Title: It’s A Wonderful Life
Text: 2 Tim 4.6-11
It’s a Wonderful Life! I love the movie. If you haven’t watched it yet, I hope you’ll take some time this week watching it. It is safe for the whole family. The jest of the story is about a man named George Bailey who spends his entire life trying to get out of Bedford Falls. Along the way, he helps so many people. He cares, genuinely cares for people. George Bailey is a good man. Some things go wrong for him, really, no fault of his own, but rather that of his uncle. George is now in pickle. He figures he is better off dead than alive and wishes he’d never even been born. He attempts to kill himself by jumping into a river in a snowstorm. The rest of the story is about an angel named Clarence who helps George discover how differently life would be if he had never been born. The message: you can make a difference in the lives of other people.
Our passage today is found in 2 Timothy 4. We’ll basically be looking at the entire chapter, minus the last couple of verses.
Transition: Paul’s life touched so many other lives, and yet, we find him here at the end of his life serving time in a roman Prison and reflecting on the people he has encountered in ministry. He seems a bit melancholy even as he reflects. His reflection probably begins as he thinks about his own life in comparison to young Timothy. Let me begin with some Context for us.
Context: This is Paul’s last letter. Some people believe Paul never made it out of this last imprisonment, but was subsequently put to death for his faith. Others think he did get released for a short time before his martyrdom. Either way, we find Paul at this writing nearing the end of his life. It’s his 2nd letter to Timothy, who is the pastor at Ephesus. The one message that radiates from this entire letter is how much Paul longs to see his ‘son’ in the ministry again. Rd 2 Tim 1.3-4;
A great summary is found in 1.8-14; here is what I did, you’re doing it now, do it well. rd 2.1; he calls him his child and at other times, his son. Rd 2.2; take what I’ve done with you and now pass that faith on to others to be entrusted with this precious gift called the Gospel. And that is what this letter is about – encouragement and instruction as a young pastor. So we pick up in Ch. 4.
Paul moves through five stages as he gains a perspective of his life:
Paul offers Direction for Timothy – his charge
Then he offers an evaluation on his current situation in life.
Paul then reflects briefly on his ministry – in an almost melancholy way.
Then, he petitions Timothy to come see him. We’ll see that Paul needs the encouragement.
Finally, he offers his conclusions concerning God’s faithfulness in his life.
Transition: Let’s begin with the stage…
1. His Direction for Timothy (1-5)
exp.: Rd v 1; His Charge – A Pastor:
- Preaches (2a)
- Prepares (2b)
- Persists (3-5); rd v 1-5;
Transition: this has been his life, his experience, it appears to make him consider for a moment
2. His Evaluation of his Life (6-8)
exp.: that’s stage 2 – Where he’s been, what he’s done, where he is now and what the future holds; simply put
- The Present (6)
- The Past (7)
- The Future (8); rd v 6-8;
Transition: Now, he returns to the statement he made at the beginning of his letter and he offers some final instruction for young Timothy, but it appears Paul is feeling a bit sorry for himself as he moves to stage 3 here, an reflects on his life.
3. His Reflection on Ministry (9-16)
exp.: rd v 9; Simply put: He’s lonely and hurting; being incarcerated over time has maybe taken its toll on his psyche; He needs encouragement; he longs to see the young man who will carry the torch in to the future. Why is he lonely and hurting?
- From Abandonment; rd v 10a
i. Demas; Col 4.14; Phm 24 as being a partner in ministry; but he found ministry too hard and not as rewarding as he had hoped. Maybe he thought his ministry would be in one of the larger cities in one of the larger churches; maybe even on radio and TV where the big money is. Maybe he’d write some books and make the circuit. No, instead he found himself sitting in jail or waiting in some dump for His mentor to get out of jail. People didn’t take kindly to his message and he was rejected one too many times. So down is Paul from Demas’ abandonment, he considers everyone to have abandoned him; rd v 16;
ii. All – v 16; he sounds like Elijah in 1 Kings 19.10 – He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And yet, if you read on, you see that God had hidden and protected 7000 who had not bowed their souls to Baal.
Transition: So, he felt loneliness and pain from abandonment. It looks like he felt it from…
1. From the faithful – they’ve gone to serve as God has led them. Rd v 10b-12
i. Crescens – to Galatia
ii. Titus – to Dalmatia
iii. Mark – he’s just not here! Get him and bring him here;
iv. Tychicus – is on his way to your church!
Transition: So, he felt loneliness and pain from the unfaithful who abandoned him, and from the faithful who were doing just what Paul would want them to do: they were serving; note: he says I sent them! But that doesn’t remove the loneliness or hurt. He also was lonely and hurting from…
2. From Attacks; rd v14-15;
i. Alexander, the coppersmith – Alexander is the “Mr. Potter” in our story! Paul warns Timothy about him;
app.: I have to admit that this section gets me down, too. If you think about it, you’d really have it no other way. Don’t you want your children to grow up and begin a life of their own? So, it is in the ministry. You want your children Timothy, Titus, Crescens, Mark, Tychicus, to grow up and begin doing ministry on their own, with the men they’ve entrusted the Gospel to…
Transition: But there is another part of where he is mentally, emotionally, that I want you to see; we saw it in v9; rd v 9; we see it again in v 13 and 21. I’ve labeled this stage…
4. His Petition to a friend (9, 13, 21)
exp.: 1st, I want to look at v 21;
- Be Zealous (literally) to come before winter – this places great emphasis on his loneliness and need for companionship, encouragement and the like. Be diligent to get this done! Look at some of the items he’s requested; rd v 13;
i. Bring my cloak – Cover, like a winter coat; something you might consider a blanket or Giant Shawl; a covering while traveling in the winter or a blanket to cover up with when catching some sleep.
exp.: this word cloak takes on different meanings in different translations.
