It is an interesting contrast. There were two great men that did much to
mold history, but with completely different philosophies and approaches.
They both ended up as prisoners, one exiled on the island of Elba and the
other imprisoned at Rome. One was imprisoned because the world could have no
peace as long as he was free. The other sought to give the world peace in
spite of tremendous opposition to his efforts. One destroyed homes, cities
and nations, and the other blessed and cheered the world, sacrificing all to
bring the good news to the nations. One shed much blood as he sought his own
glory. The other shed his own blood as he labored to bring glory to God.
The first said “I love nobody - not even my own brothers.” Near the end of
his life in prison he wrote, “I wonder if anyone in the world really loves
me.” The second loved all and was deeply loved by many. He inspired love in
others. He wrote, “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and
utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired
in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also.” (2 Corinthians
The first prisoner was Napoleon who sought to conquer the world by sword.
The second was the apostle Paul, who sought to conquer the hearts of men and
women everywhere through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When a man reaches the end of his life on earth, it is certainly good to
have a few friends upon whom he can count without question. Napoleon had
none. Paul had many, but three stand out. There is Jesus who stood by Paul
(2 Timothy 4:17; Hebrews 13:5,6). There is Luke who would remain with Paul
in spite of danger (2 Timothy 4:11; Colossians 4:14). And, there is Timothy,
Paul's “son in the gospel.” It is to Timothy that Paul the prisoner writes
his last letter. In it, he asks Timothy to “Make every effort to come to me
soon; “ (2 Timothy 4:9) and “Make every effort to come before winter.” (2
The Prisoner's Circumstances
This final letter of Paul's which was written in Rome was sent to Timothy.
We refer to it as Second Timothy. Paul was a prisoner for a second time in
Rome, and he would shortly be executed, and he seemed to know it. The
conditions of his second and final Roman imprisonment are vastly different
from the first. In the first imprisonment Paul had been under “house arrest”
and could receive guests and live in relative comfort in his own rented
house. He was not under any immediate threat of death and, in fact, was
there partly for his own protection. But this second imprisonment saw Paul
put into a jail, facing death, and it was dangerous to visit him. Many of
Paul's friends were engaged in preaching and teaching work elsewhere-Cescens
was in Galatia, Titus in Dalmatia, Tychicus at Ephesus and Erastus at
Corinth. Trophimus was very ill at Miletus. Demas, loving this present
world, had given up and forsaken Paul.
But Paul is Paul. In spite of circumstances he was going to make the most of
every opportunity and preach the gospel. He asked Timothy to come, and to
bring his cloak he had left at Troas. Winter was coming and, should he live
until then, the cloak would help him be warm. He also requested that Timothy
bring the books and parchments upon which he could write (2 Timothy 4:13).
Paul wanted Timothy to “make every effort” to come before winter. Navigation
on the Mediterranean Sea was tremendously hazardous during the winter
months, and would seldom occur at all. Three winters before, Paul had been
taken to Rome as a prisoner on a ship that attempted to make the journey too
late in the year and had ended up shipwrecked. Timothy would have to “come
before winter” or wait until spring.
Also, Paul's days were numbered. Paul may not be alive in the spring. As he
had put it, “The time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy 4:6). He knew
it wouldn't be long.
Did Timothy make it to Paul's side before winter? We'd like to think he did
- so he could be a comfort and strength to his friend and mentor. It would
mean that he would have to make arrangements without delay. If Timothy did
not act quickly, the opportunity would pass.
There are lots of things that work that way. There are opportunities today
to serve God that will not exist tomorrow. Sometimes doors close and
opportunities are lost forever. Do not put off until tomorrow what should be
done today! For example, on letting Jesus into our hearts and lives as Lord.
He said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice
and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he
with Me.” (Revelation 3:20). This is an opportunity that will not least
Now is the Time
Suppose for a moment that Timothy's reaction to the letter was something
“Yes, I shall go to Rome soon, as soon as I tie up some lose ends. I have a
lot going on, too many irons in the fire, so I have to take care of some
things first. It won't take real long…”
Perhaps Timothy would have been real close to catching that last ship for
Rome. Perhaps he could even see its sail disappear over the horizon as he
arrived at the docks. Perhaps he would be very upset and embarrassed that he
missed the boat. Perhaps he would attempt to rectify the situation by taking
the very first boat to sail in the Spring, arriving early just to make sure.
Perhaps, upon his arrival at Rome he would find that cloakless Paul had been
executed in the cold winter wondering what had happened to his friend
Well, again, I'd like to think Timothy made the trip. But opportunities do
sometimes fly away. Using our lives in the service of Jesus is like that.
Whatever we could have done yesterday is past. What will we do with today?
- “For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the
most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but
understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17).
It is much like Paul's request to Timothy. Jesus calls us to come to Him and
be His disciples daily. We ought not treat Jesus' call with any less urgency
than Timothy should have treated Paul's request.
Jesus calls. Will we respond and go to Him “before winter” ?
From The Bradley Banner 6/22/2008
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway