2 Timothy 4

2 Timothy 4

If you were to know the end of your life on earth was very close….say, you have a terminal disease…what would you want to say about your life?  Specifically, what would you want to say about your life following Christ?

We would not want to hang our heads in shame, thinking of a lifetime of regrets.  Of the many choices we made that were not in line with the will of God.

Instead, we would want to worship God for his grace, that somehow he gave us strength to follow him, through many hardships, in spite of our own weaknesses.  It’s a difficult assignment to think about, isn’t it?

In our passage this morning, in the Apostle Paul’s final days on earth, he gives us his words in answer to that question.

We are in the last week of a series going through two letters the Apostle Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy.  This morning we will cover Chapter 4 of his 2nd letter.    

Vs. 1-8

2 Timothy 4 (CSB)

1 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of his appearing and his kingdom:

2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching.

3 For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.

4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.

5 But as for you, exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close.

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

8 There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.

Vs. 1-2

Let’s re-read vs. 1-2 because we’re going to camp on this for several minutes.

1 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of his appearing and his kingdom:

2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching.

Could there be any more solemn charge given to anyone?  In the presence of the holy God and his Son, Jesus Christ…and this Jesus is the Judge of all the earth,… this same Jesus is going to appear back on earth again soon, and he is going to set up an eternal kingdom…In light of all of this, I charge you, Timothy.  I urge you.  I command you this:  Preach the Word. Proclaim the gospel.  Speak the will of God that is laid out in the Scriptures.

Proclaim this to everyone you know.

  • Correct them when they’re off course.
  • Rebuke them when they are stubborn.
  • Encourage them with wise and loving words. 

And do all this with patience and care.  Actually, GREAT patience. 

Could Paul be any more emphatic and serious?  He was going to die soon (vs. 6), and Timothy was going to carry on the work of pastoring churches and advancing the gospel.  At the core of Timothy’s work is to “Preach the Word.”

Paul’s not trying to intimidate Timothy.  He’s not trying to guilt trip him in ministry.  Paul is simply but powerfully speaking of reality.  We’re not playing a game here.  Souls are at stake.  Paul intends Timothy and all future pastors to take this to heart.  This has inspired countless pastors over the centuries to faithfully and with sobriety preach what is in the Scriptures.  And I know it has driven me the nearly 30 years I’ve been a pastor.  God forbid I ever change course.

But it’s not hard to see how this relates to us all.  There is a Creator God whose name is Truth.  There is another world, an invisible and eternal one, that is very real.  There is a battle we’re in for souls.  We must speak the truth of God’s Word.

Why is Paul so strong here?

Vs. 3-4 tell us why.

Vs. 3-4

Paul says,  “Preach the Word” because people have a tendency to wander from truth.  From sound doctrine.  From the core truths of the gospel and the entire NT.  And they can be tempted to surround themselves with teachers who say the kinds of things they WANT to hear and neglect the things they NEED to hear.  These people once heard and knew the truth.  But over time, they preferred hearing counterfeit messages.  Myths.  Made-up things.

When our hearts are not committed to obedience to and faith in Christ, we will wander.  Guaranteed.   Do we suddenly turn from truth to lies?  I suspect rarely.  Usually it is one small step at a time, embracing one lie at a time, disobeying in so-called “small” ways that eventually lead to bigger ways.  And we entertain subtle doubts and fail to repent of our unbelief.   Eventually we have wandered completely away, and we gather more and more teachers who will say what appeals to our deceptive mind and heart. 

So Paul urges, “Speak to one another in what is true.  Preach the Word.” 

Vs. 5

Paul switches back to Timothy now.

But as for you, Timothy, here’s how you should live.”

He gives him four things:

  1. Be self-controlled in everything you do.  The word in Greek also means, “be sober-minded.”  Think clearly.  Don’t let your mind and heart become foggy due to all the distractions and pleasures of this world. 
  2. Endure hardship.  Timothy, you know quite well that you will suffer for the sake of Jesus.
  3. Do the work of an evangelist.  Speak about Jesus everywhere.
  4. Fulfill your ministry.  Stay focused on the work that God has called you to.  Don’t get distracted. 

Vs. 6

Verse 6 is sad news.  “The time of my departure is close.”

Paul’s charge to Timothy is founded in part upon his awareness that he won’t be around much longer.  So he calls Timothy to keep pressing on, doing all that Paul has taught and shown him.

Vs. 7

Verse 7 is such a sweet statement.  After 30+ years of living for Jesus, through very challenging times, and even now sitting in prison because of the gospel message, Paul says,

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

I so appreciate his words at the end of his life.  He followed Christ to the end.  He was faithful to what the Lord Jesus had called him to.

In early May, my 90-year old mother-in-law went into hospice and was just a few days away from death.  On that day, I thought of this verse.  She made it to the end.  She had walked with Christ since she was a girl– for 80 or so years.  She walked by faith to the end.  There was little flashy about her life.  No one will write a book of her exploits.  Her spiritual journey wasn’t always pretty.  She endured many hardships.  She had her sinful flaws.  But she made it.  She was a faithful Christ follower to the end.  She was a faithful wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  She was an extremely loyal friend to other godly women.  She was well-known in her church and in her town of 3000 people as a caring, serving woman.  She fought the good fight.  She finished the race.  She kept the faith. 

