Study 10 A GREAT CHRISTIAN’S DYING TESTIMONY
PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Romans 8:28-39. Key verses: 2 Timothy 4:6-8
These three verses contain one of the greatest testimonies to Christian faith and victory in the midst of adverse circumstances and in the face of death. Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote these words to Timothy. He was weak physically, and he knew that his death would probably be an agonising one. What were his reactions in the face of this, and what kind of a testimony did Paul give? Verse 7 speaks of a victorious past, verse 6 of a peaceful present, and verse 8 of a blissful future.
1. THE BACKWARD LOOK: PAUL’S TESTIMONY WITH REGARD TO THE PAST
In verse 7 Paul described his past experiences by employing three pictures from different spheres.
- (1) As a FIGHTER. Paul pictures the Olympic Games and a wrestler engaged in a fierce contest in the public arena. With this in mind he said, “I have been in the arena for God, fighting desperately, and I have done my best!” This was a tremendous thing to say! Few people can look back and say truthfully through life they have done their best for the Lord; and notice that Paul described the fight as “the good fight” – now look up 2 Corinthians 11:23-30. However much we may be called upon to suffer for the Lord the fight is a good one because we have such a great Captain and we are fighting on the winning side.
- (2) As a RUNNER. Paul was still thinking of the Olympic Games, but he now uses the picture of the sprinter, and concerning the race he could say, “I have finished it!” – look up and compare John 17:4. The course which Paul ran was very carefully marked out, as Acts 9:15-16 assures us, and what a rough and difficult course it was! Many runners drop out before the end of the race, but Paul had grit as well as grace and kept going right to the end.
- (3) As a BELIEVER. What did Paul mean when he said, “I have kept the faith”? He meant: (1) ‘I have stood firm on the holy deposit of truth that was committed to my charge’ – look up 2 Timothy 1:13-14 and compare Jude 3. He also meant: (2) ‘I have kept the rules, I have played the game!’ As a fighter and a runner he had kept the rules of the contest. He also meant: (3) ‘I have kept my faith, my confidence. My trust in God has not wavered.’ What a tremendous testimony Paul was able to give as he looked back over his past life in the service of the Lord! But now notice he had something also to say about the present:-
2. THE UPWARD LOOK: PAUL’S TESTIMONY WITH REGARD TO THE PRESENT
We have this in verse 6. Paul was always ready – ready to preach and to suffer, to teach and to travel, and even ready to die. Literally the words of verse 6 should read: “I am being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has arrived.” These words tell us two things:-
- (1) Paul’s view of LIFE. Every Roman meal ended with a kind of sacrifice. A cup of wine was poured out to the gods as an offering. “Now,” says Paul, “my life is being poured out in continual sacrifice to my God.” This view of life transforms trouble and imparts endurance. Paul’s whole life had been given to God as an offering, and it had been poured out in His service. Whatever suffering He had permitted was for his sanctification and for the spread of the Gospel – and that was all that mattered! Is your life a living sacrifice (look up Romans 12:1), and are you content that it should be poured out in service and perhaps in suffering for the Lord?
- (2) Paul’s view of DEATH. What is death for the Christian? It is a departure – not a departure into the dark but into the light; not a departure to Purgatory, for there is no Purgatory for the believer; not a departure to an unknown destination, but a departure to Heaven to be with the Lord – look up 2 Corinthians 5:8 and compare Philippians 1:21-24. The word ‘departure’ means ‘unloosing’. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 we read that we are in this earthly body longing for the time when we shall be released, or unloosed, and clothed upon with our new body.
Canon G.H. King has pointed out that this word ‘departure’ is (1) a prisoner’s word, indicating release from bondage; (2) a farmer’s word, suggesting the unyoking of an ox when the day’s work is done; (3) a warrior’s word, signifying the pulling up of the tent pegs so the victorious army may march home; (4) a seaman’s word, picturing the unmooring of a ship after it has been tied up in harbour; and (5) a philosopher’s word, suggesting the unravelling of knotty problems.
With this in mind, do you wonder that Paul said – look up Philippians 1:21? and that the Apostle John said – look up Revelation 14:12? and that the Lord says – look up Psalm 116:15?
Have you this upward look of quiet confidence in the Lord? Finally notice:-
3. THE FORWARD LOOK: PAUL’S TESTIMONY WITH REGARD TO THE FUTURE
In verse 8 Paul confidently looked ahead, and if you are a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ you can do the same. But if you say that you are not as great as Paul was, then notice how verse 8 ends, and in particular the little word ‘all’. Every believer may have this three-fold confidence:-
- (1) Absolute confidence in THE LIFE TO COME. Read verse 8 again. For the Christian, death does not end all, for there is a glorious assurance!
- (2) Absolute confidence in THE RETURN OF CHRIST. The last two words in verse 8 declare this, and the hope of Christ’s return was the constant inspiration of Paul. It was to him a purifying hope (1 John 3:3) and a sustaining hope (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
- (3) Absolute confidence in THE DAY OF REWARD. The reference here is to the laurel wreath which was given to the winner of the Grecian Games, and although Paul suffered tremendously in the service of the Lord, one day he would be rewarded – look up 1 Peter 5:4 and Revelation 22:14.
Will you seek grace from God to make Paul’s testimony your testimony?