Come before winter

Come before winter
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2 Timothy 4:19-22

If you knew your time on this earth was short, and you were writing a letter to someone you love, what would you say? Paul has written many things to challenge this young pastor, Timothy. He has challenged him to be faithful to His calling and ministry. He challenged him to be true to the preaching of the word and to remain focused until the Lord calls him home. With honesty, he has spoken of blessings and burdens. He writes of old friends. Some no doubt brought a smile to his face but others a tear to his eye. He writes of Demas who has gone back into the world. He writes of Luke, a faithful friend. From what we know, he met Paul at Troas and hardly left his side. He has been with Paul through good times and bad times. What a blessing to have Christian friends! He writes of John Mark, who has somewhat of a cloud above his name. He was saved under Peter’s ministry and traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. When trouble came, he went home. Later, Paul and Barnabas disagreed about taking him with them again. So, Paul took Silas, and Barnabas took John Mark. Barnabas didn’t give up on him, realizing that failure doesn’t have to be final. And now, Paul says he is profitable to him in the ministry.

But to Timothy—what does he say to his son in the faith? Look at verses 9 and 21 again. Timothy was more than just a co-worker; he was a dear friend. It was at Lystra where they first met. Their hearts were knit together, and he set out to travel with Paul. Through adversity; through troubles; through difficulty they had been together. Now Paul desires Timothy to bring his cloak, his books and his parchments, verse 13, but even more he longs to see Timothy, verse 9. But here was the thing—he tells Timothy that he must come before winter, verse 21a.

Why before winter? When winter set in, navigation became dangerous in the Mediterranean Sea. It meant that the season of travel had ended. If Timothy couldn’t get there before winter, then he would have to wait till springtime, and Paul believed it would be too late, verse 6. It was a word of wisdom and a word of warning! The time for sailing was coming to an end, and if Timothy didn’t come right away, it would be too late. There are some things in life that if they aren’t done “before winter” so to speak, they will never be done. We are a generation of procrastinators. We put off and put off until it’s too late to be done. It is a reminder for us all that there are things we must do while we can do them.

The time before winter is an opportunity.

Seasons are a lot like life. The springtime is the time of beginnings. It pictures youth and the freshness of life. Summer comes during the middle of the year. It pictures the middle of life when the strength of life and labor is expected. Then Fall comes. The leaves fade, reminding us of the fading of strength, but they all come before winter when nature seems to grow cold. I love Fall of the year. I love the colors of the leaves and the cool evenings, but it reminds me that winter isn’t far away. It calls to mind the passing of the year. It reminds me of the passing of time and opportunity. We have right now to do things we need to do before winter comes.

First, we have time to say the things we need to say—while we have the opportunity, we ought to let people know they are a blessing to us and that we love and appreciate them. Far too often, we miss those opportunities, and then winter comes, and it’s too late. We often say things we should have said to family members after someone leaves this world that we should have said to them. It reminds me of when Jesus’ ministry was ending, and within a week, He would be crucified. He went to the home of a man named Simon in Bethany. While he was there, Mary came, broke an alabaster box of ointment, and anointed His head and His feet. Judas Iscariot said, “What a waste! It could have been sold and given to the poor.” Jesus said, “Let her alone.” Mark 14:7-For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. Mary was showing her love for Jesus and if she had waited a week, it would have been too late. So, it is with any of us and our friends or those we love. We ought to say what we need to say now and not wait to say it to their families when they are gone. Before winter is the time to say the things we need to say. To tell someone you love them; they are a blessing to you; you appreciate them. None of us ever get to a place we don’t need to encourage and be encouraged in life.

The time before winter is time to set right the things that are wrong—while we have the ability; while we have the capacity; while we have
opportunity, we need to do the things we need to do. What kinds of things? What about saying “I’m sorry” to someone? There may be someone we’ve offended that we need to say it to. I remember talking to a lady. Her sister hadn’t spoken to her for more than a year over something that had happened. She thought she wasn’t welcome to call or come see her. She was dealing with a disease that would ultimately take her life, and finally, her sister came to see her to set things right. There are things that people hold against us that we cannot set right. I believe that there are some things that will only be set right at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

What about something wrong or sinful in our hearts? Need to set it right now. It may be that God has convicted us. Why not deal with it now? In John 5, Jesus stopped by the pool of Siloam. A great multitude of sick people lay there waiting for the moving of the waters. Angel would come down at a certain season and trouble the waters, and then whoever stepped in first was made whole. The time to get in the water was when they were troubled. You see, often, the Lord troubles the waters of our soul over a need, and that is the time to respond. I don’t mean it ugly, but there could come a day when mental capacity will be gone. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease. What if a point came that we didn’t have the mind to do so?

The time before winter is a time for obedience.

Two events in the life of Jesus remind us so vividly that the Master provides particular moments in our lives. There is nothing that He does haphazardly or randomly. One involves the call of salvation—Luke 18 and 19 records two events in the ministry of our Lord. In Luke 18:35 it says, “And
it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside begging.” We know him to be Bartimaeus, and as Jesus passed by, he cried out. Jesus asked him, “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” His response was to receive his sight, and Jesus healed him. In Luke 19:1 it says, “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” Another man named Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus. He, too was
saved. Why I mention those two events is because it was the last time Jesus would ever pass through the city of Jericho. As a sinner, you never know when the winter of God’s call to salvation will come. 2 Cor 6:2-“(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee; behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.).” I’m so glad that He is still passing by, but there will come a day when He passes by for the last time. The time for obedience is when He calls. (Dear friend of mine’s dad told me once that he heard my dad preach at a church years before. He said that he rejected God’s invitation. Then he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “I’ve never felt that touch again.”)

Then what about the call of service? In those last hours before the cross, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He took Peter, James and John a little further telling them to watch with Him and pray. He came back to find them sleeping and awoke them asking, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” He came back twice more times to find them sleeping and said, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” The time for obedience had passed. Never again would they have the opportunity to watch with Him in the garden. Through the years, I’ve seen many a person fail in their faithfulness to God’s house until some sickness came that kept them away. They wouldn’t go to church when they could, and then the time came that they couldn’t go when they would.

I wonder if there are people reading this that God has called them to some act of obedience in service, but they have put it off and put it off. They may put off until the time comes when it’s too late. When winter sets in and, the time to do it is gone. The time to serve Him is while we have the opportunity and ability to do so. There could be many things that the Lord has spoken to your heart about doing. Don’t put it off until one day
winter comes, and it will be too late. The Lord’s call to us is come before winter. It is the time of opportunity and the time for obedience. Come before the heart grows cold; come before the desire has departed; come before ability to do is gone; come before it’s too late; come before winter.

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