I have used this chapter more than any other chapter for funeral services. If you just block out I Timothy 4:6-8 you will find a great context for leaving people with hope for the passing of a loved one. Paul is writing and he knows that his work is close to being completed on this earth. He wants to leave a legacy behind. The legacy that he leaves behind is the fact that he has pursued his faith as his primary purpose from the time that he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Those are my words but his intent. If we can all say at the end of our lives that we have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith we will be doing well.
But there is more to this chapter than funeral cliches. At the beginning of this chapter he encourages Timothy as he spends his time in Ephesus to proclaim, be persistent, convince, rebuke, encourage. That is quite a list of admonitions to pursue. But he really wants to make sure that Timothy succeeds and doesn’t just give up the first negative pressure that he feels. At the end of the chapter he lists some people who have been a disappointment to him because they have abandoned him. He points out Demas whom he calls in love with the present world. What is especially shocking is that he calls Mark “useful” for his ministry. Do any of you remember Acts 15:36-41?
Take a little time and read it. Mark was not well liked by Paul in this Scripture. In fact, most scholars attribute the conflict between Barnabas and Paul to find its home in this Scripture and specifically in Mark. Barnabas and Mark were cousins and Paul was not happy when Mark decided to leave him and go home in Acts 13. Paul remembered that and so did not want him along in Acts 15. Barnabas protested and Paul and he split after that never to see each other again. Something has changed. Maybe it is just time which heals most wounds. But Paul wants Mark around because he is “useful”.
How many people in our lives have we either felt betrayed us or with whom we were unhappy only later to recognize that we need them? I’m grateful that I don’t have any people that I would dread to see or that I consider them as “enemies” or unlikeables in my past. I’ve been fortunate that God has blessed me with people in my life whom I was able to respect and they have been good friends. But we know that is not always the case in a church. There are sometimes events that happen that sour people on each other. The sign of a mature church, and a mature person, is that the church and the person is able to move on once the event happens and is over with. It seems as if Paul was able to move on and plant seeds all over Asia and Europe. So ends II Timothy.