In the second half of this letter, there’s an even stronger sense that Paul is handing on his work to the next generation.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Tim 4:1-7)
Paul’s ‘As for you’ is a call to dedicated service in the work to which Timothy has been called – the work of an evangelist above all, in a setting of teaching and church leadership. I don’t think that the call is any less serious or absolute to any of us, whether our calling is to ‘official’ ministry or in any other field. We are called to find and to live out our life’s work.
Paul’s ‘As for me’ is the statement of a man who knows that the end of life is near, and who can face judgement with a clear conscience, above all knowing that he has followed God’s call to the end.
For all the frustrations, struggles and limits of my calling – and all its joys, freedom and fulfilment – I can just about imagine what it must feel like to come to the end of life with a sense of a job done well; I pray for grace to end life that way.