Sermon: The Apostle’s Last Words
Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1-22
In this week’s study, we consider Paul’s final words to Timothy, and learn valuable lessons for our own life and ministry.
Theme: Encouragement from the Apostle
Have you ever been rejected in your efforts to share the gospel with others because the person felt you were getting too close to the sins in their life? At times I have experienced something like this. I stand here in this pulpit and I preach week after week on many different subjects. I never directly preach against something that I know is going on in somebody’s life. That’s not an effective approach, and as a matter of fact, I’m always most on guard against doing that very thing if I know of a problem going on. I’m careful not to be too specific, because I don’t want someone hearing the sermon to think I am even indirectly singling them out in public.
Nevertheless, from time to time people will come up to me and say that they are not coming back anymore because they’re disgusted that in a sermon on a certain Sunday they said I was exposing their sin. Now, again, I don’t do that kind of thing, and almost universally I never know what they were even talking about.
Sometime ago, a woman came to see me, and she was very upset with the church, the elders, and a number of other things. She said I had preached openly about something she had done. I asked her when this was, and she said it was two years before. Now I had a good memory but not that good. I asked her what it was about and she began to tell me her story. She had done something that was sinful in her own eyes, though I think as she described it to me that nobody else who observed it would have seen it in the same way. But she was so convicted by this that when she came to church two weeks after this event happened, she heard me say something that made her feel as if I had spoken publically about her particular problem. Furthermore, she was sure that we had talked over her situation in the session, and decided to make a public example of her. We had not done that, of course, but she thought we had and, consequently, left the church. 
But, you see, on a general level, that is the way people sometimes operate. When the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and applies it to someone concerning a certain matter going on in his or her life, there’s an instinctive rejection if the person does not want to be convicted. That’s why in our evangelism we turn to the God who is able to do the kind of miracle that is needed in the regeneration of a sinner. Only God can take that one who is dead in trespasses and sins and by his grace, through the ministry of the Word, bring forth new life in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Finally, I see a third encouragement here, and that is the encouragement of Paul himself. I think this encouragement comes closer to home because it is perhaps on a more practical level for us. You remember that Paul is in prison in Rome at the time he is writing this letter. He tells us in verse 10 that Demas, one of Paul’s former fellow workers, “because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.” In addition, other friends, Crescens and Titus, were apparently visiting Paul but eventually needed to leave. Luke was still with him, but his other company had gone. He wants to see Timothy, and also tells him to bring Mark because, Paul writes, “he is useful to me in my ministry” (v. 11). 
As Paul reflects on his situation, expecting to die soon, and also thinks about his service of the Lord in the past, he offers this assessment of his life and ministry: “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” (vv. 7-8).
Study Questions:

What are some different ways people respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of their sin?
What is the third encouragement Paul gives Timothy, and how is it meant as an encouragement?

Reflection: Did you ever experience rejection when trying to share the gospel with someone who did not want to hear it because it exposed their sin? How did you react to their response?
Prayer: Pray for opportunities to talk with others about Christ, and for the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and lead them to faith and repentance.

Study Questions
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