When Paul writes II Timothy he is in Rome. In Prison. Piecing together his life from Acts and his letters, it is believed that during his first trip to Rome he was under house arrest – and then released and able to take his final missionary journey. But, back to Rome he goes, and this time he ends up in prison. Real prison. In chains. And, he is now writing about having “fought the good fight and finished the race.” (4:7). The end is in sight. And Paul has no regrets. In fact, he still has hope for the future – “a crown of righteousness” (4:8).
I was blessed by the opportunity to go to Rome with Jason several years ago while he was on a business trip. While he worked, I walked. It was incredible to walk through the ruins and roads where Paul very well may have walked before his chains. Courthouses, palaces, the temples of foreign gods, and in their midst, the Mamertine prison which according to tradition housed the apostle Paul, as well as Peter, before they each died for their faith. Perhaps it was a different prison, hard to be certain. But I do know that there was a real prison with real chains. Real places. Real people. And a very real God who was at work then (and long before) and is still at work now – and for all eternity.
A God worthy of serving with our life and if necessary our death. A God who does not give a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) – and I sure need that! A God who breathed out the Scriptures for us so we would have his wisdom and words – so useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) Without them we can not be thoroughly equipped for the work he has for us to do. (2 Timothy 3:17).
A few years ago our theme at Family Camp was Apprentice. How to pass along a craft – an art – from one master artisan to the next generation. Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) How are you contributing to the cycle?
Paul has many powerful words to Timothy about his duties as a young preacher, and what he is to pass on to others. And they become even more powerful when you pause to remember that they are being written by Paul, the mighty apostle and missionary, now chained and in prison, near the end of his life. According to tradition, soon to be beheaded for his faith. He writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Are you doing your best? What can you do to improve how you present yourself to God? Is it evident you are a workman for God? Any areas of shame that need to be addressed? How are you handling the word of truth?
I think it would be fascinating to see documented how the Word of God was passed down from Jesus to Paul, and on to Timothy and then to Timothy’s church, etc …. Through the ages … across the oceans … from generation to generation . . . to you. Your spiritual genealogy. What will you do with it? How will you pass it on? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.”