but the Lord stood by me! and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. so i was rescued from the lion’s mouth. the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. to him be the glory forever and ever. amen.
greet prisca and aquila, and the household of onesiphorus. erastus remained at corinth, and i left trophimus, who was ill, at miletus. do your best to come before winter. eubulus sends greetings to you, as do pudens and linus and claudia and all the brothers. the Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. [2 timothy 4:17-22]
last words. last words can be empty, fear-filled, hopeless … or … they can be rich, encouraging, and powerful. it all depends on the condition of the spirit / soul in the dying person. and that condition, depends on the presence of the LORD.
this is day 131 of these “presence” writings through 2 timothy. what a journey! in a season (global pandemic) when being in each other’s presence was going to be challenging, we were seeking to remind and or awaken our souls to the one presence we truly need. we think we need so many things to have life, to change our lives, to impact other lives, and to have hope for the future.
as a pastor and friend, i have sat with many people in their last days and hours. the spirit in us tends to know if we have life. we tend to know if our life has changed. we tend to know if we have made a difference, an impact in other lives. and, we tend to know if we have hope in these last moments. i could see it in people’s eyes and i definitely could hear it in their words. where the presence of the LORD is – there is life, contentment, and hope, even in the midst of death. where the presence of the LORD is not – there is fear, regret, and hopelessness.
hear paul’s last words, read them again. he had life pulsating through every word, contentment though alone, and hope in the midst of death. we often think of paul as a super saint, much like a super-hero with super-powers. this is how we explain a man who lived the life he lived. short recap.
- he was raised very religious and became a religious leader.
- he led the systematic extermination of Christ followers for the jewish leaders in 1st century israel.
- Jesus rescued his soul on a trip to arrest and execute more Christ followers and began to transform him from a hate-filled, zealous murderer to a love-filled, passionate preacher.
- he became the first to take the gospel to non-jews and the first to plant churches outside of jerusalem.
- he travels thousands of miles, faced endless persecution, wrote most of the new testament scripture, and mentored most of the first pastors of the early church.
amazing! i know why we view him as a super-hero. in truth, he was an ordinary man, who said of himself, “i am the foremost” of sinners. (1 tim 1:15) that was not some self-deprecating statement of a man trying to pose as humble. it was truth. so how did a rescued sinner, like you and me, do all these things? there is one simple yet, disturbing answer: the LORD’s presence.
it is simple because it is simply, the LORD’s presence.
it is disturbing because, for those of us in Christ, we have the LORD’s presence as well yet, we feel so weak, so untransformed, and so un-impactful.
the only difference in paul’s life and our life, he worked and strived at … now some of you thought i was about to say he worked and strived at: being bold, engaging others, loving selflessly, giving his life away, and perfecting his teaching. i wasn’t. he didn’t work and strive at being a better Christ-follower. no. he worked and strived at … submitting his life fully to the presence of the LORD.
i have been crucified with Christ. it is no longer i who live, but Christ who lives in me. and the life i now live in the flesh i live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [gal 2:20]
be filled with the Spirit [eph 5:18]
but i say walk by the Spirit [gal 5:16]
if we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. [gal 5:25]
i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. [phil 4:13]
the simple yet profound power, impact, and endurance of paul’s life was found in his never-ending work of submitting his life to the presence of the LORD in him. the disturbing piece of this for us, is not that we don’t know how to do this, it is primarily that we don’t want to do this.
i will speak for me. i don’t want to be out of control, i am scared of what he will do. it is hard work to daily submit. my flesh is stronger than i admit. i could go on, but you get the point. hear my confession, “LORD my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.” oh, how i want to fully submit every day, every hour, and every minute and be full of the LORD’s power and presence. what do i do? what do we do?
begin with the confession above, “LORD, my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.” don’t confess that if it is not true. are you willing? do you desire this? if not, begin there. beg for God to give you the desire to fully, daily submit to the power of his presence. after the confession, submit! right now. cry out, “LORD, in this moment i bend my knee and yield my soul to your love, your rule, and your ways. i am yours. and, LORD, when i stop submitting this morning, this afternoon, call me back. i am yours.”
this is our prayer of confession and our prayer petition. and they are daily, all day. this is God’s command in ephesians 5:16, “be filled with the Spirit.” this phrase in the language of the bible is an ongoing command to all to submit to the Spirit of God.
what would happen to your life if today, if you began to submit to the LORD’s presence daily. how different could your last words be? what would happen in your family? what could happen in your neighborhood? what could God do in our church body if 50, if 100, began to fully submit to the LORD’s presence? oh, the fire that would be lit that could never be put out! will you join me?
Lord, our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. we bend our knee and submit our lives to your love, your rule, and your ways. come Holy Spirit, we submit to you!