"Come Before Winter”
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making
the most of your time, because the days are evil."

By Jon W. Quinn

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 8:7).

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 Timothy 4:21).

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).

“Before Winter”
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 forever.

Now is the Time
Suppose for a moment that Timothy's reaction to the letter was something like this:
“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 Timothy.

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? Paul wrote,
“For this reason it says,
"Awake, sleeper,
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
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