Sermon delivered October 19, 2002 by Dr. Carlos Martin

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version NKJV unless otherwise noted. In some places the Bible is freely translated from the Spanish Valera Version Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Come Before Winter

When you form a friendship during a time of trouble, you will never forget that friendship, that friend. Paul had been stoned by the mob at Lystra in the highlands of Asia Minor and was dragged out of the city and left for dead. Perhaps it was Timothy who was a new convert with his family. Perhaps it was Timothy who came and after the passions of the mob and the priests, perhaps it was Timothy who went out of the city gates to search amid the stones and he found the bleeding body of Paul. He was dead. At least this is what the mob had thought. I don't know if this was a miracle of healing or a miracle of resurrection. But the next day Paul was on his way to preach to another city. Timothy helped him to stand, wiped the blood stains from his face, put water on his lips, took him home to where his lovely grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, helped him to get ready to continue his missionary journey.

Paul never, ever forgot this young man. To the point that in his second missionary journey, he invited Timothy to join him. And since then, Timothy became an inseparable friend. Paul referred to Timothy as, "My beloved son." And when Paul was about to die, his last letter, just before his death, was to this young man, Timothy.

Please open your Bible to Second Timothy, chapter four. In my last message in my evangelistic series, I want to consider with you the last request to Timothy in Paul's last letter, and I want to consider some applications for us today. 2 Timothy 4 is the last chapter of Paul's last letter. Remember, Paul is writing from death row. Paul is in Rome. Paul is in the Mammertine Prison. My wife and I visited that place. It was carved out of the rock well underground. Today there is a stairs carved in the rock. In those days, was a hole in the roof where they dropped food and there was no way out. The only access to the prison a hole up there, maybe the size of this chair. It was a cold place. It is still a cold and humid place. That is where Paul was waiting the day of his execution. And he writes in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight, and I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Paul knows that he is about to die. And he tells Timothy that he wants Timothy to come to him and be with him during his final days. Paul writes to Timothy with a high sense of urgency. 2 Timothy 4:9. Be diligent to come to me quickly;. "Hurry up, Timothy, I need you! And when you come, (13) Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas. "I want to make good use of my time in here. I have nothing to do. I have now way to leave from this prison. I am bored, I am praying a lot, but I want to read to my friends with good books." But most of all, Paul wants Timothy to bring himself. "Be diligent to come to me quickly" and then to do something else, "bring the cloak that I left with Carpus in Troas, and when you come, bring the books, especially the parchments." "Please bring the cloak because it is getting cold. Winter is coming and I need your help."

Imagine a picture of that cloak.

but it was one of the few possessions that Paul had. I also had some old clothes that I don't want to get rid of.

What dark cloak would the church prepare today for the apostle Paul? "But, please hurry up (21)Do your utmost to come before winter. And this is the title of my presentation this morning. "Come before winter. Come to me quickly." Why before winter? Because when winter arrives in those days the season for navigation closed in the Mediterranean Sea. In those days it was very dangerous for ships to venture out to sea. In Europe, you might find much cold wind and snow during this season. Remember the story of Paul's last shipwreck. It was dangerous to travel in the Mediterranean sea during winter.

If Timothy waits until winter, he will have to wait until spring. And Paul had a premonition that he will not survive the winter. "The time of my death, the time of my departure," he said. "The day of my execution has been fixed. I will not survive the winter."

I like to think that Timothy did not wait a single day after he got that letter from Paul. That letter was sent to Ephesus where Timothy was the church pastor. I studied a map and I tried to reconstruct the shortest way to Rome. Timothy must have immediately taken a ship to Troas, from Ephesus to Troas. In Troas he picked up books and the old cloak from the house of Carpus and then sailed again to Neapolis, near Philippi. Timothy must have run through the plains of Macedonia to the Adriatic Sea following the Ignacion Way. Then he sailed again to Neapolis in Italy. From there he took a to Brundician on the east coast and then he went up the Apian Way to Rome.

With great emotion these two men embraced each other. Timothy, I guess, brought some letters for Paul. He read the books for him. And then walked with him to the place of execution near the theater of Cestus and saw him dying for Christ.

"Come before winter."

I like winter, but fall is my preferred season. I look forward to this coming fall. It is approaching. Maybe we are already in fall. I look forward to walk among those beautiful trees of Collegedale. That's beautiful.

The first time I came to Collegedale it was during the fall season. Red trees. Beautiful! It gives me the feeling that something like that should last a little longer. That beautiful season only lasts a few weeks. And then the beauty is gone. Fall tells me of opportunities that would not last for a long time. Then spring will come. The flowers of springtime will adorn the graves of some of our opportunities, opportunities which are open now, gates which are open now will be forever closed next spring time. And perhaps flowers will adorn the graves of our dearest friends.

This introduces me to the second point of my message. There are some things we have to do before winter. Last night I discussed with my wife that it is about time to turn the heaters on. She said, "Let us wait a little longer. Not yet." But we will. Winter is coming.

We need to do some things in our yard. But we have to do them before winter.

Suppose that Timothy, when he received that letter from Paul, asking him to come before winter, that he had said to himself, "Yes. yes. I shall start for Rome, but first, I have to do some things in my district. I have to preside at church board meeting here at Ephesus and then I have to go down to Miletus to ordain some elders for next year. From there I have to go to Colossi to celebrate the Lord's Supper. I am a district pastor. I have to do some things, urgent things.

