Rich is a word often used and associated with material wealth. We hear about the Fortune 500—a list of the 500 richest companies in America. Then there is the Forbes 400—a list of the richest people in America. And on it goes.
But, of course, rich can be used in other ways. Nutritionists speak of foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients (while the rest of us tend to think of foods that are rich in calories).
When we come to God’s word—we experience richness at a completely different level. We’re no longer talking about taste buds or bank accounts, but something that addresses the spiritual dimension of our lives. This is what Jesus was referring to when He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:10). Bread nourishes us physically, but it is only God’s word that touches the eternal.
As we read through that word, there are passages that are the richest of the rich as they resonate with people of all ages and circumstances. David’s words in Psalm 23 or Paul’s hymn about love in 1 Corinthians 13 belong in this category. Though it is not as well known, I think 2 Timothy 4 deserves a place on that list as well.
There are a few elements that contribute to the depth and meaning of this chapter. First, it contains the last recorded words of Paul. They are made even more meaningful because he wasn’t going to live another decade or two, his death was imminent, and he knew it. In this context we see his humanity and faith on full display as he writes his final words to Timothy.
Here are a few threads from this chapter:
Paul speaks of Timothy coming to him quickly (v. 9), before winter (v. 21). He has already spoken of the time of his departure (death) being near (v. 6), so there is a poignancy to his words—he desires to see his spiritual son one more time.
Then there’s the fact that only Luke is with him (v. 11). Paul is squirreled away in a cold, dark dungeon in Rome (1:16-18). Demas has deserted him (4:10), while others are away on missions. Paul had a previous trial where “no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (v. 16). But he quickly adds, “May it not be held against them.” All of this paints a picture of a man who is facing a difficult end with very little personal support but a heart full of grace.
Why? He has an unshakeable confidence that “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom” (v. 18). In the context, Paul doesn’t expect the Lord to save him from execution, so that’s not what he’s praying about. He’s asking God to “deliver him from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), and he fully expects God to do just that.
There’s more—there is his warning to Timothy about an enemy of the cross named Alexander (v. 14-15), his commission to Timothy to not only “preach the word,” but also to “keep your head in all situations” (v. 2,5), and the “crown of righteousness” that awaits him and all who have “longed for” Jesus’ appearing (v. 8).
Make no mistake—there’s real treasure here!