Scripture Reflections @ CEC (9/28/20)
“Bible study is the metal that forges a Christian.” Charles Spurgeon
Scripture & Devotion: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18
“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 course, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing… The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Fighting the good fight
When he wrote these words, the Apostle Paul was in prison, and the “departure” of which he speaks is a reference to his impending execution. We know from other portions of this letter to Timothy that some of his co-workers had deserted him (4:10), and that no one had come to his defense at his trial (4:16). Even so, his words have a remarkable calmness and assuredness about them. He is confident that God will reward him for his labors on behalf of the gospel, not because of his own worthiness, but because he has believed God’s words about who God is: a righteous judge with the power to keep the soul safe for all eternity. He ends this letter with a statement of praise and an “Amen.”
As I write this last devotional for Paul’s letters to Timothy, I am struggling with the concept of calm assurance. In any “normal” year, it is an ongoing challenge to overcome my anxious nature in accordance with the Bible’s admonitions concerning worrying, but this a year unlike any other. Today, my eyes and throat are stinging from the yellow-brown smoke and ash hanging in the air from forest fires around the Pacific Northwest. (In California, fires that are still raging have already burned an area larger than the entire state of Delaware.) Protests continue in major cities as they have for the past many weeks, and events like those which inspired the protests in the first place continue to happen with alarming regularity. As the November presidential election draws ever closer, the political campaigns and their associated rhetoric grow ever more vitriolic. We still await a vaccine with the potential to liberate us from the grip of the world-wide COVID pandemic. For most people, the idea of being “brought safely” to a “heavenly kingdom” would be heartening; however, we shy away from the idea that, in order to get there, we must first travel the road that passes through the gates of death.
And yet, there is something comforting about what Paul has written, a sense of completion and fulfillment, a conviction that his labor has not been in vain. He finds satisfaction in the knowledge that tribulation, opposition, persecution, adversity, and hardship have not damaged his trust that God will be faithful to honor his promise of life everlasting for all who believe. Even though he is physically alone in that jail cell, he feels the company of “all who have longed for his appearing” as fellow recipients of God’s grace and of that great reward, the kingdom-based inheritance that awaits anyone who has “fought the good fight” and “finished the course.”
If we believe Paul’s words about God’s promises, the same is in store for each of us at the end of our life’s journey. No matter what is happening here on earth: natural or man-made disasters, societal unrest, political divisiveness, even a health crisis of world-wide proportions, God is just; his promises are faithful and true. We can claim for ourselves Paul’s declaration in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What is to keep us, then, from joining with Paul as he proclaims “to God be the glory forever and ever”? Amen. So be it.
Thank You for the calm assurance we have in Jesus. Help us to be a non-anxious presence to those around us, shining Your light into the world around us.