Deuteronomy 10: 12-22  

Psalm 34 2  

Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18  

St. Luke 18: 9-14  

“On Death Row”  

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.  

With Veterans Day just a couple of days ago, this sermon might feel a little  odd because it connects more with Memorial Day. To be more accurate,  this sermon connects more with martyrdom. You see, the second lesson is  not a letter from Timothy, but rather to Timothy from Paul, and this letter is  one of his last letters, if not the last letter, before his execution. During  those days most of the disciples and apostles suffered the similar fate of  execution. You have Steven in Acts, you have St Peter, and you have St  Paul, to name a view. So when you read 2 Timothy, read it from the lens of  a man who knows he is about to die.  

Paul has come a long way since the day he orchestrated the death of  Steven in Acts. The first Christ martyr was killed at the hands of then Saul  now Paul. If there was anything Paul should have been ashamed of, it was  the life he lived before Christ. He was the chief of sinners and the worst of  persecutors at the time. Yet through the glory and mercy of Christ who  presented himself to Saul, he was saved and renamed Paul. Since the  fateful day when Christ blinded Paul, he had been on a very long journey.  After he professed his faith in the one and only true Savior, he went out into  the world no longer the worst of persecutors but instead one of the most  influential of God’s chosen.  

It’s interesting that the fate Paul once dealt before he was saved had gone  around and circled back to him as faced a similar fate. Paul in his youth  was on a hell bent mission to execute the Jews who had joined the  “heretical Jewish cult,” known as Christianity. Paul in his elder years was to  be executed for just that. So before he departed this world for the crime of  being a Christian, he had a few last words he wished to pass on to his  protégé Timothy. 

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”  Paul had been put to the test multiple times on account of his new found  faith. Those he once persecuted had trouble accepting him as one of their  own, an enemy turned brother. Those he once worked with saw him as a  traitor. The governments of the world targeted him multiple times, and  continue to do so even today. Even the sins that haunted him from his past  test him. Being a Christian is not an easy thing, for some every day brings  a new trial. Yet Paul did not give in and was capable of keeping his faith to  the end of this treacherous journey called life.  

“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the  Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me  but also to all who have loved his appearing.” No matter what life threw at  him, his eyes remained on Jesus Christ his Savior; for he knew that Christ  had prepared for him a place in Heaven, not on account of his actions, but  solely because he had faith in Jesus Christ. Upon his death, Paul was  awarded by the Lord a righteous crown. A wreath of 3 salvation was placed  upon Paul’s head as he walked through the gates of Heaven. This crown is  not for Paul alone, but for all whose faith in Christ remains to the very end.  For all who die with faith will be crowned in Jesus’ righteousness, washed  forevermore from sin’s demise, and be made kings and queens. Here on  earth, as Christians, we have a mighty inheritance promised to us on  account of our adoption through baptism into the holy family of God. When  we die the inheritance, which is a crown of glory and Heaven itself, it is  finally presented to us. Paul knew this, thus he had no fear in his  destination as he walked like a quiet lamb to his death.  

“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May  it not be charged against them!” Humans are weak and will fail you,  sometimes when you are in the most need for help. If you rely on humanity  to meet your needs and to provide a steady hand do not be disappointed  when even your brother turns against you. Christians are still sinners, and  though we should not sin against each other, we still do. Paul suffered a  similar fate where no Christian rose to defend Paul upon his imprisonment.  And when he was to be executed, what human help was there? If you trust  in humanity, you will be sorely disappointed. Paul did not trust humanity.  He who was the chief of sinners knew the wickedness in the human heart. 

Thus, instead of getting mad at his fellow Christians who abandoned him,  he asked the Lord to be merciful to them. Similar to how Christ said upon  the cross, “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  

“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.” Paul did not trust humanity, but he  didn’t need to. He trusted in the most powerful being, our Creator, God the  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God never goes back on His word. He fulfills  all His promises. There is no need to doubt the grace and mercy and  providence of God. Therefore, why should Paul trust in humanity when all  he needed was God? When humanity abandoned Paul, God stood with  him. When Christians didn’t provide words of courage, God strengthened  Paul so that he might face his death knowing that there is a better reward in  Heaven. When many told him to be quiet around the non-Christians lest  they might get angry, God guided Paul towards the Gentiles and fearlessly  proclaimed the Good News to them at the cost of his own life. For in the  end, proclaiming the Gospel is more important and rewarding than living  even one day longer. By trusting in God to the point of death, Paul was  rescued from the lion’s mouth which holds in its belly eternal death. 

“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.” And with  a final greeting that proceeds after this verse ends the final message from  Paul before he died a martyr for Christ.  

Paul was on Death Row for the crime of being a Christian. He preached the  Good News, without fear of who he was preaching to and where he was  preaching. There was never a time to not preach, there was never a person  who shouldn’t receive the Gospel. This cost Paul his life, but rather we  obey God and suffer execution than it is to obey Man and suffer eternal  damnation. Therefore, on account of his insistence to obey the Great  Commission commanded to him by God the Son, he was placed on Death  Row. 

Yet behind the words of this letter, you can almost feel another message.  Paul is unashamed. He is not ashamed of being executed. He is 

unashamed of his faith and his insistence to preach the Good News which  ultimately is the reason why he is being executed. To be ashamed is to  allow the Devil to win. To feel shame would be to Paul an act of extreme  selfishness as his own reputation would become more important than  God’s. If there is any shame within Paul it would be over his prior life as a  persecutor of Christians. However, to feel shame for becoming a Christian  Martyr never ends well for that is exactly what the Devil wants. He wants  you to choose life over Christ.  

Paul was unashamed and was glad that through every trial God protected  him and strengthened him spiritually against the fiery darts of the Devil. No  matter what Paul faced, God strengthened him so that at the end of each  leg of the race Paul ran victorious, still a Christian whose faith was  unquestionably sound. Know this, if we hope to finish the race of life with  our faith intact then we most certainly need the help of God. The Devil will  throw many difficult things at you. Your brother might betray you and try to  get you thrown indefinitely in jail for being a Christian. Your friends might  abandon you. Execution might become your partner. Without the strength  of God on our side, then we will abandon our faith. So you who are close to  death knocking on your door, but have remained a Christian through thick  and thin, know this, that is on account of God who has stood by your side,  has strengthened you, and has rescued you from the lion’s mouth.  

Do not be ashamed of the path God has chosen for you. Be like Paul. He  knew that the end was coming, so instead of feeling self-pity he turned to  those younger than him and passed the torch. Paul may have finished the  

race, but that did not mean that the race had ended. It still goes on. Paul  looked not at his own demise, but on those who were left behind. Paul is  basically telling Timothy it is your turn to carry the torch. Have faith in Jesus  Christ your Savior, who already died on the cross for your sake, and so  long as you do that we will be reunited. This life is nothing compared to the  eternal happiness we will share in Heaven through Jesus Christ.  

So what are some of the things you can do? When death comes, gracefully  receive it. However, before this happens encourage faith in Jesus Christ to  others. Teach about His benevolence. Pray for the Spirit to give generously 

courage and divine love. And let it be known that you are not ashamed of  your faith.  

 

Let us pray, Dear Heavenly Father, no matter what the Devil throws at us,  give us the courage and kindness to overcome all his obstacles and to  willingly walk towards death as firm believers in your generous saving  grace. In your most heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen

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