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Grace Notes

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“MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO COME”
by Philip Owen

We may sometimes mistakenly suppose the Apostle Paul to have been a sort of super- human being, impervious to suffering, unheeding of deprivation, and fully self-sustaining.  Such thoughts do a triple disservice:  first, to God, because He revealed that Paul would suffer great things and that He would sustain Him (Acts 9:16); second, to Paul, because His suffering was real and endured to God’s glory; third, to us, because such thoughts tend to be used to excuse our lack of faithfulness.  The truth is that Paul was very human and felt very deeply all that God had called him to endure.  The reality of Paul’s humanity is nowhere expressed more poignantly than in his second letter to Timothy.

 Paul had shared an inexpressibly deep bond with his young protégé.  In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul addressed him as “my true child in the faith” (I Tim. 1:2).  Similarly, in his second epistle, the aged apostle refers to him as “my beloved son” (II Tim. 1:2).  His exhortations, such as, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you” (I Tim. 6:20), exude a solicitous spirit; and some of his personal suggestions, for example, “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (I Tim. 5:23), reveal a tender concern for every aspect of Timothy’s wellbeing.  Once Timothy had needed Paul; now Paul needs Timothy.

The plea[s].  Some believers are too proud to acknowledge the need for help.  They will barely deign to confess their needs in private to the Lord; to admit need to other men becomes almost unthinkable.  Paul was not such a believer.  Near the end of his life and facing execution, he sends a heartfelt message to Timothy:  “Make every effort to come to me soon” (II Tim. 4:9).  The urgency and need Paul expresses are almost palpable.  This is no casual hint.  He does not leave Timothy guessing.  The words are direct and forceful; they are imperative, not because they command but because they implore—make every effort . . . come . . . to me . . . soon.   Nor does Paul stop with one request, since two paragraphs later he reiterates the entreaty:  “Make every effort to come before winter” (4:21).

The purpose.  The reasons for the requests are several. First, Paul himself is lonely and in need of the encouraging fellowship of his beloved spiritual son as is evinced by the fact that he mentions a group of men who have either deserted him or who have been sent elsewhere by him to minister.  Second, he is facing the cold of winter in a Roman prison without the cloak which he had “left at Troas with Carpus” (4:13).  Apparently, even the greatest of saints can feel the cold and want to be protected from its miseries.  Third, with his remaining time, Paul wants to read and study “books, especially the parchments” (v. 13) that Timothy has in his possession.

The point.  The greatest of God’s servants are eminently human.  They have the same needs, desires, weaknesses, pains, and burdens that we have (in some cases more so).  When they humble themselves to request aid, the request issues from genuine need.  And, yes, the greatest need that any servant of God has is the prayers of those who know him.  But the example of Paul clearly illustrates that we have the responsibility to come to the aid of our brethren (especially those who minister the Word of God to us) in practical ways.  Men of God still get holes in their roofs that need to be repaired, holes in their shoes that require replacing—we are called to help in those practical ways.  They need time for rest, relaxation, and refreshment.  They need the physical presence and fellowship of others.   Are we making every effort to serve those who serve us as well as the needy in our midst?  Christian charity puts practical demands on us all.  

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