There are 3 different words for cloak. It means coat, outer garment, shawl; travel coat; blanket. To further complicate our understanding of this word ‘cloak’ – the word in Eng. cloak appears some 60x’s in 58 verses of the Bible in the NIV; but only 49 x’s in 47 verses of the ESV. The NASB and HCSB both use it on 25x’s; however, this particular word cloak; φαιλόνην in v 13, it appears only this one time in the NT and not at all in the LXX.
So, we have to go to extra Biblical literature to find how it is used. When we do, we see this word used to describe a box, sometimes meaning a chest, like a treasure chest; a smaller box to hold precious items; in particular, it’s a box used to keep as a cover for books and parchments; well, look at the next two items he mentions;
ii. Bring my books – probably the books of the Bible; Lk 4.17; your probably thinking and wondering why he doesn’t already have them. Answer: dunno! However, remember where he is. If he was arrested and carried away, then he wouldn’t have been able to gather such items. John 20.30 – Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
iii. Bring my parchments – above all; probably the ‘paper’ on which he wrote letters.
app.: I think, because he says in v 21; Do your best to come before winter many put the context of the word cloak into a coat or traveling coat; I wonder if what he really is wanting is his Bible and letter writing materials kept safe in their container.
Transition: to this point, I’ve gotten pretty melancholy. I’m sad for Paul and his situation. I’m thinking that he’s very much like George Bailey. A man who has lived a wonderful life, but now finds his current situation dictating how he feels: melancholy, lonely and hurting for encouragement. Longing to hear some news about his work, the churches he has established; longing to hear from the men he’s trained and equipped to carry on his ministry – to know that they’re fighting the good fight, running a strong race, and keeping the faith.
But don’t miss what he says, and we see this in his final remarks of this passage: stage 5.
5. His Conclusion on matters: But God is Faithful (17-18)
exp.: rd v 17-18; He acknowledges that God provides, protects and pilots us into his kingdom.
- God Provides
i. Stands by
ii. Strengthens – But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
2. God Protects
i. From the Lion
ii. From every evil deed – So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed
3. God Guides – He Pilots; and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom
Transition: I wonder if the apostle George Bailey…um, the apostle Paul had an angel to show him at this sad moment in his life the impact he had had on so many people? Timothy, Titus, Crescens, Tychicus, Epahros, Luke, Mark, Barnabas, Apollos and the list goes on; look in v 19: Pricilla and Acquilla, Onesiphorus; Erastus, Trophimus, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia!
I wonder if he saw the churches affected by his ministry – Rome, Corinth, Galatia, the Lycos Valley with Colossae, Laodicea, Heiropolis, Antioch and Antioch, Lydia, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Philippi, etc. etc. etc.!
I wonder if he was able to see the affect his imprisonment would have on the me…and you. That when he had his parchments and his scrolls, he composed for us most of the NT. His imprisonment, His loneliness meant God’s word for our salvation!
God had indeed provided and protected and piloted Paul into his will to touch millions, no probably billions of people.
Transition: So, what does this mean for us today? A couple of observations…
Observations & Implications:
- Don’t let your circumstance dictate your mental state!
- You may not see it, but God is providing you the strength you need to do his work.
- He’s protecting you to the point you need for your service to him. It doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer, but rather that you’ll be put in a position for his work and his glory.
- He is piloting you through tough storms, guiding you… what does Paul say? … safely into his heavenly kingdom.
- Don’t think because you see so little, that you haven’t accomplished so much. There are little treasures you’ve deposited into people’s lives.
- You’ve planted seeds that will become plants and fruit that you may never see. Even in the most trying and difficult relationships! Remember Mark? (John Mark); Paul and Mark parted company in Acts 13 and yet, here we find at the end of Paul’s life, this one who he couldn’t tolerate to do ministry with him was indeed doing just that! And not only for Paul, but we learn even later on, that Mark was instrumental in Peter getting his story of Jesus out – it’s recorded in the Gospel of Mark.
- In the movie with George Bailey, he saves his brother’s life, who in turn saves hundreds, if not a thousand lives on a military transport ship. You just might lead one to salvation who will preach to thousands and see them come to salvation. Or they’ll serve as a missionary and plant hundreds of churches and see thousands saved.
- Never think your little ministry is too small to have an impact. That little thing you do, that you consider your little treasure chest might just be a light that shines to the world. It might look like a cover, a book or a letter to someone else, but to God – it is a tool that He can use mightily.
Let me close with 1 Cor 1.21 and following: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…