'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.' (2 Timothy 4:7)
Who cannot be moved by what were most likely the apostle Paul's final written words before Nero ended his life on Earth. But it is not Paul's farewell but his counsel and love towards Timothy that has taught me and touched my heart as I have studied his letter.
'I remember you without ceasing, night and day, in my prayers, longing to see you, aware of your tears...' Paul writes to him.
Then Paul reminds Timothy how he gained his deep faith, through his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who tutored him from childhood in a love for the scriptures (2 Tim 1:5, 3:15) which leads to knowledge, understanding and 'not the spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.(v7)
Paul then earnestly impresses upon this young man that the Lord will give him understanding in all things (2:7) as he puts first the truth that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, which truth Paul has persistently preached and was the reason for his imprisonment and bondage.
'Continue to study God's words without distorting the truth contained in them, avoid false interpretations, fabulous ideas and imaginations of those who pervert the truth for their own fame and fortune.' Paul urges.
Then, just as we would urge any young person of today, Paul directly counsels the young Timothy to flee from youthful lusts, impure desires and stay close to friends who share the same values, those who also live lives of faith and charity.
Then to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, Paul advises that as a servant of the Lord he should avoid dubious, contentious questions from those who revile against the truth, but nevertheless to resist them gently and peacefully, that perhaps he may restore them to truth and righteousness, free them from the devils grasp.
However Paul sees into the future. He sees that the division between those who follow Christ and those who do not will certainly get wider, 'that mankind will ever be learning yet never coming to the knowledge of those truths that lead to peace and salvation of the soul.' Persecution will increase, those out to deceive will get worse and worse.
'So, beloved Timothy, continue steadfast in the ways of truth that lead to that peace and salvation.'
Finally, as Paul is aware that the time of his departure from this life is at hand, he gives a powerful charge to this young man. With a responsibility so vital to the future of the flock of believers Timothy serves he pleads with him to earnestly preach the pure, unadulterated gospel, exhorting and teaching sound doctrine at all times, whenever opportunity arises. Also to reprove and rebuke when necessary, for:
'the time will come when man will not endure sound doctrine; but will listen and turn to fables and false ideas, the products of men's imaginations.'
(For the purists I recognise that many quotations above are not directly from scripture but I hope they are in the spirit of what Paul wrote.)
Reflections on Pauls second epistle to Timothy