Famous Last Worship
We’ve all heard of some “famous last words” uttered in the final moments of life. Here are a few I found recently:
- On his deathbed, the famous actor Humphrey Bogart uttered these final reflections: “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.” Profound.
- James French, a convicted murderer, was sentenced to the electric chair. He shouted these words to members of the press who were there to witness his execution: “ Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries!’”
- James Rodges, a convicted murderer, on being asked for a final request before a firing squad: “Why, yes! A bulletproof vest.”
- Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa said as he expired, “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something…”
Paul’s Final Reflections
At the end of his fruitful and influential life the Apostle Paul wrote some final reflections. Under the shadow of the axe that would soon cut off his head, he penned the book of 2 Timothy to his “son in the faith”. In the final chapter of the book, most of his final reflections are about people. As John MacArthur notes, “He’s like an old coach turning over his team to a young coach who wants the young coach to know where everybody plays so he can step in as the team leader with a minimum of trauma and difficulty.” [i]
Paul writes of some whom he hoped would come quickly to see him before his death. He sends simple greetings to some beloved friends and co-workers. He sends other greetings to Timothy from those who were with Paul in Rome. He writes specifically of some that had wounded, disappointed, and deserted him. What is on his mind is people because they are our ultimate trophies in ministry. Relationships are vital and mark us deeply, for pleasure and for pain, even to the final moments of life.
Paul’s Famous Last Worship
Then, with the last stream of ink he would ever utilize, Paul turns his thoughts to the Lord and his heart toward heaven. He writes,
“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:17-18).
I call this Paul’s “famous last worship” and I pray it will encourage your heart as you reflect with me.
Standing and Strong
Paul gave praise to the Lord as he wrote, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” Even though his friends and colleagues had deserted him when he stood trial for his faith, Paul had a clear sense that the Lord stood beside him, pouring supernatural power into his life. He personally experienced the truths of Hebrews 13:5-6, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
When has the Lord stood with you as you encountered storms, trials, and disappointments? How has the Lord strengthened you when you were weak, weary, and wondering if you could go on? Take time, even now, to praise the Lord who has stood with you and strengthened you. Thank Him for how He is doing so right now.
Working in Us to Work Through Us
Paul gives praise to God for His noble purposes in and through Paul. He writes, “So that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished.” Suffering without purpose is agonizing beyond description. Suffering for a glorious cause is empowering. Even in the shadow of death, Paul was grateful that the Lord had worked in him and used him, especially in times of trial, to manifest the message of the Gospel.
Take time today to ask the Lord to work powerfully in your life by His Gospel and through the treasures of His word. Confess anything that hinders the work of His truth and invite Him to cause His word to flourish in you so it might bear fruit through you, especially during difficult times.
For the Sake of Others
In his final days, God gave Paul grace to look beyond his own pain and misery to focus his energies on the needs of others, especially those who had not heard the Gospel message. Paul writes, “And that all the Gentiles might hear.” Until his dying breath, Paul’s heart was driven to share Christ with others, which kept his heart focused in a Christward direction and experiencing the positive benefit of a selfless life.
Today, even in the midst of our problems, we must remember those who are lost and living without our Christ. Their needs and miseries are so much greater than ours. We always have a noble task and a reason to live as we focus on the Gospel.
In these final expressions of worship, Paul looked backward and forward in worship of His Savior who was the great Deliverer. He wrote, “And I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed.” His Lord had powerfully rescued him from the attacks of Satan, persecutors, and accusers. Paul knew Christ was still able to deliver him from EVERY evil deed.
Regardless of your present problems, take a moment to worship the Lord because “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Thank Him for specific deliverance in the past. Praise Him in advance for how He will deliver you today and in the days to come.
While the Christian life is not always easy, Paul praised the Lord because it is always worth it. Our destiny is fixed and our reward is sure. Paul writes that the Lord “will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.” We are indestructible until we have finished the work to which God has called us. When our work is finished, we will be graciously beckoned home to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Think of what it will be like when you are delivered safely to His heavenly kingdom. Praise Him for the joyful worship, the faithful reward, the eternal reunions, and the joy of His presence – FOREVER!
All for His Glory
Paul’s final praise reflects the ultimate purpose of every life. “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is the ultimate aim of all creation, and of every moment, experience, and effort of our lives.
Let Paul’s famous last worship become your worship today. The Lord stands by you and strengthens you. Praise Him. He works in you to proclaim the Gospel. Praise Him. He works in you to use you to reach those who do not know Christ. Praise Him. He has faithfully delivered you and will deliver you. Praise Him. He will bring you safely to His presence in heaven. Praise Him. It is all ultimately for His glory – now and forever. Praise Him!
[i] John F. MacArthur, Friends and Foes (preached March 13, 1988); http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/55-27/friends-and-foes
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.