I am a wobbly “has been” on a walking cane with a failing mind, but hoping to be a nonagenarian (“ninety years old”) June 24th. I learned that big word to be ready to call Lois a nonagenarian on December 19th, but on July 13th she departed to be with Christ, “which is better by far” (Phil. 1:23). But as long as I “remain in the flesh” (Phil. 1:24) I believe there is something the Lord wants me to do everyday.
I am not as important as Jeremiah, but the Lord, who “knew” (Jer. 1:5) before he was born (c. 642), had something for him to even in his old age. Admirably the “weeping prophet” (Jer. 9.1) kept “nothing back” in his preaching “the word of Jehovah” (Jer. 42.7-10), but his listeners did not like his preaching.
They kidnapped him (Jer. 43.7) and “forced him to accompany them to Egypt” (A Commentary on the Holy Bible, J.R. Dummelow, editor, p. 454). There, “according to Christian tradition, he met a martyr’s death, being stoned by the Jews, who resented his faithful reproof” (Ibid.). Yes, even on the last day of his life, with rocks hitting his face, the life of Jeremiah shows that the Lord has something for all the faithful servants to do everyday as long as they live.
I am not as important as Paul, but he, like Jeremiah, knew that, though he was a prisoner under house arrest “for two whole years” (A.D. 61-62, Acts 28:30-31), with the left hand of a soldier chained to his right hand (Conybeare and Howson, Life of Paul, II, p. 394; Eph. 6:20), there was something the Lord wanted him to do everyday: “I face a dilemma, desiring to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more pressing” (Phil. 1.23-24).
Later, on death row in Mamertine Prison in Rome (A.D. 67-68), Paul still knew that he should be busy everyday in the Lord’s work. There he wrote a letter to “Timothy , my beloved child” (II Tim. 1:2). I know that Timothy treasured every word in that letter that had come from his father “in the gospel” (Phil. 2.22). In that letter to Timothy, Paul, knowing that Timothy lived in Ephesus where also lived Paul’s good friend Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains… May the Lord grant that he may find mercy from the Lord in that day” (II Tim. 1:16, 18).
Even in prison on death row Paul made good use of every day. Though he was Spirit inspired (I Cor. 2:13), and in prison was finishing his 13thNew Testament book, he asked Timothy, on a 400 mile trip from Ephesus to Rome, to stop by Troas and pick up Paul’s “scrolls and parchments” (II Tim. 4:13). Though Paul was a man “of much learning” (Acts 26:24), the indication is that he still wanted to study, and the inference is the “scrolls and parchments” were copies of Old Testament books. If the inference is correct, then Paul was determined to continue being a daily Bible reader as long as he lived, and he would have agreed with Job’s statement: “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (23:12).
Thus there are three things that this old timer, 89 years and counting, on shaky legs, and more and more forgetful, should learn from Paul; (1) to write letters to good friends; (2) to pray for good friends, and (3) to read daily from the only book that came from heaven.
What can I do? Today? One time “David was greatly distressed” (I Sam. 30:6). Though Jonathan and David were not blood kin, “Jonathan loved” David “as his own soul” (I Sam. 18:1). On one occasion, when David was hiding “in the wilderness” (I Sam. 23.14) to escape Saul’s soldiers, Jonathan went alone into the wilderness, found his friend, and “strengthened his hands in God” (I Sam. 23:16). Many Christians, knowing of someone in distress, have sent cards, or phoned, or have gone in person, causing troubled people “always” to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1).
Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow may never come. What can I do today? I have never seen a mule smile, but I know what the smiles of those I meet do for me! A person with a frown would be lying to write: “Most gladly, therefore, I glory in my weakness, … because when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:10).
Paul, on his own, not by Spirit inspiration, had to “learn” (manthano, learn “through experience or practice,” B-G-D, p. 490) that a Christian never complains: “I have learned to be contented regardless of my circumstances” (Phil. 4:11).