Then when he has attended those matters, maybe in about two weeks, he starts for Troas. In Troas, he inquires when he can get passage on a ship which will carry him to Macedonia and from there to Italy. But they say, "Sorry sir. The last ship of this season has already sailed to Macedonia." "But what about the longer way around Greece through the isthmus of Corinth? It takes longer." "Oh, no. Sorry sir. No ships for Italy until after winter, until April."

All through that anxious winter, I can picture Timothy reproaching himself that he did not go at once when he received Paul's letter. And when the first vessel sails in the springtime, Timothy is the first passenger aboard. I can see him landing in Neapolis, running through Macedonia, landing again in Brandisioman and hurrying up to Rome. There he seeks the Mammertine Prison, only to be rejected by the guard. He goes to the house of Claudia. But she was not there. Then he walks to Ampliatus and asks the bretheren, where he can find Paul. I can imagine Ampliatus saying, "Oh, so, You are Timothy. Don't you know that Paul was beheaded last January? Every time the jailer put the key in the door of his cell up there, Paul thought it was you. He thought you were coming. He was sure. His last message before dying was for you. 'Give my love to Timothy, my beloved son in the faith when he comes.'"

How timothy must have wished that he had come before winter. Do it on time, or maybe you won't be able to do it at all.

I remember when we went to South America to visit our parents. We spent several days with my mother and then several days with Nolly's father. She cleaned his house and I watched them planning, laughing, talking, remembering. I can still remember Nolly saying to her father, "I love you, Papa." And I can picture him at the airport in Buenos Aires saying, "Good bye." We never imagined that in a few weeks later Nolly had to go back to attend his funeral. It was the last time.

I talked with my mother yesterday. She is eighty four. She's forgetting. She always asks me, "Where are you now, Carlos? Are you in Asia?" "No, Mamma. I am in Tennessee." "Oh... Yes. When will your children get married?" "One is already married, Mamma." "Oh... Yes, yes." "I love you Mama." "I love you, too." I have to say that because I don't know for how long I will have that chance to hear those words from her and say these words to my mama.

Mary Magdalene was not the kind of person who takes flowers during funerals. No, she wanted to do something before Jesus departed. And she decided to give Him a costly perfume before it was too late. When the disciples complained about the cost of that oil, He said, "Let Mary Magdalene alone. She has kept this perfume for the day of My burial. She's doing all right. Let her do it right now.

At funerals we sometimes hear quite often, "Oh, he was so good. His smile made me so happy." Or, "I appreciated her work." Why wait until death? Why not say these kind words before it is too late? Why wait for nice words until a farewell party. Why wait until they are no more with us?

"Peter, will you pray for Me tonight? This is the worst day of My life, Peter. My soul is sad, even to death. Please watch and pray with Me, one hour." When Jesus returned, Peter, John and James were sleeping. "Wake up. Please, I need you." Jesus knew it, but they didn't. He was about to die the next day. "Please pray for Me! I need you!" When He returned one hour later, they were fast asleep. "What? Can't you watch with Me for one hour? When I need you the most?" Yes, the three of them eventually died for Jesus. Peter was crucified upside down. All of them suffered for Jesus. But, never again were they able to pray with Jesus when He needed them so much. That opportunity was gone.

Sometimes we say, "It's not possible. Why, I saw him just yesterday." Yes... Yesterday. But now, the empty chair, the vacant place will speak to you with a reproach: "Why you did not say, why you did not do it, when it was still on time? Now it's too late.

The third point of my message deals with an opportunity to do something for Jesus now. Jesus also calls men to come to Him on time, when the opportunity is still available. I wish I could have been there when Jesus called Peter, Andrew and James and John by the sea of Galilee. Or when He called Matthew as hew was sitting at the seat of customs. There must have been a note of urgency His voice when he only said, "Follow Me."

Every time Jesus invites men, He always says, "Do it now." He never says, "Tomorrow." He always says, "Today." If you can find one place in the Bible where the Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ tomorrow," or "Repent and be saved tomorrow," I will come down from this pulpit because I will have no gospel to preach about. The Spirit always says, "Today." Never, "Tomorrow." Now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:2. Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. Come to Him while it is called, today (see Hebrews 3:13). Why? First of all, because of the uncertainty of my life.

I remember when I was in Houston. When it was morning, I was ready to deliver my sermon. I went early in the morning to my church. I found a man standing in front of the church, Richard. We had a nice conversation in the morning. He told me that he was a pastor's kid, a PK. He had been in the Army and he was in Houston looking for medical help. He confessed to me that he had not been faithful to Jesus during the past seven years. I invited him to renew his commitment to Jesus on that day. I told him, "I will finish my sermon with an appeal, And I am inviting you to respond to Jesus." He said, "Maybe." For some reason he left during the sermon, and of course he did not respond to the invitation. On Sunday, early in the morning I got a phone call from a hotel. There was a man dead in a room. The only information they found was my business card. "Can you come to identify him?" Richard had failed to meet Jesus on time.

Sometimes our hearts are ready to say, "Yes." And during this evangelistic season I have made appeals every single evening. I have invited people to stand up for Jesus, to come forward, to fill out decision cards, to say that they love Jesus with their mouths. Many ways. And some were almost saved. But then, almost saved is to be completely lost. "Come before winter."

If you have not yet made your mind, I am inviting you to do it now. If there are some things in your life that you have to arrange in order to reconcile with God, do it now. Don't wait until tomorrow. Do it today. Do it now, because God is willing to forgive and forget.

Hymn of Praise: #249, Praise Him!  Praise Him!
Scripture: Isaiah 55:6-7
Hymn of Response: #309, All to Jesus I Surrender

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