After my children left the nest I often wondered if I’d taught them everything they needed to know.
I’d be jarred from my sleep and wonder, did I teach my children how to remove stains from clothes? Does John know how important sunscreen is? Do they lock their cars?
I feared I’d shirked my mom duties. Did they know to write thank you notes? Fear crept in; did they look both ways at intersections? Do they floss? When Katherine noticed wisteria blooming, (and I didn’t think she knew what it was) it dawned on me that my kids have learned a lot of things even without me.
While our factoids and wisdom have inherent value; some advice is far more crucial than laundry and sunscreen.
If you had one last opportunity to speak to your kids, what would be the crux of your conversation? Many years ago, the apostle Paul faced that dilemma as he neared the end of his life.
Imagine Paul in a dank, dark Roman jail cell as he writes his last letter to Timothy, who was like a son to him. The end of Paul’s life was imminent; very soon his head would be severed from his body. Roman authorities attempted to put an end to the viral message of Jesus Christ, but imprisonment or chains would never deter the spread of the Good News.
Paul’s last words to his spiritual son are recorded for us in the book of Second Timothy. Below are some paraphrased highlights.
I’m thankful for you and love you more than you’ll ever know; being with you brings me such joy. I pray for you all the time.
You have a strong godly heritage; you’ve stayed true to your family’s faith. You’ve been a good student and have emulated my good habits (hopefully not my bad ones) and shared my purpose. You’ve watched me as I’ve navigated difficulty and learned to love others.
I believe in you and I know, with God’s power you’ll continue to live a holy life and walk in your unique path.
Keep using and stirring up those specific spiritual gifts you’ve received from the Lord. God has given you a sound mind, not a spirit of fear.
Never be ashamed of Jesus! His resurrection gives us life.
Don’t be afraid to experience hardship, as faithfulness to the gospel may require. Be strong in the grace Jesus gives.
Remember the good principles I’ve taught you over the years and pass them on to other people as sound and healthy teaching, so that they will in turn teach others the truth of Jesus.
God has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of anything good we’ve done but because of his own intention and because before time existed He gave us this grace in Jesus the Liberating King.
Remember, don’t bicker over trivial things. Don’t split hairs. Stay away from ungodly babbling. It only leads to ungodly lifestyles. Excuse yourself from conversations that are foolish and uninformed debates. They provoke fights.
There will be people who act and look like godly people, but don’t be fooled by them. They are haters of good and they’ll turn from the truth.
A time will come when some will no longer tolerate sound teaching. Instead, they will live by their own desires; they’ll scratch their itching ears by surrounding themselves with teachers who approve of their lifestyles and tell them what they want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3
Chase after these things:
Study God’s word continually.
Stick to what you’ve known since you were a child—people you know and trust have taught you the holy scriptures.
All scripture is God-breathed; in its inspired voice, we hear useful teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction and training for a life that is right so that God’s people may be up to the task ahead and have all they need to accomplish every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16
Your life is a reflection of God’s love to the people around you.
Be gentle, no matter who you are dealing with, ready and able to teach, tolerant without resentment, gently instructing those who stand against you. Our hope is for all to come to a change of heart.
Preach the word! Go whether it’s an opportune time or not. Reprove warn & encourage but do so with all the patience and instruction needed to fulfill your calling. Stay focused and be alert at all times.
Paul’s words to Timothy help assuage my middle-of-the-night worries about little things I may not have adequately taught my kids, and I’m reminded to focus on those things now that have more lasting value.
In closing, Paul says,
I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing. I look forward to what’s in store for me: a crown of righteousness that the Lord—the always right and just judge–will give me that day. It’s almost time for me to leave…I look forward to my crown of righteousness that the Lord will give me on that day (but it is not only for me, but for all those who love and long for His appearing). 2 Timothy 4:7-8