Next month will be 45 years since the day I bowed my heart before Jesus Christ and embraced him as Lord and Savior.  My frequent prayer back then and my frequent prayer today is that I would keep walking with Jesus until the very end.  How many more days do I have on earth?  Maybe 3 days.  Maybe 3 decades.  Whenever it comes, I want to be still walking with Jesus.

That’s my heart for all of us.  That is my prayer.  To run this marathon of life by faith in Christ to the very end.

Vs. 8

Paul’s words here in vs. 8 are so beautiful.  He made it to the end, to a large degree because he was very forward looking.  He didn’t merely look ahead a year or two or five.  He looked ahead into eternity.  Into the hope of eternal life.

Such hope is not wishful thinking.  It’s not about having an optimistic personality…a glass half-full kind of guy.  Biblical hope means having a confident expectation of good in eternity.

Paul’s words in vs. 8 tell us his hope:  In the future, the Lord Jesus Christ returning and is laying a reward out for Paul, a crown of righteousness.  Jesus, the only Judge that truly matters in our lives, is with Paul and watching him closely and is remembering all his work done by faith.  And he will richly and eternally reward this simple man for his deeds done for Jesus in faith and love. 


As we consider this passage, Paul’s words are very directly applied to pastors.  Yet it has application for all of our lives. 

Here’s the one thing I want us to go home with:

Prepare your heart to follow Christ to the end

I cannot think of a higher goal to have in your life.  Paul walked with Christ doing his will to the end of his life.  What a beautiful, noble, glorious life!  How do we do this?  Let me give you some handles on how we can participate with the Lord in this lifelong journey with Jesus.

  1. Strengthen your spiritual habits

What are the spiritual habits that God calls us to?



Fellowship.  Strong, rich biblical community. 



Solitude.  Getting alone with God to seek him.


Memorization of Scriptures.

And other such things. 

These are God’s means of grace to enable us to keep our eyes on him.  There is no formula.  There is nothing mechanical or automatic.  But as we walk in prayer, and apply ourselves to these habits, God simply works in us.    We must not attempt to walk in these things in our own strength.  That would be entirely missing the point.  We walk in these things with the strength of God.  By his power.  In his grace.  By faith.

Are your current habits solid enough to sustain and feed your soul every day?  Or are you just scraping by?  Are you starving your soul?  Are there excuses you have been using that you need to repent of?  Excuses like, “I’m too busy.  Life is too crazy.”  “I just can’t seem to find the time.”

The goal is simple:  to draw nearer to Jesus.  To know him better.  To love him more.  A word we can use is “abide.”

John 15:4–5 CSB Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.

Like a branch must stay attached to the vine, so we must cling to Jesus in order to bear the fruit he calls us to bear.

So in our preparation to walk with Jesus to the very end of our days, let us go out from here and begin today….today….to strengthen these habits, these means of God’s grace to know him and love him more and more every day until the end.

A second thing we can do to prepare our hearts to walk with Jesus to the end:

  • Walk one day at a time.

The journey is long.  I have walked with Jesus for 45 years, but it’s possible I have another 20 or 30 years left.  That’s a long time.  That seems daunting.  But let’s remember, we walk with Jesus one day at a time.   Today is Sunday.  We pray, “Lord, help me to do your will today.  Help me love you more today.  Help me to know you better today.  Help me to obey you wholeheartedly today.”

We don’t need to be overwhelmed with the years ahead.  We simply walk in faithfulness one day at a time.

A third way we can prepare our lives to walk with Jesus until the end:

  • Reflect often on the eternal.

As we strive to walk faithfully one day at a time, we do that by being long-sighted.  By looking through a telescope.  Not to the next 10 or 20 years, but to 1000 years from now.  Into eternity.  Into the glory that awaits us on the other side of life.

Vs. 8, Paul said,

There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.

Paul fought the good fight one day at a time.  And what sustained him…what gave him strength…how he found courage to persevere…was to remember the Day, the Day of Judgment, when by the grace and mercy of God, the Lord Jesus will reward him for his faithful service to him.

The biblical word for this is hope.  Real hope.  Not temporary hope like the hope of graduating from college or getting married or finally retiring.  Rather, the glorious, guaranteed, good hope of the next world. 

May we, like Paul, reflect often on our hope…on what awaits the Christ follower on the other side of life. 

A fourth way we can prepare our lives to walk with Jesus until the end:

  • Rejoice in the Lord’s loyalty to you.

If we’re honest, we know we simply don’t have the ability or strength to keep walking with Jesus to the end.  To fight the good fight.  To keep the faith.  Life can be very hard at times.  Trials.  Temptations.  Pressures.  Weaknesses. 

So we have to remember….we WANT to remember…that it is God who holds on to us.

Ephesians 4:30 says that he has sealed us with his Holy Spirit until the Day of Redemption.  What a promise of loyalty and devotion from God.  The Lord will never divorce us.  He will never leave us nor forsake us. 

