Paul: The Prisoner Facing His End
PAUL: THE PRISONER FACING HIS END
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, 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 also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV)
Let’s face it. Death will come to us all in due season. That’s the bad news. However, the good news is: there is hope. There is a better way.
This dynamic of bad news and good news is perfectly captured in one of the Apostle’s theology in life when he said, “For the wages of sin is death [bad news], but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” [good news] (Romans 6:23 NIV).
The moment you have a better and whole picture of life, you have a better way of living. People who have a negative image of life develop the attitude filled with indifference, criticisms, emptiness, hopelessness, among many. However, the people who see the beauty of life as a gift from God, they find grace, forgiveness, hope, and the fullness of life.
In our series of messages on Living Like Paul, it shows us important principles: • Life is a journey. Paul started as mad-terrorist against the church into a missionary of Christ. • Leadership is a process. Paul begun as a persecutor and became a preacher. • Living is more than just existing. Paul’s life shows us there is more to life than just going to school and be educated, working and making money, going through the challenges and winning, and the like. There is higher purpose for everything.
I hope that when you listened to all the messages, you’ve been looking for answers in your life with these major questions: • Why am I here? • Who do I really want to be in life? • What am I going to do in this life? • What must I to have in this life?
The truth is we are not like Paul in all aspects. Why and how? The fact is, not all of us have the same experiences and personality like him. We do not have the same culture, only similarities. In many ways, not all can duplicate everything in his Christian experiences and have every spiritual gift he possessed. Obviously, there are limitations.
However, living like Paul is a model for us. It simply means living like him has something to do with the principles and the absolute truths as our common grounds. These truths made him who he is and what he does.
What are some of the examples of these? It’s basically our faith. We have one God, one Lord, one Savior, one Spirit, one Scripture, one Gospel message, one salvation, one baptism, one church, one mission, one eternal destiny, one ultimate purpose, and many others.
When everything has been said and done, the three (3) important laws of life remains the same.
I. THE LAW OF READINESS
This law of life is summarized this way: The person who wants to live to the fullest must expect and be ready to risk his life.
The reality of life is this: we all die. So, the question is not whether I will live or die. That’s not the point. Rather, the question is: do I have something to live for--and when it demands my life, am I ready to fight or even die for it.
The book of 2 Timothy is probably the last epistle Paul wrote in prison to his disciple, Timothy. This is like his “valedictory address,” last will-andtestament, or monumental epitaph before he dies as a martyr of Christ. And we all know how important the last words of a dying person are.
Paul realized this. "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near" (v.6). This is a courageous realization of a life lived in the face of death.
A. The Picture of the Drink Offering:
What's the meaning of "drink offering"?
It is a form of an OT sacrifice where the devotee is offering wine as supplemental to other sacrifices (Num. 15). However, this sacrifice is to be made only in the Promised Land. This very familiar sacrificial offering for the Jews shows life passing from one cup to the altar.
The wine symbolizes the blood—as also in the case of the Lord’s Supper—and it implies a bloody means of death. However, the verse indicates that the painful process of Paul’s suffering is ongoing. It could mean he was “already being” brutally tortured while he was in the Roman prison waiting for the final verdict.
B. The Portrait of Departure:
Why would Paul say that his time of "departure is near"?
Here is the picture. When I was a kid, I love taking a journey by ship. As a boy, I used to watch on the side when the big ropes were loosened at the port, and you hear the big chains of the anchor being lifted underneath. The moment you see those men lift those cables, you know the vessel’s departure into the deep is near. That’s one of the portraits that Paul wants his readers to see.
Both pictures tell the same thing: the reality of death is coming anytime, and he is aware of it. The question is this: if you are in a life-and-death situation, are you ready for it?
In my personal journey, the day I remember why I took life seriously was when I saw someone dying beside me. The woman struggled to hold on for the breath of life and died in just few minutes. It was the time reality just blew out in my face. Right there and then I was convicted with this life lesson: When people stand in the face of death, then, they'll realize what really matters in life. These questions came to me. • Am I going to live my life for nothing or waste it for something that don’t last? • Am I ready to face God this way? • Do I need help to change my ways?
The fact that I could die anytime, anywhere, and anyhow made me reconsider how I should live my life in this world. Either I would live for God or for myself; or live with a mission or without direction. There must be something better in life than just waiting for heaven.
