Lessons in Living from a Dying Man…

The following is the text of my message on Sunday, December 29, 2019. This is not a transcript. The link to the audio message is below.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/426/2376959-lessons-in-living-from-a-dying-man

MESSAGE PREACHED AT GRACE FELLOWSHIP ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 29

This afternoon, I have the honor of presiding over the memorial service for Harry Michael. Harry served in ministry for 45 of his 81 years. In that time, he made an impact on so many lives, but there were a few men into whom he poured his life and wisdom. As I consider Harry’s life, I thought about how Paul made a big impact on so many people but also spend time developing leaders who would step up to take his place.

Paul knew that his life had an expiration date. He had no delusion that he would somehow be spared the fate that comes to all of us. In fact, he knew that he was a marked man. His unyielding commitment to the gospel of Jesus had gotten him arrested and beaten time and again. He lived with an urgency…
– to share the gospel,
– to plant and grow churches, and
– to raise up a new generation who would carry on the task when he was gone.

For instance, let’s look together at a letter he wrote to Timothy – 

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 also to all who have loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:1-8, ESV)

The charge that Paul gives Timothy is based on two things –
(1) The importance of the task
(2) The certainty of his departure

I want to spend most of my time focusing on Paul’s view of his departure, but let me take a minute or two to consider the importance of the charge Paul gives to Timothy:

– Paul charges Timothy with a charge to proclaim the word.
– The charge is carried out before the eyes of God. This isn’t a threat; it’s a promise.
– The charge is centered on God’s Word not human opinion.
– The charge is to be ready at all times to communicate God’s truth.
– The charge would require incredible patience. (example of William Carey who worked for 7 years in India before seeing his first convert to the Christian faith)
– The charge to preach God’s truth would not be accepted by everyone; in fact, it will be vehemently rejected.
– The charge would require perseverance in the face of incredible suffering.

Paul wrote these words to Timothy from prison in Rome. This was not Paul’s first arrest in Rome, but this time was different. During his first Roman imprisonment, Paul was under house arrest in a rented house, but when he wrote this second letter to Timothy he was chained up in a cold dungeon. His words reveal that he did not expect to be released. Paul’s life and ministry were coming to a close.

And he was right. Shortly after writing this letter, he was beheaded as a follower of Jesus. Let’s take a closer look at what he writes. Perhaps considering Paul’s approach to dying can help us learn better how to live.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 

Paul understands that death is at hand.

Poured out as a drink offering – One of the offerings presented to the Lord by the Jewish people was to pour out a cup of wine at the altar. All the wine would be poured out. Paul said the pouring was already taking place. He knew the end was getting nearer.

Paul might also have a Roman custom in mind. At the end of a Roman dinner, a final cup of wine would be poured out as a sacrifice to the Roman gods. It signified the meal was done.

Either way, Paul is expressing his confidence that he didn’t have long left on this earth.

Time of departure is at hand – The Greek word for departure can mean to loose or unyoke an animal like an ox. The ox might plow all day, but at the end of the day the yoke would be taken from its neck, and it could rest. This may be the picture Paul had in mind as he considered the conclusion of his earthly life. His work was nearly done. It was time for rest.

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 

Paul expressed his confidence in a life well-lived for Christ.

Each of these expressions are tied to the Olympic style games that were played.

Fought the good fight – This has the meaning of competing or struggling with an adversary or compete for a prize. Paul says he gave it all he had.

Finished the race – Paul ran the course set out before him to completion. He didn’t quit along the way.

Kept the faith – Each athlete swore to compete by the rules, that they wouldn’t cheat or take short cuts. Paul had stayed true to his calling.

8 Henceforth there is laid up 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 also to all who have loved his appearing.

Paul was certain of what awaited him at life’s end for himself and all believers.

Paul was confident that a reward was waiting for him upon his exit from this life. He calls it the crown of righteousness.

Based on his alusion of athletic contests, the crown Paul likely had in mind was the laurel wreath given to the winner of a race – similar to the gold medals given today. The crown will be given by the Lord who is the righteous Judge. And notice – Paul did not say he’s getting the victor’s crown because he has been a better Christian than everybody else. This award is not only for him but for everyone who is looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.

Other than information, what do we find here that we can apply to our lives?
– We are to live knowing that life is short. (Carley McCord, 30)
– We are to give our best effort as we live for Christ each day.
– We can live with confidence that Jesus waits for us at the finish line.

IMPORTANT REMINDER – We don’t gain the crown by our own efforts. The crown is won for us by Jesus. Even so, we are called to run the race with faithfulness, giving our all, knowing that Jesus waits for us to fall into His arms at the finish line.

As we come to the end of 2019, let us evaluate our lives.

Do we truly realize that this day could be our last?

Are we giving God our best each day or just coasting?

Do we have absolute confidence that we will be among those welcomed by Jesus at life’s finish line?

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