2 Timothy 3:10-4:22, Psalm 116
Every pastor needs to hear from the apostle Paul, especially Paul’s pastoral letters. Almost 2,000 years removed from Paul’s life it is easy for us to attach a mystique to Paul that doesn’t take seriously his self-representation. In the letters to Corinthians, he presents himself as weak and mistreated, and write to the Galatians about his many opponents. I marvel at how resolute Paul is as he exhorts Timothy to similar courage, even while describing himself as one “being poured out as a drink offering” whose “departure is near” (2 Timothy 4:6). This does not sound like the best endorsement for pastoral perseverance. Paul does, though, declare that he has “finished the race” and has in store “the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8) This is what compels Paul, along all that will make disciples throughout church history, to grind on in excruciating difficulty. Christianity in Paul’s day was hardly more than a small cult facing incredible opposition, and Paul was not yet famous for these letters found in the world’s most famous book. From a human perspective, he seemed like any other religious extremist. But we believe that Paul was right in his confidence that he was going to be brought by Jesus “safely to the Kingdom of God.” All of us that follow will join Paul in the kingdom. We need this confidence in our dark days. Tonight I heard heartbreaking news about a pastor that lost hope. All of us can go to dark places in our minds, and despair. Let’s keep running the race, for we do not suffer without promises greater than our pain.