Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
"When the World Lets You Down,
Look to God."
Have you ever felt alone in your faith? What (or who) gave you the power to persevere?
6 My friends, I am already being poured out like a drink offered to God. I will soon leave this life. 7 I have played the good game; I have finished the race; I have continued to trust God. 8 All that remains for me is the righteousness crown which God has set aside for me. The Lord, the just judge, will present it to me on the final day. It is not only for me, but for everyone who would love to see him appear again.
16 No one came to defend me at my first hearing. Everyone deserted me. I pray that God will not hold that against them. 17 However the Lord has been faithful and has given me the strength to convince others with my preaching and to have all the Gentiles hear the message from me. God saved me from the lion's mouth. 18 The Lord will save me from evil and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. Let all glory be his forever! Amen!
6 For I am already being poured out (as an offering to God), and the (proper) time of my departure (now) stands. 7 I have competed in the good competition, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Remaining, the wreath of righteousness is stored away for me, which the LORD will restore to me on that day, the RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, not only to me, but to everyone, the (ones) having (yearned in) love for HIS appearance.
16 No one came for me at my first defense, but everyone deserted me, may it not be reckoned against them. 17 But the LORD has stood along with me and has empowered me, so that, through me, preaching might be completely persuasive and all the Gentiles might hear it; and I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 18 The LORD will save me from all evil work and will save me into his Kingdom, the (one) in heaven. To (HIM be) the glory unto ages of ages. Amen.
4:6 "the (proper) time of my departure (now) stands" The verb "stands" is actually in the past tense ("has stood up"); has the force of the phrase "at hand" or "is now present."
4:7 "I have competed in the good competition" has been popularly translated as "I have fought the good fight." The verb and object of the sentence clearly refer to athletic competition (specifically to "struggle"), but not necessarily to contact sports.
These few verses present Paul's farewell. The author saw the walls closing in on the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was in prison and he could see the legal wheels turning toward his death. No one came to his first hearing for his defense. But, implicitly this hearing was a formality. Paul knew he would never see freedom again. And, many of his friends and co-workers had abandoned him.
"When the world lets you down, look to God." That was Paul's attitude. Earthly glory had failed, but Paul could look forward to eternal glory. God had accomplished much through the apostle. Through his efforts and the efforts of those who followed him, the Good News had been preached to the Gentiles in Greece and beyond. Christianity was no long a small movement within Judaism. It was beginning to fulfill the mission of preaching universal salvation. Paul would soon enjoy the fruits of his labors with his Savior in the heavenly Kingdom.
Many of us might have the same emotions as Paul. We might feel trapped, abandoned, and at the end of our time. While we might not be imprisoned facing death, we can gain encouragement from the words found in 2 Timothy. When we might think we are alone and without a friend, we find our true friend. When we might think our time is at an end, we will know that our time with the Lord is without end. "When the world lets you down, look to God."
How has God helped you in times of loneliness and helplessness?