“I Have Finished My Course”
Lesson 41 – 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Titus
What was the last race you competed in or watched? What is the difference between winning and finishing a competitive race? How many winners are there in a typical race? What do you have to do to win?
Now, think about how the course of our life is like a race. Then, think about how it differs from a race—one way being that everyone can win the “race” of life. Finally, think about what we must do to finish the race of life successfully. Note that a “race” could also be called a “course.”
Read 2 Timothy 4:7. The Apostle Paul lived in such a way that he could make this declaration toward the end of his life. This lesson discusses several of Paul’s teachings that will help us as we strive to finish our course successfully. One of our challenges in this life is to learn and teach true doctrine and be righteous examples for others.
Timothy and Titus were trusted associates of Paul who assisted him in preaching the gospel. After Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, he resumed his missionary travels. In Ephesus he left Timothy to minister to the Church, and in Crete he left Titus with a similar assignment. As Paul continued his journey, he wrote letters to strengthen these brethren and to counsel them in their responsibilities as pastors or shepherds over the Saints. Hence these letters are often called the pastoral epistles.
1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-7, 13; 2 Tim. 4:3-4; Titus 1:10-11 Signs of apostasy Paul described in his letters to Timothy and Titus include departing from the faith; giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; lies and hypocrisy; forbidding marriage; commanding abstinence from meats; egotism, covetousness, pride and boasting, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, ingratitude, and evil, and a host of other such actions and attitudes.
2 Nephi 28:3-9; D&C 1:15-16 Signs of apostasy listed in these verses—denying the power of God, saying there is no God today, preaching that God will easily forgive willful sins, etc.–-are evident today.
2 Tim. 3:7 Some people are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. We can ensure that our learning brings us to a knowledge of the truth by including a thorough study of the gospel in our learning and learning through the Spirit.
1 Tim. 4:6-7, 13-16; 2 Tim. 2:16, 23-25; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; 2 Tim. 4:2, 5 Paul taught Timothy about the responsibilities of people who teach the gospel—to assure that they teach truth and good doctrine; that they study, teach and exhort; that they shun vain babblings, etc.
Our opportunities to teach the gospel include teaching family members, fulfilling callings in the Church, and discussing the gospel with friends and acquaintances. Each of us is in some way a teacher of the gospel.
1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Tim. 4:6, 13; Titus 2:1 Paul emphasized the importance of teaching and learning true doctrine. True doctrine helps us guard against apostasy. Speaking of the power of true doctrine, Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
Mosiah 18:19-20; D&C 52:9 We can be sure that what we teach is true doctrine if it is the doctrine taught by the prophets and if we concentrate on teaching faith and repentance.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin counseled: “God has revealed everything necessary for our salvation. We should teach and dwell on the things that have been revealed and avoid delving into so-called mysteries. My counsel to teachers in the Church, whether they instruct in wards and stakes, Church institutions of higher learning, institutes of religion, seminaries, or even as parents in their homes, is to base their teachings on the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 77).
2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 1:9 Paul counseled us to hold fast once we have received sound doctrine.
1 Nephi 15:23-24 Nephi exhorts us to “hold fast” to the word of God.
1 Tim. 4:12 Paul counsels us to be “an example of the believers”. The following are ways Paul admonished Timothy to be an example. Consider how each of us can be an example in each of these ways. 1) Word, 2) Conversation (may also mean conduct or behavior), 3) Charity, 4) Spirit, 5) Faith, and 6) Purity
1 Tim. 6:7-10 Paul taught that the love of money is the “root of all evil”. The search for worldly wealth has distracted many in all dispensations from pursuing their love for the things of God.
1 Tim. 6:17-19; Jacob 2:18-19 We ensure that we do not focus too much on money and other material wealth by doing good works, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, etc.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught: “There is nothing inherently evil about money. The Good Samaritan used the same coinage to serve his fellowman that Judas used to betray the Master. It is ‘the love of money [which] is the root of all evil.’ (1 Tim. 6:10; italics added.) The critical difference is the degree of spirituality we exercise in viewing, evaluating, and managing the things of this world” (Ensign, Nov. 1985, 63).
In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul gave many instructions about living righteously.
1 Tim. 6:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:22; Titus 2:1-8, 12; Titus 3:1-2, 8 Paul counseled us to follow after attributes of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, charity, peace, purity of heart, soberness, gravity, temperance, discretion, chastity, gentleness, and being law-abiding.
Paul knew he would soon be martyred for his testimony of Jesus Christ. But he also knew that because he had lived the gospel, “there [was] laid up for [him] a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8). It is vitally important that we do the right things every day and stay on course so we can say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
1 Tim. 2:1-3 Paul counseled about prayer—praying for all people, including leaders of nations.
1 Tim. 3:1-7 Paul set forth the qualifications of a bishop.
1 Tim. 5:8 Paul taught about caring for our families and spoke strongly against those who do not fulfill this responsibility.
2 Tim. 1:7 “God hath not given us the spirit of fear”
People have many fears in the world today, but Paul counseled us to overcome fear with confidence and love as we live righteously.
Titus 2:9-10 Paul’s counsel to servants in these verses applies to employees. (Purloining means stealing or misappropriating.) Employees sometimes steal from their employers by embezzling, taking supplies for personal use, or not giving a full day’s work. Paul said that, instead of purloining, we should show “good fidelity,” or be faithful and trustworthy.