Telling others is your responsibility before God. Jesus is coming back to judge and reign (v.1). What you do now has eternal consequences. You are going to have to give an account.
Therefore, be willing to endure hardship (v.5). If you pass on the message, you will be misunderstood, misrepresented and misinterpreted. Paul has been deserted by Demas (v.10). He has been strongly opposed by Alexander, the metal worker who did him a great deal of harm (v.14). No one stood up for Paul in his hour of greatest need (v.16).
Never give up. Listen to Paul’s words to Timothy as if they were addressed to you: ‘make the spreading of the good news your life work’ (v.5, JBP). This is what Paul did. He was willing to be poured out like a drink offering (v.6).
Now he says to Timothy, ‘You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting – God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming’ (vv.6–8, MSG).
Know that the Lord is on your side
In spite of all the opposition and difficulties, one thing makes all the difference: ‘The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength’ (v.17). This is so that ‘the message might be fully proclaimed and all Gentiles might hear it’ (v.17). Paul is confident about his future, even though he is facing the immediate threat of death (v.18). His greatest desire for Timothy and the other believers with him is that they are intimately connected to Jesus. His final words are, ‘The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you’ (v.22).
Lord, thank you that I am not on my own as I tell others the good news about Jesus – you go with me by your Spirit. Help me to do it faithfully, to fight the good fight, to finish the race and keep the faith.
Declare God’s wordsJeremiah 51:15-64
Do you ever feel powerless to do anything about your situation? Sometimes it appears that the forces raging against God and his people are so much more powerful than us. This was the situation in Jeremiah’s day when the people of God were confronted by the most powerful empire of its time – Babylon.
Into this time of difficulty, Jeremiah kept on declaring the word of the Lord – right to the end of his life (vv.25–26,39,48,52–53,57–58). We have read the apostle Paul’s last words. Now we come to Jeremiah’s last words: ‘The words of Jeremiah end here’ (v.64).
Jeremiah’s message was this: God is all-powerful. ‘By his power he made earth. His wisdom gave shape to the world. He crafted the cosmos’ (v.15, MSG). This all-powerful God is on your side: ‘I’m on your side, taking up your cause’ (v.36, MSG). Therefore, he says, ‘Don’t lose hope. Don’t ever give up’ (v.46, MSG).
The Babylonian empire, which seemed so powerful at the time, was about to collapse – like every other empire before or since. But God’s people not only survived, they continued to grow and flourish.
Jeremiah wrote down the message on a scroll. He commanded, ‘see that you read all these words aloud’ (v.61). Jeremiah was a faithful prophet who heard the word of the Lord and kept on telling others the messages throughout his life.
Lord, thank you that the message about Jesus has changed my life and thank you that I have the privilege of seeing it change so many people’s lives. Help me to keep on speaking your words boldly right to the end of my life.
2 Timothy 4:6–8
‘For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award me on that day.’
Three things I hope I’ll have done at the end of my life:
Fought the fight.
Finished the race.
Kept the faith.
Verse of the Day
‘Don’t lose hope. Don’t ever give up...’ (Jeremiah 51:46, MSG).
David M. Atkinson, Leadership – By the Book, (Xulon Press, 2007) p.xiv
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.