2 Timothy 4:1–8 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.2 Timothy 4:1-5
Paul offers final ministry-related instructions with a stern beginning, saying “I charge you therefore before God….” He even invokes the image of final judgement as he commands Timothy to preach the word, being ready at all times, whether convenient or not. He is to include many elements in this preaching ministry: conviction, rebuke, exhortation, longsuffering and teaching. Paul again warns Timothy of the pitfalls that await him. He will face false doctrine and those who will embrace it. The lackadaisical attitude will go so far as to see disciples longing for something new, something that tickles their ears, longing for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. They will believe fairy tales and fables, and will deny the truth they have already believed. But in the midst of this falling away and apostasy, Timothy must be willing to keep on preaching, being watchful, enduring afflictions while he continues his work of evangelism, fulfilling the ministry to which he was called.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-8
Paul enters his final words by speaking of his own situation. Perhaps this was to encourage Timothy, or at the least to prepare him for the challenges ahead. He uses the analogy of a drink offering being poured out before the altar as a sacrifice to the Lord. He intimates that he sees an end in sight to his life. His departure is at hand. He then offers what some call a valedictory speech. He engages in a bit of reflection and celebration as he sees the end of his journey on the horizon. He has fought the good fight, being a faithful and sacrificial soldier of the cross. He has finished the race, fulfilling the work to which God had called him. He has kept the faith, being true to God at all costs, pressing through all opposition with right faith, right doctrine, right belief. His writings now constitute more books than any other author in the New Testament. His faith now helps guide our faith. He looks forward to the reward that awaits him. The crown of righteousness is waiting for him in heaven. The Lord, the righteous judge, will put it on his head on the Day of his arrival home, and on all those who have loved the Lord’s appearing. Paul is ready, feels no regrets, and sees the end approaching without fear. This is the type of testimony we all should strive to leave behind when approaching the end of our lives. Let’s not lament what we did not do, but let’s celebrate the good that God did through us. That is the way to leave this world. Be Ready! The reward awaits.