Very simply, Psalm 121 says, Psalm 121:5 ESV The Lord is your keeper…. He will keep you.  He will hold on to you.

Vs. 9-22

Let’s go on to Paul’s final words to his son his faith.  He has only a few months to live.  His final words are very personal. 

9 Make every effort to come to me soon,

10 because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

11 Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.

12 I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.

13 When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, as well as the scrolls, especially the parchments.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did great harm to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works.

15 Watch out for him yourself because he strongly opposed our words.

16 At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them.

17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 

20 Erastus has remained at Corinth; I left Trophimus  sick at Miletus. 

21 Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus  greets you, as do Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.

Paul is closing his letter with some very personal notes.  He is largely alone in ministry, and he doesn’t want it to remain that way.  Twice (vs. 9 and 21), Paul pleads with Timothy to join him as soon as possible.  Some of Paul’s ministry partners have abandoned him.  Deserted him.  That would hurt.  It’s one thing in war to be shot by the enemy.  But it’s a different kind of pain to be shot by your friends. 

And then some of his ministry partners and friends have gone to other cities, apparently to help other churches.

Plus, Paul has been on trial, and not one single Christian spoke up on his behalf…I’m guessing they were afraid or ashamed to support him and the gospel message.  Is he angry and bitter?  No.  He prays for God to be gracious to them.  So Paul is more alone than he wants to be.  So he wants Timothy and Mark to join him.   He wants some good friends to be with him in these last days of his life.  And he wants to pass on his ministry to others so that the gospel will keep spreading across the world after he dies. 

What can we take from this?

Let me offer one thing we can apply from Paul’s heart here: 

Be devoted to the people of God

Very simply, Paul said,

Romans 12:10 CSB Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters.

Love your brothers and sisters in the faith like family.

Paul is obviously one of the best examples of a Jesus-follower that we will ever find.  And we might think, “Oh, he was so strong in Christ that he neither needed nor wanted others.  He was fine on his own.”

And when you take hits like Paul did, it’s tempting to give up on people.  “I’ve been deserted by some close friends.  Some of them are ashamed to associate with me.  Maybe it will be less painful to keep my distance.  Not get too close.”

Some friends of ours once had a pet.  It was an exotic bird.  The kids loved that bird, and it was the kind that should have lived several decades.  But they had some construction in their house, and some chemical fumes overcame the bird, and it died very early.  One of their young daughters cried and said, “I never want to have another pet again.”  Why not?  “Because when you love them, it hurts too much to lose them.”

That young girl has a lesson for us all:  we will love people deeply, and sometimes—hopefully not often—but sometimes we will be hurt badly by them.  And we will be tempted to pull away.  Never get close to anyone again.  But is that the alternative we truly want??  To remain guarded and closed for years…or for a lifetime??  To pull away into independence and aloneness? B To not love anyone too deeply?  To never risk loving someone again?

The Lord Jesus himself knows what it’s like to be hurt.   He knew ahead of time that one of his closest associates would betray him, leading to his death.  But he loved him anyway.  He loved him so well that none of the other 11 disciples had any clue that something was wrong with Judas. 

Our call is to imitate the Lord Jesus.  Romans 5:8 says that “while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”  At our worst moments, he loved us.  Paul had the same heart.  He loved, though he knew it would cost him.

God has designed us for a devotion to one another.   Granted, some of us (like me!) feel the need less than others, but we need one another.  It will take a determined, grace-driven loyalty over the years.

What can we do today?

  • Is there someone we can thank today, even this morning, for being such a faithful friend in Christ?
  • Is there something standing in my way with someone that is restricting genuine fellowship?
  • Are there unaddressed hurts that I need to bring before God and ask him to heal my soul?
  • Are there distractions in my life that keep me from people?
  • Are there creative ways I can interact with others more?

A couple weeks ago, we had a young couple from Stonebrook over for lunch after the service.  The husband made a comment that has been haunting me since then.  He said he refuses to constantly use YouTube to learn how to do things.  Instead, he’s determined to pick up the phone and talk to a real-live human being to get advice.  It seems like a small thing, but that simple example has inspired me to be less independent, and to find ways to interact with people more.  To love them.  To spend time with them.  To be devoted to them. 

And finally, if any of you are watching our service primarily online and not physically fellowshipping, if you are able to come, come here on Sundays.  Don’t miss unless you simply can’t.  We need you.  And you need us. 


This letter is very personal.  Paul is just a few months from the end of his life.  And he offers up one last word of encouragement.  One last urging.  One more reminder of what is truly important in life.

At the center of the bullseye for Paul is Jesus.  Who Jesus is.  What he has done.  What mission he has given us.  And he calls his son in the faith, Timothy, and be extension, he calls us…to fight the good fight.  The battle is real.  Yes, we will get shot.  But in Christ, who died but rose from the dead victoriously unto glory and honor, we will win.  Jesus is worth it.  And he will make it worth it for us.

May the Lord strengthen us together… today… to walk with him in the joy of the Lord.  All so, that at the end of our lives, we can say, and the hundreds whom we have known and loved over the years, can also say,

2 Timothy 4:7 CSB I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.