I also know of a loved one. When he was diagnosed with cancer and was really in pain, when he saw his family’s concern, he assured them, “No matter what will happen, I’m ready. I’ve accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior and if I die, I’ll be with Him.” Indeed, when people stand in the face of death, then, they'll realize what really matters in life.
In the same way, Paul saw that his time is near. But one thing that does not surprise anyone is when you expect what’s expected and you get ready for it. The rule of thumb in the law of readiness is that you must live your life believing you’re going to live longer. But you must also realize that you need to live as if this is your last. Make the best out of it.
Ask yourself: Am I wasting my life on anything that do not matter to eternity? Am I ready when my time has come to face God and give account to Him for all the things I’ve done?
II. THE LAW OF RESOLUTION
What usually comes to your mind when you think of “dying words”? And were you wondering why those who are ready to go, they usually write those words down?)
Paul wrote his epitaph, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (v.7)
Let’s try something different for our own sake by putting these into some questions and we’ll think for a moment.
• Have I fought the good fight?
o Do you really know what you’re fighting? Are those things worth fighting and dying for? I believe, a person who has nothing good to fight for has nothing good to live for. Are you willing to go to prison (like Paul) for what you believe is true? • Have I finished the race? o A lot of people are just good in starting, but not finishing. But whether we like this or not, as Jesus followers, we are in a spiritual race. Only, it’s not about who goes first, but who will finish. God did not promise that it would be easy. • Have I kept the faith? o In this spiritual race, do you run with faith? Are you paying attention to God’s absolute truth and the faithful teachings of the Word of God? It’s more than just keeping the faith but also obeying it. In fact, in the Last Days, many will leave the faith.
The law of resolution is very important to live right with God and as a follower of Jesus. The law of resolution means in this life you must commit to Christ and His cause, persevere to finish what you started, and be determined to be faithful to the end.
While the believers might look at Paul’s suffering as a negative experience, a discouragement or frustrating situation that they cannot reconcile with what they expect, Paul shows them his commitment to Christ and assures them that it was a good fight.
Look at your life today. Let’s ask ourselves. Is this the life I really wanted? Is this something I’m willing to fight and die for? Is this something I want to finish for God’s glory? Take your faith seriously or God will not take our faith seriously.
III. THE LAW OF REWARD
This law is a basic principle in life. The law of reward says for every work we do, there is a return. When one works, the person is rewarded with something of value, like money, commission, bonus, perks. etc. The same is true when one trains and joins a sport, the person receives a prize, recognition, awards, etc. There is nothing wrong with these, but when it becomes an end, that’s where the problem comes in. What concerns me the most is when I see people going through the rat race, climbing the wrong ladder and losing their life purpose. The moment one trades his life purpose with paycheck and live as if that’s what really matter in this life, we would see a lot of people gathering “dusts of heaven.” There’s more to life than just working our self to death. Just like Paul, don’t just work for earthly rewards.
Paul sees the future, "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 also to all who have longed for his appearing." (v.8)
The Bible teaches that there are heavenly rewards prepared for a specific group of godly people who decisively or consistently do something for God. Here are the examples:
• The Hopeful’s Crown of Righteousness for faithfully waiting the Lord’s coming - "…the crown of righteousness, which the Lord…will award to me on that day—and…to all who have longed for his appearing." (1 Timothy 4:8) • The Everlasting Crown for living with self-discipline - "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever [imperishable]." (1 Corinthians 9:25) • The Soul Winners/Disciple Makers’ Crown for witnessing and discipleship - "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown [of joy or rejoicing] in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19) • The Faithful’s Crown of Life for loving God - "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12) • The Shepherd’s Crown for leading God’s people - "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:4) • The Victor’s Crown for giving one’s life for the Lord and others - "...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown." (Revelation 2:10)
I firmly believe that these are literal rewards that God prepared for those who are prepared to be rewarded. God is not unjust to withhold what you deserve to receive as a reward. But you have to be committed to Christ and be ready when he appears. Jesus said, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown." (Revelation 3:11)
Is your career rewarding? Do you see the eternal value of what you’re doing now? Are you prepared to meet your God anytime? We’d better be.
Let us not work for earthly rewards only, but above all, let’s do the works of God and receive eternal rewards. Don’t live your lives with eternal regrets. Let’s become better, do better, and have better for God’s glory.
August 26, 2018 Dr. Glenn Plastina