Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Living Valiantly

During my Bible time this morning I read 2 Timothy. Someone has said that this letter should be read on our knees. I was sitting down sipping coffee at Bo's. But Paul's words were no less impactful. I read the book in one sitting, just as Timothy would have done when Luke handed him that small scroll in Ephesus. It didn't take me long. The letter has only 83 verses. 

I read it slowly, like an aging man might value the final words of a dying friend. Though Paul is in a Roman dungeon, there is nothing bitter about his words. His conscience is clear. There are no regrets, no sins to confess. If I've done the math correctly, Paul was 60 years old when he died. Becky died at the same age. It's strange to think that I've outlived both of them by 11 years. They had so much in common. Despite incredible hardships, they faced the end of life without losing either their passion or their zest for living. When I ponder their lives (and deaths), I think of an English word I haven't heard in quite some time. It's not a common adjective today. That word is valiant. The dictionary defines it as "possessing exceptional valor; intrepid in danger; brave; courageous; determined." Synonyms include

  • bold
  • gallant
  • manly
  • undaunted
  • fearless
  • stalwart
  • gutsy

In the KJV, the word "valiant" occurs only once in the New Testament. In Heb. 11:34 we read of those who "waxed valiant in fight." The NIV has "powerful in battle." The NLT reads "strong in battle." And the ESV has "mighty in war." The word is often used in English literature to describe characters who faced great danger or adversity with bravery and heroism. Gregory Peck once starred in a movie called Only the Valiant. It's the story of an army captain who defends his small garrison against an Apache attack in order to buy time for the main fort to build up its forces. That captain was indeed a "valiant" man.

As I face aging and death, I hope and pray I will do so valiantly. In 2 Timothy, the situation in Ephesus had become desperate. The church was facing an emergency that called for urgency. Christians are not to be alarmed at evil tidings, for our hearts should be fixed on trusting in the Lord and depending on his word. Throughout the book of 2 Timothy, we read about Paul's love of and devotion to the word of God. It's what sustains us in times of adversity. It's what holds us together when the bottom drops out. It's what you rely on when you are facing death, be it in a Roman prison or in hospice care after a 4-year battle with cancer. It's what you need when you're alone in life. No wonder Paul told Timothy to read it, teach it, preach it, proclaim it, make it known. The Bible is the "faith" that Paul says he kept in 4:7. 

Are you ready to pray, not "Lord, bless me" or "Lord, use me," but "Lord, teach me of yourself, that I may glorify you, whatever it takes, whatever it means, whatever happens to me"? Only a conscience schooled in the Master's classroom, and illuminated by the Spirit, can guide us aright as we face the end of life. I think both Paul and Becky would agree.