“Listen for the applause after the applause.”

A long time ago, I interned at a large church in southern Mississippi.  As a worship leader trying to gain the skills I needed, I had the blessing of being an apprentice of sorts to a master of the science and art of music ministry.

And it was in preparation for the opening night of the Easter production where the group had a phenomenal dress rehearsal.  It was stellar!  And everyone in the cast and crew knew it.

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And while there certainly was nothing wrong with satisfaction in a job well done, the words my mentor left with them that night still ring in my ears:

Y’all that was awesome!  Great job, team.  And I know when we finish people are probably gonna jump to their feet in thunderous applause—and they should, it’s powerful.  But for us—you and me—we must hear a different sound.  We must listen for the applause after the applause.  We gotta take the time to tune our hearts to hear the only ovation that matters: the applause of the nail-scarred hands.”

As we enter into 2 Timothy today, we will find a lot of moments where the experienced, battle-worn Apostle shares similar sentiments.  In 2 Timothy 1:1-2 we read…

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  

2 Timothy 1:1-2
New International Version

In many ways, the letter of 2 Timothy is the Apostle Paul’s final will and testament.  It was written in the quiet loneliness of a dungeon.  Here, the Apostle was waiting for what was most likely going to be his death.  In the face of martyrdom, Paul writes to his son in the faith one final time.

As is common in Greek letters (like all of the New Testament, 2 Timothy is written in Greek), the “from” is first.  In our letters, we put the “from” at the end.

And right up front, we find Paul’s perspective in facing likely death because of His faithfulness to God: “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus…” (verse 1).

While there was nothing abnormal about identifying oneself by a title in Greek letters, we must recall where he was when writing this letter.  He is in a dark, dreary dungeon.  He is there because he was faithful to the Lord and those in authority didn’t like the message of truth.

In 1 Timothy, Paul uses his title of “apostle” to give weight to the counsel he gives young Timothy in facing the issues in the Ephesian church.  Here, it is a symbolic passing on a mantel.  It is Paul’s desire for Timothy to pick up where Paul left off.

And in a tenderness rarely seen in Paul’s writing, he addresses Timothy as “my dear son” (verse 2).  Timothy wasn’t just a pet project for Paul.  Nor was Timothy just some young pastor the more seasoned pastor felt the need to help.  Timothy was like a son to Paul, in all likelihood a spiritual son in that Paul was highly influential in young Timothy’s life.   

As sad as this opening seems because of Paul’s predicament, we must see the ray of hope bursting through even in an introduction to a letter.  It’s tucked into verse 1: “in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus”.

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The Apostle Paul has joyfully emptied his life for the One who emptied His life for him: Jesus Christ.  The life Paul lived was lived for the glory of King Jesus.  The faithfulness Paul has shown was not rewarded from an Earthly point of view but garnered the applause of Heaven.

With Paul’s human ears, he didn’t get to hear much applause.  The sound of negativity and criticism is so loud.  But the Apostle knew for Whom He worked.  His audience was Heaven.  The One he was trying to please was the Redeemer Who released Paul from sin and death.

And it was the applause of Jesus the Apostle Paul sought.

As we are living our lives—whether we hear the applause of Earth or not—may our hearts tune to hear the only ovation that matters: the applause of the nail-scarred hands.

Looking for more like this to help your
spiritual journey with Jesus?

Consider my book, 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom, based on a study in Proverbs.  It’s available either in print or on Kindle.